Press Freedom Awards 2002 – Press Conference

International Press Freedom Awards

New York, November 20, 2002–The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today presented the recipients of its 2002 International Press Freedom Awards at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The awardees include: Ignacio Gómez, one Colombia’s leading investigative journalists and press freedom activists; Irina Petrushova, founder and editor-in-chief of the weekly Respublika in Kazakhstan; Tipu Sultan, an award-winning free-lance reporter from Bangladesh; and Fesshaye Yohannes, who is the founding editor of Setit and is currently in jail, along with the majority of the Eritrean press corps.

“There is no job more fundamental to journalism than watching a government’s performance, analyzing its policies and practices. And there’s no job that puts journalists more at odds with those it covers than the role of watchdog. This year, the Committee to Protect Journalists is honoring four people who know that very well,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper while introducing the awardees.

In speaking about the dangers she faces while covering the news in Kazakhstan, Petrushova said, “You can get used to living with pressure, but you can’t get used to it when authorities move from psychological to physical pressure and use it as a pretext to put journalists behind bars.”

At the press conference, Tipu described how he was abducted and savagely beaten by about 15 thugs wielding baseball bats, hockey sticks, and iron rods after he wrote an article accusing a local legislator of criminal activity. “They left me for dead, so I feel what I have now is a bonus,” said Tipu, who has undergone numerous surgeries to repair his right hand, which was crushed in the attack. “I have a second life. I want to dedicate my life from now on to press freedom for journalists and for the people of Bangladesh.”

[For more information on the awardees, click on photos above.]

All four journalists will be honored on November 26 at an awards dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Daniel Pearl, South Asia bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal, who was kidnapped and murdered while working on a story in Karachi, Pakistan, early this year, 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 Memorial Award honors the late CBS News senior producer and former CPJ chairman, who died in 1988.