Last words of a doomed editor

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The Independent Online
Said Mekbel was one of Algeria's best-loved journalists, whose column ``The Rusty Nail" (``Mesmar J'ha") - published daily in Le Matin, the paper he edited - excoriated both the Islamists and the military-backed government.

As more and more journalists were murdered in Algiers, Mekbel briefly travelled to France with his family but he was unhappy there and returned to Algiers despite warnings from friends. He continued to leave for his newspaper office at the same time eachday and visit the same restaurants for lunch. Some said he almost courted his death.

On 3 December, several hours after this painful and cynical reflection on the dangers awaiting every journalist in Algiers appeared in Le Matin, gunmen entered the cafe where he was taking lunch and shot him dead.

This thief who slinks along walls in the night to go home, he's the one. This father who warns his children not to talk about the wicked job he does, he's the one.

This evil citizen who hangs about in courtrooms, waiting for judgment, he's the one. This individual caught in a neighbourhood raid, whom a rifle butt pushes to the back of the truck, he's the one. He's the one who goes out of his house in the morning unsure whether he'll make it to the office. And he's the one who leaves work in the evening, uncertain he'll arrive home.

This tramp who no longer knows where to spend the night, he's the one. He's the one they threaten in the privacy of a government office, the witness who must swallow what he knows, this bare and helpless citizen . . .

This man who makes a wish not to die with his throat cut, he's the one. This body on which they sew back a severed head, he's the one. He's the one whose hands know no other skill, only his meagre writing, the one who hopes against hope, since roses growout of dung heaps.

He is all of these, and a journalist only.