Journalists from Tajikstan, Myanmar Win Press Freedom Awards

Wednesday, October 24, 2001
The fourth annual International Press Freedom Awards of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) will honour and champion two journalists - one a political prisoner; the other living in exile - at a dinner to take place in Toronto on November 8, 2001 at the Westin Harbour Castle. The guest speaker for this year's dinner will be Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada. A leading figure in Canada's cultural life, Mme Clarkson has had a rich and distinguished career in broadcasting, journalism, the arts and public service. She has worked as host, writer and producer of several influential TV programs including Take Thirty and The Fifth Estate. Her work in television has garnered dozens of awards in Canada and the U.S. The journalists to be recognized are Dodojon Atovulloev, publisher of Charogi Ruz, a newspaper critical of Tajikstan’s leadership, and Myo Myint Nyein of Myanmar (formerly Burma), a contributor to the satirical news magazine What’s Happening to Us? Myo Myint Nyein will not be able to attend the dinner because he is imprisoned in Myanmar. The awards by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression recognize journalists who demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression and who overcome enormous odds to produce the news. Over 500 leading journalists as well as corporate and NGO representatives will attend the gala event, whose primary aim is to raise funds for CJFE's press freedom activities. Dodojon Atovulloev has devoted his life to freedom of expression, working to democratize Tajikstan society with his newspaper Charogi Ruz ("Day Light"). The newspaper began as an outspoken journal published in Russian, Tajik and Uzbek, and soon was attacked by supporters of Tajikstan President Imomali Rakhmovov. Atovulloev then moved Charogi Ruz to Moscow where he continued to publish the newspaper, distributing 20,000 copies a month throughout Central Asia. In May of this year, threats to his life forced Atovulloev and his family to escape from Russia for Germany, where they currently live in exile. Charogi Ruz continues to be published, in print and on the Internet at www.charogiruz.ru. Myo Myint Nyein has been locked up in a Myanmar prison since 1990 when he was sentenced to seven years for "organizing youths and students to create instability" in the pages of the news magazine What’s Happening to Us? On March 28, 1996, he was sentenced to another seven years for his involvement with another group of journalists in what they called themselves the "Press Freedom Movement". 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. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression operates the IFEX Clearinghouse (www.ifex.org) which mobilizes campaigns against censorship and abuses suffered by journalists, writers and media organizations around the world. CJFE's Journalists in Distress Fund helps journalists who have been persecuted for their work through emergency medical, legal or travel funds. Dodojon Atovulloev will be present to accept his award. Myo Myint Nyein's daughter, Dali, and former journalistic colleague and cellmate Zin Linn will be on hand to accept the award on Myo Myint Nyein's behalf. CJFE is supported by more than 350 working journalists, editors, publishers, broadcasters, producers, technical support staff and interested citizens. The Reception begins at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner at 7 p.m. in the Frontenac Ballroom of the Westin Harbour Castle.

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