CPJ Honors Journalists with International Press Freedom Awards For Courage in Reporting the News
For list of benefactors, SEE BELOW
The acceptance speeches of the award winners illuminate press freedom issues. READ THEM.
The winners of the Ninth Annual International Press Freedom Awards are:
CPJ also honored CBS “60 Minutes” Executive Producer Don Hewitt with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for a lifetime of distinguished achievement in the cause of press freedom.
In announcing the awards, CPJ Board Chairman Gene Roberts said, “The awards not only honor these five courageous journalists who faced jail, physical harm and even death, simply for doing their work, they shine light on the enemies of press freedom and democracy in many areas of the world.”
Speakers at the event included: NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, who once again hosted the awards ceremony; Maureen Dowd of The New York Times; Ted Koppel of ABC News “Nightline”; Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune; David Remnick of The New Yorker; and Ray Suarez of “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.”
Norman Pearlstine, Editor-in-Chief of Time Inc., was chairman of this year’s black-tie dinner. This year’s dinner vice-chairs were: former talk show host Phil Donahue, the Coca-Cola Company Chairman and CEO M. Douglas Ivester, and the Freedom Forum Chairman and CEO Charles L. Overby.
CPJ Executive Director Ann K. Cooper said, “While we in America sometimes take press freedoms for granted, the hardships endured by these courageous journalists remind us that there are many places in the world where basic press freedoms simply don’t exist. Because the threats these journalists stand up to are ultimately threats to all of us, we are deeply indebted to them.”
Following is information about the 1999 CPJ International Press Freedom Award winners and the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award recipient:
María Cristina Caballero, Colombia
For Caballero, universal access means more than getting scoops. It’s about helping to create an environment in which peace is possible. In a country where violence is rapidly destroying a great journalistic tradition–45 Colombian journalists have been killed since 1988–she argues that Colombia’s best hope for peace is a free and unfettered press that can provide a forum for dialogue and discussion. Caballero is on leave from her job as investigative editor for the weekly Semana to write a book about the Colombian civil war.
Jesús Joel Díaz Hernández, Cuba.
D’áz Hernández is one of a number of independent journalists in Cuba who show great courage, tenacity and cunning in the inventive use of the Internet to circumvent censorship and confront President Fidel Castro’s systematic campaign to suppress free expression. They dictate stories over the phone to colleagues abroad for posting on websites, where they are picked up by newspapers in the United States and Europe and sometimes broadcast back to Cuba.
This past spring, the Cuban government ratcheted up its assault on independent journalism by passing a law that criminalizes free speech and forbids contact with foreign media.
In prison, Díaz Hernández, 25, has continued to write, although guards have confiscated his stories and threatened him with up to 20 more years of jail.
Baton Haxhiu, Kosovo
Such journalism came at a price: before the NATO air strikes, Haxhiu endured two years of Serbian state harassment, including repeated police interrogations. In March 1998, the paper’s Pristina offices were ransacked and several staff members were roughed up. On the eve of the NATO air strikes, Serb forces torched the paper’s offices, killing a guard. Then word came from NATO that Serb forces had killed Haxhiu. The report was incorrect: the editor had eluded the police and was hiding in a basement. But when he heard the report of his own death over short-wave radio, Haxhiu fled to Macedonia. There he resumed publication of Koha Ditore,distributing the paper to refugees.
Now back in Kosovo, Haxhiu is still a target for people who disagree with his hard-hitting coverage. Most recently, the press agency linked to the Kosovo Liberation Army denounced him as a traitor. Haxhiu has received numerous death threats as a result.
Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin, Pakistan
The Friday Times is an equal opportunity offender that has locked horns with all of Pakistan’s leaders since its inception ten years ago. The paper repeatedly angered former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto by calling on them to answer corruption charges.
Sethi’s arrest galvanized the public and the local independent press, who saw the Sharif government’s actions as a crude attempt to stifle political dissent in Pakistan. Read CPJ’s special report on Pakistan.
Don Hewitt, recipient of the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, is the legendary executive producer of “60 Minutes,” the most-watched news broadcast in the history of television, and a 50-year veteran of CBS. He was executive producer of “The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite,” and has headed the team at “60 Minutes” since the program’s birth in 1968. Hewitt invented the television news magazine format and pioneered the provocative, hard-hitting style that for three decades has brought the show praise and controversy.
When CBS created “60 Minutes II” earlier this year, one reviewer praised it for being faithful to “the unmannered, straightforward, and yet highly distinctive ’60 Minutes’ style perfected by series creator Don Hewitt: no spurious visuals…no gimmicky graphics… writing and reportage of the highest standard.”
Hewitt is portrayed in the movie “The Insider,” which concerns CBS management’s controversial decision not to air a “60 Minutes” interview with a tobacco industry whistle-blower. He has stated that he could have resigned to protest management’s action, but chose instead “to live to fight another day.”
He continues to be outspoken about the corrosive effect that the corporatization of television news has had on press freedoms.
The Burton Benjamin Memorial Award honors the late CBS News senior producer and former CPJ chairman who died in 1988.
The Atsuko Chiba Foundation, Inc.
Franz and Marcia Allina
Abernathy MacGregor Frank
American International Group, Inc.
List complete as of December 16, 1999
We thank the following for their creative support in the production of the videos for the Press Freedom Awards program
CPJ’s work is made possible through the in-kind services
CPJ is grateful to
Continental Airlines is the preferred carrier for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
A special thank you goes to Gretchen Babarovic and Nancy Dobi of ABC News;