CJFE (formerly CCPJ) bestows 1998 International Press Freedom Awards; Mary Robinson calls for free expression worldwide

Wednesday, November 25, 1998
On 24 November 1998, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (formerly known as the Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists, CJFE) presented its International Press Freedom Awards at a fundraising banquet in Toronto, honouring Canadian, Nigerian and Burmese journalists for their efforts to publish despite censorship or oppression. In an address honouring awards recipients, Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented an eloquent plea for the defence of free expression worldwide and thanked the CJFE for its efforts in this regard. At the banquet, the organisation announced its name change to better reflect the diversity of its mandate, which is to promote and protect freedom of expression in Canada and worldwide. The banquet was attended by around 600 journalists and members of the business community who support the goals of the CJFE. Among the evening's media hosts, who joined corporate sponsors at their tables, were Pamela Wallin, Jan Wong, Peter Kent, Rick Salutin, Haroon Siddiqui, Ann Medina, Peter Gzowski, Stevie Cameron, Linda McQuaig, Peter Mansbridge, Joe Schlesinger, Linden MacIntyre, Ralph Benmergui, Colin Vaughan, Mike Duffy, Hana Gartner and many others. Two international awards were presented. Editor Bayo Onanuga and managing editor Babafemi Ojudu were honoured on behalf of the journalists of the International Communication Network Limited (ICNL) in Nigeria, publishers of "TheNews", "Tempo" and "PMNews". In his address, Ojudu thanked Canadians for maintaining pressure on the former regime of Sani Abacha and pressing for his release from prison in July after eight months in prison. He stressed that regardless of threats and harassment, and despite his earlier imprisonment, he and his colleagues would continue to publish their independent newsmagazines, guided by their resolve to defend freedom of expression. Ojudu dedicated his award to the family of Bagauda Kaltho, a senior correspondent of "The News", "Tempo" and "PMNews", who has been declared missing by ICNL since March 1996. On 18 August, Nigerian police authorities said Kaltho was killed in a 18 January 1996 bomb blast. They said he was trying to bomb the Durbar Hotel in Kaduna, a claim rejected by Kaltho's family, employers, media organisations and human rights organisations. The other CJFE International Award went to Daw San San Nwe of Burma (officially known as Myanmar), a thorn in the side of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) which has ruled the country since 1988 despite its defeat by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in the 1990 election. San San Nwe is serving seven and three year sentences for "writing and distributing false news that could jeopardize the security of the State." Her award was accepted by U Win Pe, a Burmese journalist, writer, director and musician now living in the United States, who appealed for continued international pressure on Burmese authorities. The recipient of the Canadian Award was Paul Kaihla for "Murder Mysteries", published in "Maclean's" magazine in March 1997. His cover story exposed an RCMP cover-up of a drug smuggling investigation gone awry. The Canadian Award judges panel called it "a powerful and hard to obtain story that in both its pursuit and aftermath illustrated and defended the importance of freedom of the press." Kaihla stressed that many of his sources were still victims of RCMP intimidation today. The recipient of the CJFE Student Award was Judy Trinh, a graduate of the University of Western Ontario's Graduate School of Journalism, for her video documentary "The Invisible Minority". Trinh overcame considerable obstacles to produce and broadcast a documentary on gay teen struggles in London, Ontario. Trinh explained that her award furthered her resolve to fight corruption in Canada and defend free expression. The CJFE Press Freedom Awards were created this year to honour journalists who have conquered adversity to promote and protect freedom of expression. For further information, contact the CJFE, 489 College Street, Suite 403, Toronto, Ontario M6G 1A5 Canada, tel: +1 416 515 9622, fax: +1 416 515 7879, e-mail: cjfe@cjfe.org.

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