Slain activist Lokman Slim's publishing house honoured for 'exemplary courage'

Dar Al Jadeed, founded by Slim and his sister in 1990, will receive the 2021 International Publishers' Association Prix Voltaire award

This photo provided by Monika Borgmann shows her husband, Lokman Slim, a well-known Lebanese publisher and vocal critic of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite Muslim group, at his desk in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, Lebanon, Jan. 5, 2017. Slim was killed Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. Borgmann said she is discussing with lawyers and friends how to push for an international investigation into her husband's murder. (Lokman Slim family via AP)

The sister of slain Lebanese intellectual Lokman Slim will accept a Swiss prize honouring publishers working in hostile environments in memory of her brother’s “fight for justice”.

The International Publishers' Association, in Geneva, announced on Monday that Dar Al Jadeed, the publishing house founded by Slim alongside his sister Rasha Al Ameer in 1990, had been selected to receive the 2021 IPA Prix Voltaire award from a shortlist of five nominees.

The prize will be awarded on November 30 at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico.

“I want to do it so that people keep talking about Lokman and for all the victims of Lebanon’s wars,” Al Ameer told The National. “We need justice.”.

Slim, 59, was found fatally shot in his rental car in the early hours of February 4 along a coastal motorway near the city of Saida, in South Lebanon.

Slim who, with his wife Monika Borgmann, ran an NGO which collated an archive of materials concerning Lebanon's social and political history, had remained in his family’s home in a stronghold of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to the south of Beirut, despite receiving death threats for his outspoken criticism of the Iran-backed party.

In announcing the award, the International Publishers' Association, said nominees had been recognised for their "exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish and enabling others to exercise their right to freedom of expression".

"This year’s Prix Voltaire laureate paid the ultimate price standing up for freedom of expression as an enabler of tolerance and conflict resolution in Lebanon. His loss is a loss to the entire international publishing community,” IPA’s president Bodour Al Qasimi said.

The Prix Voltaire comes with a prize of 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,726) and is sponsored by Norwegian and Swedish publishing houses.

The investigation into Slim’s killing, which was widely viewed in Lebanon as a political assassination, has yielded no results to date. His family believes that Hezbollah is responsible for his death – a claim that the party denies.

The investigation was recently transferred from Saida to Beirut at the request of the public prosecutor. Such transfers take place when a judge believes that public safety is at risk.

Al Ameer said that Dar Al Jadeed had published “bold” texts in the past three decades.

“Our style was established very early,” she said, citing authors published by Dar Al Jadeed in the early 1990s such as Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and Lebanese writer and activist Abdallah Al Alayli.

In addition to his work as an editor, Slim translated works of Lebanese authors including one titled Victim and Executioner written by Joseph Saadeh about losing his two sons in the civil war and tracking down their killers.

“It makes one think: who is the victim and who is the executioner?” said Al Ameer. “We are all victims and executioners at the same time when we are silent in the face of tragedy.”

For the first anniversary of Slim’s death, Dar Al Jadeed plans to publish a book by Lebanese journalist Iskandar Riachi, who was active from the 1920s to the 1950s, called Women of Beirut.

“Everyone has forgotten about him but Lokman loved his character, which was full of dark humour,” said Al Ameer. “We will continue working despite Lokman’s murder. We’ll continue on the path of justice, freedom and renaissance.”

Updated: November 23rd 2021, 4:05 PM