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For Immediate Release
November 1, 1996


Contact:
Judith Leynse
(212) 465-1004 x105

Journalists from India, Mexico, Palestinian Authority, Turkey To Receive CPJ’s International Press Freedom Awards

Award to Arthur Ochs Sulzberger to Mark 25th Anniversary of Pentagon Papers Publication By The New York Times


NEW YORK--Four courageous journalists from India, Mexico, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey who have survived assassination attempts and challenged press censorship will receive the Sixth Annual International Press Freedom Awards of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), it was announced today.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, longtime publisher of The New York Times and current chairman and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company, will be honored for his landmark decision 25 years ago to publish the Pentagon Papers, thereby setting a new standard for press freedom in the United States and the world.

The five awards will be presented November 26 at a gala benefit dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City attended by leading journalists in print and electronic media from the United States and abroad. The event will also celebrate the 15th anniversary of CPJ, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded to monitor abuses against the press and promote press freedom worldwide.

The 1996 International Press Freedom Award recipients are:

All three network anchors will take part in the evening awards ceremony: master of ceremonies Tom Brokaw, anchor and managing editor of the NBC Nightly News; Dan Rather, anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening New s, and Peter Jennings, anchor and senior editor of ABC’s World News Tonigh t. Presenting the awards will be Christiane Amanpour, senior international correspondent at CNN who also reports for CBS News’ 60 Minutes, Terry Anderson, columnist, former correspondent for The Associated Press, and author of Den of Lions, an account of his seven years as a hostage in Lebanon; Geraldine Brooks, foreign correspondent and author of Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women; Jim Hoagland, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post, and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The New York Time s. Michael Bloomberg, publisher of Bloomberg Business News, is dinner chairman.

At the dinner CPJ will lead a tribute to Veronica Guerin, winner of a 1995 International Press Freedom Award, who was gunned down in June for her investigative reporting on drug trafficking in Ireland.

“The journalists we honor this year with Press Freedom Awards have courageously provided independent news coverage and viewpoints under extraordinary circumstances,” said CPJ Executive Director William A. Orme, Jr. “They have placed their lives and careers on the line every day, and journalists everywhere are in their debt.”

Kati Marton, chairman of CPJ’s advisory board and journalist, author, and host of the weekly NPR program America and the World, said, “These awards to journalists beyond our borders are of immeasurable significance to the recipients. It is our hope that
this recognition by their peers in the United States will send a signal to opponents of a free press everywhere.”

Information on the award recipients follows.


Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in promoting press freedom

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger

Twenty-five years ago Arthur Ochs Sulzberger made a decision that profoundly strengthened the free American press. He decided that The New York Times should publish portions of the Pentagon Papers, the secret Defense Department history of United States involvement in Vietnam. The series of articles that followed changed the public’s perception of its government and, just as important, changed the press’s view of its role in a democratic society.

The pressures on Mr. Sulzberger as publisher of The Times were great. The paper’s longtime lawyers told him that he risked criminal prosecution. The Vietnam War was going on, with American soldiers coming back in body bags, and he was an intensely patriotic person. But he decided that the interest of telling Americans the truth about an issue that was dividing the country must prevail: that it was the public’s right to know and the press’s duty to report.

After the third installment of the series appeared in The Times, the Nixon Administration won a restraining order from a judge: the first prior restraint against newspaper publication ever granted to the federal government. The Supreme Court overturned that restraint in a landmark decision. Justice Hugo L. Black, in his concurring opinion, said that “in revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam War,” The Times and other newspapers that followed it “nobly did” what the Framers of the Constitution had hoped and expected.

The Burton Benjamin Memorial Award honors the late CBS News senior producer and former CPJ chairman who died in 1988.


INTERNATIONAL PRESS FREEDOM AWARD WINNERS

J. JESUS BLANCORNELAS is co-founder of the muckraking newsweekly Zeta, in Tijuana, Mexico. His career-long dedication to press freedom in Mexico has played a crucial role in the evolution of the Mexican press, which, despite government pressure and threats from criminal bosses, today provides increasingly balanced news coverage. With Zeta, founded in 1980, and earlier with the Tijuana daily AB C, Blancornelas defied official efforts to censor his publications, a stance that caused him personal hardship and cost the life of his longtime colleague, popular columnist Hector Félix Miranda, who was murdered in Tijuana in April 1988. The year before unidentified assailants riddled the Ze taoffice with gunfire. And over the years waves of harassment ranging from confiscation of issues to outright threats to advertisers have plagued the newspaper. In a country where the news media had historically cowered to government interests and where bribe-taking among journalists was commonplace, Zetadared to provide what few other Mexican newspapers had: hard-hitting stories on Mexico’s most vexing problems official corruption and drug trafficking. Despite the risks, Blancornelas has not been deterred and has inspired a newly empowered generation of independent journalists to reject old habits of self-censorship, bribe-taking and government subsidies.

YUSUF JAMEEL, a Kashmiri journalist withAsian Agein Delhi, India, who was formerly a correspondent for the BBC and a stringer for Reuters andTime magazine, is a leading reporter on the civil war in Indian-held Kashmir. His career has been marked by violent reprisal beatings, grenade attacks and, last fall, a letter bomb addressed to him that killed a colleague and injured Jameel. He has withstood pressure and attacks from all parties to the conflict in Kashmir, which pits Indian security forces and government-backed militias against an array of guerrilla groups fighting for the state’s independence or merger with Pakistan. The combatants view the local press as biased in favor of their adversaries and retaliate through violence and intimidation. In 1990 Indian security officers seized Jameel, took him blindfolded to a remote location and interrogated him about a colleague’s alleged contacts with militants. Twice in 1992 unidentified assailants threw grenades at his home and office in Srinagar. Later that year security officers severely beat him while he was covering a protest march by a Kashmiri women’s group. Jameel also has periodically faced threats from militant separatists displeased with his coverage of the war. Although he continues to be based in Delhi, he wrote in an article for the International Press Institute in September that he is “keen to return to Srinagar to resume work, but many well-wishers concerned for my safety insist that I should not do so.” He continues, “But I believe that such risks are part of my profession.”

DAOUD KUTTAB has long challenged censorship practices of both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. Kuttab’s outspoken criticism of the Palestinian Authority’s despotic treatment of the nascent independent press and his creative techniques to educate, empower and mobilize independent Palestinian media are driving forces behind efforts to foster independent journalism in the Middle East. In the 1980s, Kuttab worked as a reporter and later managing editor of the now defunct English-language weekly Al-Fajr, as a reporter and columnist for the Arabic-language East Jerusalem daily Al-Quds, and as a contributor to other papers, among them the Jerusalem Post. During that time, he was arrested, searched, and fingerprinted on several occasions for activities that included participating in public demonstrations against Israeli press censorship and writing about an armed attack by Jewish extremists at the Palestinian University in Hebron.

After leaving Al-Fajr, Kuttab went to work for the dailyAl-Quds, where he broke many stories on the peace process and was the first Palestinian to conduct exclusive interviews with Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Since the Oslo Accords, Kuttab has been a vocal critic of the anti-democratic impulses of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, whose government has dealt despotically with critical reporting and legitimate political dissent, jailing dozens of journalists. In August 1994 when Arafat ordered Al-Quds to stop publishing Kuttab’s columns after he led independent journalists in a protest against the banning of Jerusalem’s only other Arabic-language daily at the time, Kuttab was fired. But he has refused to be silenced, writing opinion pieces for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune and others. Last April he established the censorship-free Arabic Media Internet Network, a World Wide Web site known as AMIN (http://www.amin.org). As president of the Palestinian Audio-Visual Union, he has been active in protesting censorship and access violations by the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority.

OCAK ISIK YURTCU had little to celebrate last July 24, Journalists Day in Turkey. “Nobody in the world has been sentenced to so many years in prison for articles others have written,” he said from his jail cell in Sakarya prison east of Istanbul in an interview with the daily Yeni Yuzyil. Yurtcu, former editor in chief of the now-defunct daily Ozgur Gundem, is serving a 15-year sentence, upheld on appeal in December 1994, for disseminating “separatist propaganda.” The case against this journalist, respected by his peers in Turkey and beyond for his independence and tenacity, was based on articles about the Kurdish issue published in Ozgur Gundem in 1991 and 1992. Throughout its existence, his paper had been targeted by the Turkish government for its extensive and balanced reporting on the Kurdish conflict. Yurtcu was charged under the Anti-Terror Law and Article 312 of the Penal Code, which in effect classify all reports on the Kurdish rebellion other than the government’s as either propaganda for the insurgent Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, in the country’s Southeast or as “incitement to racial hatred.” Since his imprisonment in 1994, several more sentences have been handed down from other cases against him, and he says he is no longer sure how many more years he will be incarcerated. The government’s campaign of arrests, bans and trials against Ozgur Gundem forced the paper to close in April 1994. In addition to the legal harassment, journalists at the paper were frequent targets of violence by unidentified assailants. In 1992 alone, four journalists at the paper were assassinated. The murderers were never brought to justice. At great cost to himself, Yurtcu’s determination to change the situation for Turkish journalists is unwavering. He reportedly rejected the option of self-imposed exile over prison. “He decided to stay in his country to fight against the injustice,” writes a colleague. “He believes that being a journalist cannot be a crime.”

THE COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1981 to monitor abuses against the press and promote press freedom around the world. Its international membership consists of hundreds of working journalists from print and broadcast media as well as others who are committed to fostering the principles of a free press. CPJ is the only organization in the United States with a full-time staff devoted to documenting and responding to violations of press freedom.


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