CPJ’s 2023 International Press Freedom Awards

International Press Freedom Awards

CPJ’s annual International Press Freedom Awards honored courageous journalists from around the world on Thursday, November 16, 2023, in New York City. This year’s dinner was chaired by Meredith Kopit Levien, President and CEO of The New York Times Company.

Watch the full video here.

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CPJ’s 2023 honorees are:

Nika Gvaramia, Georgia

(Mtavari Arkhi)

Gvaramia is the founder and director of independent broadcaster, Mtavari Arkhi (Main Channel), founded in 2019. Gvaramia, who has worked in journalism since 2012, previously held government positions and served on the legal team representing opposition leader and former President Mikheil Saakashvili. As a TV presenter, Gvaramia was known for his sharp criticism of the ruling Georgian Dream party. His show often featured investigations exposing alleged government corruption and abuses and covered allegations of Georgian authorities’ pro-Russian bias. He served more than a year of a 3.5-year sentence for alleged abuse of office before receiving a presidential pardon in June 2023. Gvaramia denied the charges, which were widely denounced as politically motivated. Gvaramia is the only journalist in Georgia to receive a prison sentence in retaliation for their work since CPJ started keeping records of jailed journalists in 1992. 

Shahina K.K., India

(Shafeeq Thamarassery)

Shahina is a veteran Indian journalist who has worked across print and broadcast media to shed light on issues such as gender, human rights, and marginalized communities, along with the injustices they face. Shahina, currently a senior editor for Outlook magazine, was one of the country’s first journalists to be charged under a draconian anti-terror law extensively weaponized against journalists in the country for over a decade. She has continued her reporting despite awaiting trial for a case opened in 2010, when local government officials sought to criminalize her reporting on a questionable police investigation. As of June 2023, Shahina is out on bail pending trial. If convicted, she faces a maximum of three years in prison and a fine. A Muslim by birth, Shahina has also been subjected to extensive harassment by Indian right-wing groups seeking to silence her reporting on religious minorities and vulnerable caste groups.

María Teresa Montaño, Mexico

(Maria Teresa Montaño)

Montaño is a prominent investigative reporter and founder and editor of The Observer, a fact-checking and investigative website. Her journalism features investigations of corruption, transparency, gender violence, and accountability in a region where critical and independent reporting is rare. This work has led to frequent threats, surveillance, and harassment from state and local authorities as well as criminal groups. In 2021, she was briefly abducted by three men who held her at gunpoint, forced her to withdraw money from ATMs, and stole work equipment that included notes and files on a corruption investigation involving state officials. The kidnappers, whose identities are still unknown, threatened to kill her if she reported the crime. She left Mexico for a short period following her abduction, but has since returned and resumed working despite the increasingly dangerous environment for reporters across the country. 

Ferdinand Ayité, Togo

(Photo credit withheld)

Ayité leads L’Alternative, one of Togo’s top investigative outlets, known for its fearless coverage of alleged corruption and protests against the rule of President Faure Gnassingbé. Ayité is one of the most targeted journalists in Togo in recent years, facing persistent legal harassment and threats. In March 2023, Ayité and L’Alternative’s editor-in-chief Isidore Kouwonou fled the country shortly before a Togolese court sentenced them to three years in prison for insulting authorities and spreading false news over a broadcast in which Ayité discussed two government ministers’ alleged corruption and manipulation of the Togolese public. Ayité is a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and collaborated on the groundbreaking Panama Papers investigation in 2016, focusing on tax avoidance schemes by Indian companies based in Togo. His phone number also appeared on the Pegasus Project’s list of journalists allegedly selected for potential spyware surveillance.

Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award Winner

CPJ’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.

Originally the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, it was renamed in 2017 to honor Gwen Ifill, the veteran journalist and former CPJ board member who died in late 2016.

(Gesi Schilling)

Alberto Ibargüen

Ibargüen recently announced that he will be stepping down as president of the Knight Foundation after 18 years at its helm. Under his leadership, the foundation invested over $2.3 billion in journalism, arts, economic development, and research. Ibargüen is the former publisher of the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald. During his tenure, the Miami Herald won three Pulitzer Prizes and El Nuevo Herald won Spain’s Ortega y Gasset Prize for excellence in journalism. He served on the board of CPJ from 1993 to 2005.