CJFE honours journalists for courageous reporting at 2019 Gala
This year’s honourees are Reuters’ Wa Lone and Kway Soe Oo, VICE’s Ben Makuch and Gordana Knezevic
TORONTO, Nov. 13, 2019 – Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) will honour four journalists for their courage in reporting and fighting for freedom of the press on November 27, 2019, at its 22nd annual gala in Toronto. Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kway Soe Oo will be honoured with the International Press Freedom Award, Ben Makuch of VICE Media will be awarded the Arnold Amber Award for Investigative Journalism and Gordana Knezevic will be honoured with the Tara Singh Hayer Memorial Award.
“Press freedom has never been more at risk, overseas and in our own backyard,” said Philip Tunley, President, CJFE. “Whether journalists are being jailed abroad for simply doing their jobs or they are being forced into disclosing sensitive and confidential source information to our own governments and police agencies, issues related to freedom of the media will impact everyone. That’s why we continue to honour those brave individuals and organizations who continue to push for what’s right even in the face of personal risk and persecution.”
International Press Freedom Award (IPFA)
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo of Myanmar will be honoured with the 2019 IPFA. The Reuters journalists were jailed for more than 500 days in Myanmar for their reporting on the Rohingya crisis.
They were arrested during the course of reporting on the murders of 10 Rohingya men by Buddhist villagers and Myanmar troops in the village of Inn Din in northern Rakhine in September 2017. The arrests happened before their story was published, after being handed documents by two policemen whom they had met at a restaurant for the first time. A police witness later testified during the trial that the restaurant meeting was a set-up to entrap the journalists.
The journalists’ final report included testimonies from Buddhist villagers who confessed to killing Rohingya Muslims and torching their homes. Authorities later launched their own probe into the Inn Din killings, confirming the massacre had taken place and promising to act against those who had taken part. Seven soldiers were sentenced to prison for their involvement in the killings and the journalists won a Pulitzer prize for their reporting.
Each year, the International Press Freedom Award is bestowed in recognition of the journalists around the world who work tirelessly, often risking their lives, so that the news media remain free.
Arnold Amber Award for Investigative Journalism
Ben Makuch is an award-winning national security correspondent with VICE Media. In 2014, Makuch was in contact with several Canadian homegrown Islamic State militants. His reporting caught the attention of federal counterterrorism investigators, who brought proceedings to force Makuch and VICE Media to hand over all source materials connected to Farah Mohamed Shirdon, an alleged ISIS fighter from Calgary. Makuch refused and fought his case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2018, appearing again in a second application to the court in July 2019, on the basis of US reports that Shirdon was dead. When that application was unsuccessful, VICE Media – also in possession of the messages – handed them over to the RCMP.
The relentless pursuit of Makuch by the RCMP has led him to leave Canada. He now lives and works in New York City.
The CJFE Arnold Amber Award for Investigative Journalism award celebrates a journalist, investigative researcher or media worker who has made a significant contribution to advancing investigative public interest reporting in Canada. The award is sponsored by CWA Canada, the Media Union.
Tara Singh Hayer Memorial Award
The Tara Singh Hayer Memorial Award recognizes a Canadian journalist who, through his or her work, has made an important contribution to reinforcing and promoting the principle of press freedom in Canada or elsewhere, and who has taken personal risks or suffered physical reprisals for their work.
This year’s recipient is Gordana Knezevic, the author of RFE/RL's blog "Balkans Without Borders.” Knezevic, who is well-known for her work as deputy editor of “Oslobodjenje,” the internationally recognized Sarajevo-based daily newspaper that never stopped publishing during the Bosnian War.
She was honoured with the 1992 Courage in Journalism award by the Washington-based International Women’s Media Foundation for insisting the newspaper continue reporting stories of the war.
2019 CJFE Gala and Art Exhibit
This year's event will be co-hosted by Adrienne Arsenault, host of CBC’s The National and Anne Marie Mediwake, host of CTV’s Your Morning. The 2019 gala art exhibit will feature the work of editorial cartoonist Michael de Adder. Proceeds from this exhibit will support the Journalists in Distress Fund.
A Night to Honour Courageous Reporting is CJFE’s primary fundraising event and we would like to recognize our evening sponsor, Google News Initiative, our reception sponsors, The Ritz- Carlton, Toronto, and Westbury National as well as our in-kind sponsors Cision, Media Profile, News Media Canada, Reuters, The Canadian Press, The Globe and Mail, CWA – The Media Union.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) monitors, defends and reports on free expression and access to information in Canada and abroad. Rooted in the field of journalism, CJFE promotes a free media as essential to a fair and open society. CJFE boldly champions the free expression rights of all people and encourages and supports individuals and groups in the protection of their own and others' free expression rights. For more information about the award winners and the gala, visit cfge.org.
For more information or to request interviews:
David Wills, [email protected], 416-342-1809
Jeri Brown, [email protected], 416-342-1834