Veteran Lebanese politician, diplomat, and press baron Ghassan Tueni died in hospital early on Friday aged 86, his newspaper An-Nahar announced.
Known for his sharp intellect, elegance and wit, Tueni became a deputy at the tender age of 25 and subsequently held cabinet posts in several governments.
He was Lebanon’s ambassador to the United Nations between 1977 and 1982, at the height of the country’s civil war.
A fierce defender of Lebanon’s sovereignty, Tueni was instrumental in 1978 in pushing for the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 425, which called for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon.
He is remembered for having stood before a meeting of the Council and yelling “Let my people live!”
Tueni was also a staunch defender of freedom of the press and was imprisoned several times for his writings.
“One of the biggest champions of freedom of the press in Lebanon and the Arab world has disappeared,” said his former brother-in-law Marwan Hamade, a lawmaker.
Tueni campaigned for human rights, the rights of Palestinians and tolerance in a country divided along ethnic and religious lines.
He once wrote that he made it a point “never to forget to measure policy by the yardsticks of liberty, human rights, national self-determination, democracy, and international peace based on justice.”
At a personal level, Tueni’s life was marked by a series of family tragedies.
His first wife Nadia Hamade, a famous Lebanese poet, died of cancer, as did his seven-year-old daughter Nayla. His son Makram died in a car accident.
In December 2005, his other son Gebran Tueni, also a lawmaker and journalist, was assassinated at a time when several anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians and journalists were targeted following the killing of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri.
Born in 1926 in Beirut to an Orthodox Christian family, Tueni headed the Arabic-language An-Nahar newspaper, which was founded by his father in 1933.
“He turned An-Nahar into a major independent newspaper in the Arab world at a time when no one dared outside Lebanon to write a word that did not glorify the leaders and autocrats of the region,” Hamade told AFP.
Former information and culture minister Tarek Mitri praised Tueni for his moral strength and his ability to adeptly combine politics and culture.
“He was a man of multiple identities,” Mitri told AFP. “Much will be said about him as a politician, diplomat, author and journalist.
“But what makes Ghassan Tueni unique is his ability to be fully immersed in every role he played, in every function he occupied, and every position he held.”
Tueni studied at the American University of Beirut and earned a master’s degree in political science at Harvard University.
He wrote several books, including one on Lebanon’s civil war.
He is survived by his second wife Shadia al-Khazen and four grand-daughters.