KARACHI: The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has announced Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award of 2019 for Dawn Editor Zaffar Abbas.

The award is presented annually to an individual who has shown extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.

“Abbas, who has decades of experience as a reporter in Pakistan, has led Dawn since 2010. Under his leadership, Dawn and its reporters frequently have come under government pressure,” says the announcement.

“Zaffar Abbas is the embodiment of journalistic courage, which is why the board is so pleased to honour him with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award,” said Kathleen Carroll, chair of the CPJ board.

“Every day he fights to deliver facts to Dawn’s readers in the face of pressure, obstacles, and blockades from the institutions in Pakistan that would much prefer to go about their business without scrutiny from the press or the public.”

The committee also honoured Patrícia Campos Mello from Brazil, Neha Dixit from India, Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora from Nicaragua and Maxence Melo Mubyazi from Tanzania with the 2019 International Press Freedom Awards.

The journalists have faced online harassment, legal and physical threats, and imprisonment in their pursuit of the news.

“The winners of CPJ’s 2019 International Press Freedom Awards represent the very best of journalism, people who have put their lives and liberty on the line to bring us the news. While we celebrate their courage, we lament that it is required,” said CPJ executive director Joel Simon.

“The sad reality is that around the world independent journalism is threatened by populist authoritarians who disdain and disparage the work of the independent press. This is true in the countries represented by our honorees and many others.”

The 2018 and 2017 winners of the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award were: Maria Ressa, the founder and executive editor of Rappler, a Philippine news website renowned for its critical coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial policies and actions, and Judy Woodruff, who has worked in broadcast journalism for more than three decades at CNN, NBC and PBS.

Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent and anchor at CNN; Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian; and Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press received this award earlier when it was named the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award.

It was renamed in 2017 to honour Gwen Ifill, the veteran journalist and former CPJ board member who died in late 2016.

All of the winners will be honoured at an event in New York City on Nov 21.

Editor’s note

“In all honesty, it is a tribute to Dawn’s highly dedicated editorial team. Despite the unending intimidation, harassment, demands for self-censorship, disruptions in advertising and distribution of the newspaper, and significant pay cuts due to immense financial pressures on the newspaper, these thorough professionals have continued to work tirelessly to defend press freedom and disseminate the truth. It is precisely for this reason that even many of its detractors regard Dawn as one of the most credible newspapers in South Asia. So, thank you CPJ for honouring us. I am humbled.”

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2019

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