Honoring reporting in defiance of censorship

International Press Freedom Awards

New York, November 23, 2011–Four intrepid reporters and editors from Bahrain, Belarus, Mexico, and Pakistan were honored Tuesday evening at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 21st Annual International Press Freedom Awards benefit dinner, an annual recognition of courageous journalism.

The event, held at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel, raised nearly $1.4 million for CPJ’s work denouncing anti-press violations, providing assistance to targeted journalists, and advocating for press freedom worldwide. Award winners Mansoor al-Jamri (Al-Wasat, Bahrain), Natalya Radina (Charter 97, Belarus), Javier Valdez Cárdenas (Riodoce, Mexico), and Umar Cheema (The News, Pakistan) were honored in front of approximately 900 guests. CPJ also paid tribute to television newsman Dan Rather by awarding him the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for his lifelong work to advance press freedom.

“With their probing reporting in defiance of attacks, imprisonment, and even abduction, these journalists give voice to many who are being silenced,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We celebrate their courage and perseverance in upholding our collective right to independent and critical information even at great personal risk.”

CPJ chairman Sandra Mims Rowe pointed to the changing journalism landscape–increased reporting by freelancers and online journalists who generally lack institutional backing–as a pressing challenge that the organization is prepared to take on: “CPJ has stood by journalists of all stripes working on all media and will continue to do so in years to come.”

The awards dinner was chaired by Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp. and chairman of NBCUniversal’s board of directors. Al-Jazeera host Mhamed Krichen and former NPR correspondent Anne Garrels presented awards to al-Jamri and Radina. CNN Worldwide managing editor Mark Whitaker presented the award to Valdez, and Thomson Reuters columnist David Rohde presented the award to Cheema. Leading First Amendment lawyer James C. Goodale presented Dan Rather with the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award. Eynulla Fatullayev, a formerly imprisoned Azerbaijani journalist who was recognized by CPJ in 2009, was given his award by Gwen Ifill, senior correspondent for “The PBS NewsHour.” 

A fundraising appeal carried out at the dinner to benefit CPJ’s Global Campaign Against Impunity raised approximately $85,000 and was matched at a 2:1 ratio by the John. S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has supported the CPJ campaign since its inception in 2007. CPJ’s awards dinner was held on the eve of the first International Day to End Impunity in the killing of journalists, a global effort by a coalition of press freedom groups to raise awareness about journalists murdered in reprisal for their work whose killers have not been brought to justice.