Honouring courage in defiance of censorship
Four outstanding journalists who have endured and defied media repression in Bahrain, Belarus, Mexico, and Pakistan will be honored with the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2011 International Press Freedom Awards, an annual recognition of courageous journalism.
One edits an independent daily shut by officials amid protests in Bahrain. Another runs an opposition website in Belarus, editing it from exile to avoid imprisonment back home. A third escaped injury when a grenade was tossed into the offices of his weekly newspaper in the violent Mexican state of Sinaloa, and one more continues reporting on politics and corruption in his native Pakistan after being abducted and tortured.
The awardees – Mansoor al-Jamri (Al-Wasat, Bahrain), Natalya Radina (Charter 97, Belarus), Javier Arturo Valdez Cárdenas (Ríodoce, Mexico), and Umar Cheema (The News, Pakistan) – have faced recrimination for their work, including harassment, assault, kidnapping, torture, and censorship.
“We are proud to honor these journalists, whose tenacious reporting continues in defiance of severe censorship tactics meant to silence inconvenient truths,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “By resisting threats and abuse, these journalists give voice to daily realities in their countries and secure our universal right to receive independent, reliable information.”
CPJ will honor television anchor and reporter Dan Rather with its Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in defending press freedom. Editor Eynulla Fatullayev, who was honored in 2009 while still imprisoned in Azerbaijan, will receive his award after being released this year following intensive international advocacy.
All of the winners will be honored at CPJ’s annual awards ceremony in New York City on November 22, 2011. The event, hosted by ABC News anchor and CPJ board member Christiane Amanpour, will be chaired by Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp. and chairman of NBCUniversal’s board of directors. The awards will be presented by journalists Anne Garrels, Gwen Ifill, Mhamed Krichen, Robert Rivard, David Rohde, and leading First Amendment lawyer James C. Goodale.
Brief information about CPJ 2011 International Press Freedom Awardees:
Umar Cheema, a reporter with the Pakistani daily The News, has continued to cover politics, national security, and corruption after his abduction and torture in September 2010. Cheema spoke out about his kidnapping immediately after being released and has been subjected to harassment and threats ever since. In keeping with Pakistan’s record of near-perfect impunity in the cases of hundreds of journalists threatened, abducted, and killed, Cheema’s case remains unprosecuted and unsolved.
Mansoor al-Jamri is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Al-Wasat, Bahrain’s premier Arabic-language independent daily. With its probing, non-sectarian content, Al Wasat found a burgeoning audience while being subjected to harassment and political pressure. As revolutions swept through the region, authorities shut the paper, saying it was publishing false stories to incite Shiite unrest. Al-Jamri, called to answer criminal charges, resigned in the face of intimidation and harassment. Al-Wasat was allowed to reopen under state control, and al-Jamri was reinstated as editor-in-chief by the paper’s board of directors.
Natalya Radina, editor-in-chief of the pro-opposition news website Charter 97 in Belarus, was arrested in December 2010 by the country’s security service following post-election opposition protests in Minsk. She was indicted on charges of organizing mass disorder and faced up to 15 years in prison. Radina was released, pending trial, and forced to relocate from Minsk to the town of Kobrin, where her movements were restricted and she was ordered to check in daily with authorities. Unable to work and fearing imprisonment, Radina fled Belarus for Russia, where she spent months in hiding. She was later granted asylum in Lithuania, where she continues to edit Charter 97.
Javier Arturo Valdez Cárdenas founded Ríodoce, a weekly covering crime and corruption in Sinaloa, one of Mexico’s most violent states. In September 2009, unidentified assailants hurled a grenade into the weekly’s facilities, causing substantial damage but no injuries. Days before the attack, Ríodoce had published a series on drug trafficking that was headlined, “Hitman: Confession of an Assassin in Ciudad Juárez.” An investigation into the grenade attack produced no results. In a country where widespread self-censorship is the consequence of violence by drug syndicates and criminal gangs, Valdez still covers sensitive issues.
Burton Benjamin Memorial Award
Dan Rather‘s distinguished career spans 60 years of probing journalism as a television correspondent and anchor covering stories around the world. During his 44 years with CBS News, he was anchor and managing editor of “The CBS Evening News” for a record 24 years and was a correspondent for “60 Minutes,” which has been at the center of many press freedom stories. In 2006, Rather founded the company News and Guts and became anchor and managing editor of HDNet’s “Dan Rather Reports,” which specializes in investigative journalism and international reporting. He has received nearly every honor in broadcast journalism, including numerous Emmy and Peabody awards and citations from critical, scholarly, professional, and charitable organizations. As a champion of watchdog journalism, he has promoted and defended independent reporting while exhorting news organizations to support journalists in their quest for the truth.