Jailed, attacks journalists honoured with International Press Freedom Awards

Friday, August 11, 2000

A journalist who was kidnapped in Colombia and another who is in jail in Iran will share the honours at this year's International Press Freedom Awards dinner in Toronto next month. The awards by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) recognize journalists who demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression and who overcome enormous odds simply to produce the news. Military affairs reporter Jineth Bedoya Lima with El Espectador in Bogota, Colombia was kidnapped in May in front of a Bogota jail where she was covering an ongoing dispute between common criminals and inmates belonging to the right-wing paramilitary United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC). Bedoya arrived at the jail for a pre-arranged interview when she was forced into a pick-up truck at gunpoint. She was found in the outskirts of town about ten hours later by a taxi driver. Bedoya's hands were tied, and she had been brutally beaten and sexually assaulted. Now, just months later, Bedoya is still covering the civil war in Colombia where at least 44 journalists have been killed in Colombia in the past ten years, and 33 have been kidnapped since 1998. She will attend the dinner at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto on November 23. (Eds.: To arrange earlier interviews, please contact Lisa Roberts at 416-515-9622.) Akbar Ganji is in jail at Evin Prison, Tehran. Iran's most prominent and popular reformist journalist, Ganji was arrested in April on his return from a conference "Iran after the elections" held in Berlin. There is no set date for his trial. Through 1999 and the early part of 2000, Ganji sought to expose authorities within the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran responsible for killing Iranian intellectuals, poets, writers and university professors. He called on these authorities to account for human rights violations as no other journalist dared to do. Ganji's imprisonment is part of a campaign against independent journalists by the conservative-dominated judiciary ongoing since reformists won a parliamentary majority in February. Fifteen reformist newspapers and ten magazines have been shut down, and 15 journalists and intellectuals are in prison. Several others are out on bail and awaiting trial. The awards will be presented at the third annual International Press Freedom Awards banquet on November 23, 2000. The banquet will also feature an address by Michael Ignatieff, the renowned author and journalist who has covered ethnic and national conflict, freedom of expression, and moral and philosophical issues regarding international affairs. These cases and others have been reported through the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), a network of more than 50 journalism and press freedom organizations. CJFE operates the IFEX Clearing House (www.ifex.org) which can mobilize campaigns against censorship and abuses suffered by journalists, writers and media organizations around the world. CJFE's Journalists in Distress Fund helps journalists suffering repression through emergency medical, legal or travel funds. CJFE is supported by journalists and interested citizens from across Canada. Benefit co-chairs are Diane Francis, editor-at-large for the National Post, and Brian Segal, President and CEO of Publishing and Online Services for Roger's Media. Peter Gzowski will host the event, which raises funds for the work of CJFE in promoting freedom of expression and protecting journalists worldwide. For more information, please contact: Lisa Roberts, CJFE Program Manager: (416) 515-9622; roberts@cjfe.org

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