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The media community and supporters of press freedom came together in a powerful celebration of journalism at last night’s International Press Freedom Awards. The host, veteran broadcast journalist Lester Holt, kicked off the evening, which took viewers on a journey through the repression faced by journalists in Iran, the brutal experience of prison for a photographer in Bangladesh, the long fight for press freedom in Nigeria, and the pressure of legal prosecution of reporters in Russia. Speaking about the situation in Iran, CPJ Advocacy Associate Yeganeh Rezaian remarked, “We know that there are forces in the system who do not want the truth to be shared with the outside world.”
A powerful press freedom anthem partway through the show emphasized just how essential the free press is to a functional democracy and healthy society. The galvanizing message featured a wide range of journalists and press freedom supporters, from Los Angeles Times editorial page editor Sewell Chan and Glamour editor-in-chief Samantha Barry, to MSNBC’s “Velshi” host Ali Velshi, to actor Rosamund Pike, who played war correspondent Marie Colvin in the 2018 film A Private War. Together the ensemble asked viewers to stand up and speak out for press freedom.
Behind the scenes, the work to protect journalists continues. CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon details how the Biden administration can restore U.S. leadership on press freedom. In an accompanying white paper developed in consultation with nearly 40 experts from journalism, law, and the foundation world, CPJ outlines a path forward for the Biden administration to improve the environment for journalists at home and abroad.
Global Press Freedom Updates
- At least 35 journalists injured covering anti-government protests in Peru
- Guatemalan journalist Mario Ortega shot and killed
- Journalist Virgilio Maganes shot and killed in the Philippines
- Afghan RFE/RL journalist Elyas Dayee killed in car bomb attack
- Journalist Parag Bhuyan killed in hit-and-run in India’s Assam state. Separately in the country, Indian Supreme Court to hold bail hearing for imprisoned journalist Siddique Kappan
- Cambodia jails journalist Ros Sokhet for criticizing Prime Minister Hun Sen
- Zimbabwean journalist Hopewell Chin’ono denied bail
- CPJ calls on Nigerian authorities to account for death of journalist Onifade Emmanuel Pelumi
- Ethiopian authorities arrest Addis Standard editor Medihane Ekubamichael
- Journalists detained, attacked while covering contested election in Ivory Coast
- Algerian Ennahar TV director sentenced to five years in prison
- Police arrest, fine journalists covering protests in Russian far east; three remain in detention
- Polish riot police attack journalists covering demonstrations
- Azerbaijani journalist Polad Aslanov sentenced to 16 years on treason charges
Actor Meryl Streep, a longtime supporter of CPJ who has used her platform to stand up for press freedom, presented the final award of the night–CPJ’s 2020 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award, to human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
“She’s not only something every journalist needs, which is a great lawyer, but she’s also a defender of the international laws that make free expression possible,” Streep said of Clooney.
In a touching conversation between Clooney and her own client, celebrated journalist and 2018 Gwen Ifill Awardee Maria Ressa, Ressa expressed her gratitude for Clooney’s tireless efforts to protect the press.
“I know how powerful a defender you are and we at Rappler are just so lucky to have you on our side, you taking my case helps give me the courage to do what we’re doing and to continue standing up to power,” Ressa said.
Watch Clooney’s acceptance speech and conversation with Ressa here.
Clooney, who co-chairs a high-level panel of legal experts on media freedom, will be hard at work Monday at the launch of a report advocating for states to provide safe refuge to journalists at risk. CPJ’s Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch joins Clooney and other panelists to speak about the urgent need for enforcement. Register here.
What we are reading
- Google, the media patron: How the digital giant ensnares journalism — Alexander Fanta and Ingo Dachwitz, Otto Brenner Foundation
- Hopewell Chin’ono: An unlikely symbol of persecution and resistance in Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe — Alex T. Magaisa, Big Saturday Read
- With protests muzzled, Hong Kong takes aim at the press — Shibani Mahtani, Theodora Yu, and Timothy McLaughlin, The Washington Post
- How tracking can improve gender representation in sourcing from J-school to the newsroom — Holly Cabrera, Meriem Chiadmi, Lucie Laumonier, Martin Payette, and Amélie Daoust-Boisvert, J-Source/ProjetJ
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