CPJ Presents Press Freedom Award Winners in Washington

Washington, D.C., November 14, 2001–The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today presented the winners of its 2001 International Press Freedom Awards at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Clockwise from Top Left: Verbitsky, Nyarota, Jiang, Dana.

The winners include: Mazen Dana, a Reuters cameraman who covers the West Bank; Geoff Nyarota, the editor of Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper; Horacio Verbitsky, a columnist and press freedom advocate from Argentina; and Jiang Weipeng, who is currently jailed in China for reporting on corruption.

“These journalists have covered a variety of conflicts in their efforts to report the news, and they have each suffered reprisals because of their brave work,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper while introducing the awardees.

As a cameraman in the West Bank city of Hebron, Mazen Dana covers one of the most dangerous beats in the world. Dana has been wounded repeatedly during the last seven years he has spent documenting clashes in his hometown. “If there were a record for the number of times a journalists was injured in the line of duty, it would be held by Mazen Dana,” noted CPJ Middle East program coordinator Joel Campagna. [More about Mazen Dana]

Two years ago, Geoff Nyarota launched The Daily News, Zimbabwe’s only independent daily newspaper. The Harare-based paper has managed to become Zimbabwe’s most influential voice despite repeated attempts by President Robert Mugabe’s government to silence it. In January, the paper’s printing presses were bombed, and just last week Nyarota was jailed and held overnight. “When we founded The Daily News, we did not expect so much attention and to be so targeted by the government,” said Nyarota. [More about Geoff Nyarota]

Horacio Verbitsky is one of Argentina’s leading investigative journalists, a columnist, and a press freedom activist. He has built his distinguished career by fearlessly exposing government corruption and battling restrictive press laws. Verbitsky said he planned to accept the award on behalf of the 100 journalists who were kidnapped, tortured, and killed in Argentina during the 1970s. [More about Horacio Verbitsky]

Jiang Weipeng could not attend the press conference because he is serving a nine-year prison sentence for “revealing state secrets.” According to Asia program coordinator Kavita Menon, Jiang is guilty of nothing more than aggressively reporting on the taboo subject of official graft in China. Speaking in front of a photograph of Jiang, Menon noted that at least 25 journalists are currently jailed in China. [More about Jiang Weipeng]

All four journalists will be honored on November 20 at an awards dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Joseph Lelyveld, who served as an editor and reporter with The New York Times for four decades, will receive the Burton Benjamin Award for a lifetime of distinguished professional achievement and devotion to the cause of press freedom.