KARACHI: The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 100 countries, has named Dawn Assistant Editor Cyril Almeida as its 71st World Press Freedom Hero.
The IPI’s press freedom award honours journalists “who have made significant contributions to the promotion of press freedom, particularly in the face of great personal risk”.
According to a post placed by the global network on its website on Wednesday, Mr Almeida has been recognised for his “critical” and “tenacious coverage” of civil-military relations in Pakistan.
“Almeida’s scrutiny of the Pakistani military-security complex has made both him and Dawn a target,” the Vienna-based IPI said in its statement.
In 2016, Mr Almeida was briefly placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) after the publication of an exclusive story in Dawn regarding a high-level meeting of civil-military leaders.
The story prompted enormous controversy in Pakistan. Both Mr Almeida and Dawn’s Editor were subjected to a widespread smear campaign and dragged before a tribunal in an effort to force Dawn to reveal its sources, the IPI said.
The press freedom watchdog noted that the retaliation against Mr Almeida and Dawn for their journalism comes “amid a rapidly deteriorating environment for the press” in the country.
“The range of threats includes physical attacks on journalists; legal harassment; the widespread disruption of newspaper distribution; and the effective blockading of independent broadcasters,” it said.
Mr Almeida, a Rhodes scholar with a law degree from Oxford University who briefly worked as a lawyer before entering journalism, is the IPI’s second World Press Freedom Hero from Pakistan. Aslam Ali, a former managing director of Pakistan Press International, was the first recipient of the award.
Barbara Trionfi, the IPI’s executive director, said Mr Almeida had “demonstrated tremendous resolve in tackling — at great risk to him — deeply contentious issues that are nevertheless of central importance to Pakistan’s democracy”.
“Despite the press freedom crisis engulfing Pakistan, he and Dawn newspaper have refused to back down from writing about issues that matter,” she added, urging Pakistani authorities to withdraw all charges against Mr Almeida.
“Bringing treason charges against a journalist for interviewing a former prime minister is as dangerous as it is absurd, and constitutes a gross violation of journalists’ right to disseminate information in the public interest,” Ms Trionfi said.
Also on Wednesday, the IPI and International Media Support declared Mada Masr, an Egyptian news site, as the winner of the Free Media Pioneer Award.
Both awards will be presented during a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 5 during the IPI’s annual World Congress and General Assembly.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019