New York, November 20, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today presented the recipients of the 2003 International Press Freedom Awards at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The recipients include: Abdul Samay Hamed, an independent writer, publisher, political cartoonist, and poet from Afghanistan; Aboubakr Jamai, who publishes two of Morocco’s groundbreaking weekly newspapers, Le Journal Hebdomadaire and its sister publication, Assahifa al Ousbouiya; Musa Muradov, editor-in-chief of the weekly Groznensky Rabochy, one of Chechnya’s only independent publications; and Manuel Vázquez Portal, who helped establish the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro and is serving an 18-year prison sentence in Cuba on spurious charges.
“The work of these four brave journalists is driven by their devotion to the fundamental principles of press freedom—the principle that all people have the right to seek and receive news and information,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper in introducing the awardees.
In speaking about the dangers he faces while covering the conflict in Chechnya, Muradov said, “It’s very difficult running a newspaper when you’re stuck between two warring factions. You can become an enemy very easily depending on what you write.”
Jamai, whose newspapers have published tough investigative reports on government corruption and corporate impropriety, have run afoul of both the government and the Moroccan king. “In Morocco, you cannot criticize the king,” said Jamai, “because he’s considered sacred and yet he represents the executive branch of the government.”
At the press conference, Hamed described Afghanistan as a county with “no freedom of expression.” He urged journalists who cover his country to report on the lack of press freedom.
Speaking in front of a photograph of Vázquez Portal, CPJ’s Washington, D.C., representative Frank Smyth noted that, “There does not appear to be any particular reason why the regime targeted this journalist, except that his reporting and well written, often lyrical, opinion columns have been consistently critical of the regime.”
All four journalists will be honored on November 25 at an awards dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. John F. Burns, chief foreign correspondent of The New York Times, will receive the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, which is given for a lifetime of distinguished achievement for the cause of press freedom. The Burton Benjamin Award is named for the late CBS News senior producer and former CPJ chairman, who died in 1988.