Catching up with some of CJFE's International Press Freedom Award winners

Thursday, December 11, 2014
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Thursday, December 11, 2014
By Alexandra Zakreski To mark the 2014 CJFE Gala: A Night to Honour Courageous Reporting, we caught up with five of our past International Press Freedom Award (IPFA) winners.

2009 IPFA Winner: Novaya Gazeta, Russia

In the five years since Moscow-based newspaper
Novaya Gazeta was recognized by CJFE, the climate for press freedom has failed to improve in Russia. Although in 2014 five men were found guilty of planning and participating in the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya (pictured), it seems increasingly unlikely that the unidentified individuals who ordered her killing will be brought to justice. Meanwhile, far-reaching laws designed to suppress free speech have been introduced, impunity in attacks against journalists remains the rule and Novaya Gazeta continues to be aggressively targeted. On Oct. 10, 2014, the newspaper was slapped with a formal warning from the country’s media watchdog, which says the paper violated anti-extremism laws with an article that compared Russia’s promotion of its culture over European “soullessness” to Hitler’s views of European culture. If Novaya Gazeta receives a second warning within a year, authorities can bar it from publishing. Website: en.novayagazeta.ru

2011 IPFA Winner: Khaled al-Hammadi, Yemen

After accepting his award from CJFE in 2011, Khaled al-Hammadi returned to Yemen and started his own press freedom organization. Established in January 2012, Freedom Foundation is a Yemeni non-profit and non-governmental organization that advocates for media freedom, rights and development. An interim IFEX member (and the only member in the country), Freedom Foundation tracks free expression violations and attacks on the media in Yemen. Yemen has long been a high-risk country for journalists, consistently ranking near the bottom of press freedom indexes. With the recent climate of violence and insurgency in the country, al-Hammadi’s work documenting threats to the press has taken on increased importance. Southern Yemen has been wracked with fighting between Houthi rebels and Al-Qaeda militants since rebels took over the capital city of Sanaa in September, and in the first month alone, Freedom Foundation tracked at least 52 violations against the media. Al-Hammadi has also launched Media Observatory, a project dedicated to monitoring professionalism, content and hateful rhetoric in the Yemeni partisan and private media. Twitter: @KhaledHammadi Website: FFYE.org

2012 IPFA Winner: Mae Azango, Liberia

Mae Azango’s native Liberia has been a country of substantial international interest lately as one of the major sites of the Ebola outbreak. While Azango has been covering the epidemic, she has continued to report on female genital mutilation, and her recent work for Front Page Africa also includes an investigative report about human trafficking and Liberian girls being sold into sexual slavery in Lebanon. Her work remains highly regarded. In May 2014, she received the Press Union of Liberia Women’s Rights Award for her reporting on women’s issues. Unfortunately, the climate for free expression in Liberia is much the same as two years ago, with the “press still intimidated [on] some level,” she says, offering several examples, including one of her editors being blacklisted for reporting about corruption related to foreign donations to fight Ebola. Twitter: @MaeAzango

2012 IPFA Winner: Rami Jarrah, Syria

Citizen journalist Rami Jarrah continues to document the civil war that rages on in his home country two years after CJFE honoured his work. With the added threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it has become even more dangerous to be a journalist in Syria, yet Jarrah has relocated from Cairo to Aleppo. His project, ANA Press (formerly ANA New Media Association), has grown from an independent group offering Syrian citizen journalists training and support to a full-fledged media platform. ANA Press is a valuable source for international news agencies as they attempt to cover the Syrian civil war with extremely limited access; Jarrah contributes regular reports on the refugee crisis, rebel fighting and ISIS encroachment into areas of the country. Reporting is currently produced and broadcast through ANA Web TV, a YouTube channel. Twitter: @AlexanderPageSY YouTube: ANAChannelEng

2013 IPFA Winner: Ahmet Şık, Turkey

When Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Şık accepted CJFE’s IPFA in 2013, he was awaiting trial on charges of aiding and abetting a terrorist organization. He faced up to 15 years in prison. His trial has since stalled as President Tayyip Erdoğan and exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen compete for political influence. But Şık has been keeping busy. On May 3, 2014, World Press Freedom Day, he was awarded the 2014 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize—a nomination made by CJFE. In July, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Turkish government violated the human rights of Şık and Nedim Şener, a fellow investigative journalist who was unjustly jailed, by infringing on their right to free expression and holding them for over a year in pre-trial detention. There is still much ground to cover in establishing a healthy climate for free expression in Turkey. Twitter: @sahmetsahmet

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