New York, November 22, 2006–The Committee to Protect Journalists marked its 25th anniversary by honoring four journalists with its 2006 International Press Freedom Awards in a ceremony Tuesday night which highlighted record-setting attacks on the press in Iraq.
More than 850 people attended the benefit dinner which raised $1.3 million. It was co-chaired by Robert A. Iger, president and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company, and John S. Carroll, the Knight Visiting Lecturer at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University. Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent and CPJ board member, hosted the dinner.
Aryeh Neier, president of the Open Society Institute, announced a $1 million dollar gift to CPJ for the Michael Massing Emergency Response Fund. Massing, the co-founder of CPJ, continues to play an active role on the CPJ board.
Speakers focused on challenges to freedom of the press in Iraq, Russia, Colombia, Yemen, and the United States.
Iger spoke about ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt who survived a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad in January. Iger called Woodruff’s survival “a miracle” and “a testament to his courage, his tenacity, and his own strength.” Woodruff was in the audience.
Carroll focused on changes in journalism in the United States in his remarks. He called for “strong journalistic institutions” to act as a “counterweight” to the recent institutional growth of government and business.
Paul Steiger, CPJ board chairman and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, highlighted the problem of impunity in the murder of journalists. He asked the audience to sign an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin for justice in the cases of the 13 Russian journalists who have died in contract-style killings since he took office in 2000, including the murder last month of investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya.
Four international journalists received awards for their courage. Jesús Abad Colorado of Colombia, Jamal Amer of Yemen, and Madi Ceesay of the Gambia have risked their lives to report the news, withstanding attacks, harassment, and imprisonment. CPJ also posthumously honored Atwar Bahjat, correspondent for Al-Arabiya satellite television and a former Al-Jazeera reporter who was gunned down while covering a bombing near Samarra, Iraq, in February.
In accepting his award, Amer spoke out against the record of impunity in attacks on journalists in Yemen and the Middle East saying that it “is an encouragement for the perpetrators to attack or kill more journalists.” To read Amer’s remarks, click here: http://www.cpj.org/awards06/amer.html#speech
Colorado, the first photographer to receive a press freedom award from CPJ, spoke about the destruction and displacement he has witnessed covering Colombia’s civil war, and the role photojournalism can play. “This photographic testament is a way to fight against war and oblivion,” Colorado said. Colorado’s remarks are available here in Spanish and in English: http://www.cpj.org/awards06/abad.html#speech
Ceesay described a string of arson attacks on the independent Gambian media and the 2004 murder of his journalist colleague Deyda Hydara, calling the climate for journalists there, “typical of many African countries, where the independent press is struggling to hold governments accountable … governments which may profess to be democratic but violate democratic principles such as press freedom.” Read Ceesay’s speech here: http://www.cpj.org/awards06/ceesay.html#speech
Amanpour spoke about the record 86 journalists and 37 media support staff who have been killed covering the war in Iraq. She also referred to the detention of Iraqi journalists by the U.S. military. Of detained Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, who has been held without charge since April, Amanpour said, “He should be given a fair trail or released at once. If our democracy can’t get that right, then what hope is there for journalists caught up in dictatorships?”
Hodding Carter III, the respected newspaper editor, television journalist, foundation executive, and professor, received CPJ’s Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for lifetime achievement. Carter issued a call to action against the “growing government encroachment on freedom of speech and assembly in our own land,” calling for an “across-the-boards counter-attack” on the “assault that has been launched on the Bill of Rights.” Carter’s remarks will be available online early next week.
Presenters for the evening’s awards included Charles Gibson of ABC News, Dean Baquet, James Nachtwey and Lara Logan of CBS News.