International Press Freedom Awards

Umar Cheema Award Acceptance Speech

Umar Cheema

The News, Pakistan 

Acceptance Speech

CPJ International Press Freedom Award 2011

November 22, 2011

Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue, New York City

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is a great privilege. I feel humbled and honored. There couldn't be a greater recognition. But it doesn't mark an end of the troubles. The award is a call for continuous struggle, without care for consequences. And yes, I am glad about having been bracketed with the distinguished men and women, the ones who faced trial and tribulation defending the freedom of press.

The incident has made me a new man. I reacted the way I never expected from me. The fear was flooded inside me. But the crisis taught me one thing: never let the fear dictate your decisions. I decided to be on the right side of history, hence I spoke up. Having done so not only inspired my confidence but that of all Pakistani journalists.

Like me, Pakistan is also reinventing itself. The ongoing crises of various natures have altered the map of power centers. A vocal media, an assertive judiciary and a vibrant civil society are harbingers of a promising Pakistan. The forces of repressions hit back in frustration. We have lost many colleagues in a culture of impunity. Nevertheless there is no let-up in our resilience.  

This award is in fact recognition of the bold work Pakistani media is doing. I would like to share this award with all those colleagues killed in the line of duty, especially Saleem Shehzad. It would also be my pleasure sharing this honor with my friend Azaz Syed. His house was attacked twice but he neither submitted to the forces of repression nor left the country.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I can't finish without thanking my attackers who helped me in discovering the strength of character that I possessed but didn't realize before. But my special thanks go to CPJ who first spread my word far and wide and now has bestowed this great honor.  

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