CPJ Announces 2015 International Press Freedom Awards

Awardees from Ethiopia, Malaysia, Paraguay, and Syria

New York, September 15, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists will honor journalists from Ethiopia, Malaysia, Paraguay, and Syria with the 2015 International Press Freedom Awards. The journalists have endured death threats, physical attacks, legal action, imprisonment, or exile in the course of their work.

The 2015 awardees are:

  • Zone 9 bloggers of Ethiopia, a group of bloggers of which six were arrested, imprisoned, and charged with terrorism in retaliation for critical reporting;
  • Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, “Zunar,” of Malaysia, CPJ’s first cartoonist awardee, who is charged with sedition and faces a potential 43-year jail term for drawings lampooning high-level abuse in the Malaysian government;
  • Cándido Figueredo Ruíz, a Paraguayan journalist who faces death threats and has lived under 24-hour police protection for the past two decades because of his reporting on drug smuggling on the Brazil-Paraguay border; and
  • Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a Syrian citizen journalist collective and one of the few independent news sources that continues to report from inside the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital.

“In a very dangerous period for journalists, these awardees have braved threats from repressive governments, drug cartels, and Islamic State,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Whether through blogs or traditional media outlets, or by drawing cartoons, they risk their personal safety and freedom to bring us the news.”

The Associated Press’s special regional correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Kathy Gannon, will receive the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for lifetime achievement in the cause of press freedom. Gannon has covered the region for the AP as a correspondent and bureau chief since 1988. In 2001, Gannon was the only Western journalist allowed by the Taliban to return to Kabul during the U.S.-led coalition’s assault on Afghanistan. In 2005, Gannon authored I is for Infidel: From Holy War, to Holy Terror, 18 Years Inside Afghanistan, an examination of the Taliban and post-Taliban period, published by Public Affairs.

“Kathy Gannon has reported in South Central Asia for 18 years, through periods of extensive political turmoil and conflict,” said Sandra Mims Rowe, chairman of CPJ’s board of directors. “Her commitment to journalism has transcended personal risk and tragedy, including the loss of her colleague Anja Niedringhaus. Gannon is widely known as one of the most thoughtful and dedicated journalists covering the region.”

All of the winners will be honored at CPJ’s annual award and benefit dinner in New York City on November 24, 2015. David Muir, anchor of ABC World News Tonight, will host the event. Steven R. Swartz, president and chief executive officer of Hearst, is the dinner chairman.

Note to editors: CPJ International Press Freedom Award winners are available upon request for interviews prior to the awards dinner on November 24, 2015. For their full biographies, click here. Media accreditation for coverage of the awards dinner will begin on November 2, 2015. To purchase tickets to the dinner, please call CPJ’s development office at +1 212-300-9021.

Media contacts:

Samantha Libby

Advocacy Officer

[email protected]


Ashley Parent

Communications Associate

[email protected]


EDITOR’S NOTE: The press release has been corrected to reflect that Paraguayan journalist Cándido Figueredo Ruíz has lived under 24-hour police protection for the past two decades.