KARACHI: The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) will honour four courageous journalists from Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria and Russia with this year’s International Press Freedom Award.

All four have been arrested or faced criminal prosecution in reprisal for their reporting. The CPJ will also honour lawyer Amal Clooney with the Gwen Ifill Award.

“Like brave and committed journalists everywhere, CPJ’s honourees set out to report the news without fear or favour for the benefit of their communities, their country, and the world,” said Joel Simon, the CPJ’s executive director.

“They understood that they would confront powerful forces, enemies of the truth, who would try to stop them from doing their work. What they did not foresee was Covid-19,” he said.

CPJ to honour four brave journalists from Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria and Russia with press freedom award

“The global pandemic has not only made their jobs more difficult and dangerous, it has fuelled a ferocious press freedom crackdown as autocratic leaders around the world suppress unwelcome news under the guise of protecting public health,” Mr Simon added.

The awardees

Among the CPJ awardees is Shahidul Alam from Bangladesh, a renowned photojournalist. In August 2018, Alam was detained after posting a video to social media about student protests in Dhaka.

He spent 102 days behind bars and said he was beaten in custody, before being freed in November 2018.

Mohammad Mosaed from Iran is a freelance economic reporter who investigates corruption, embezzlement, labour issues, economic sanctions, and popular protests.

Forced to resign from a reformist newspaper under government pressure, he publishes news on social media platforms.

Dapo Olorunyomi of Nigeria is the co-founder, CEO, and publisher of a Nigerian newspaper, Premium Times. During his decades-long career as a journalist, he has been a fierce defender of press freedom in Nigeria despite repeated government harassment.

The CPJ also named Svetlana Prokopyeva (Russia) for the award. Ms Prokopyeva is a regional correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, known as Radio Svoboda. She was charged with “justifying terrorism” and her bank accounts were frozen after she made comments on liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy in 2018, when she discussed a suicide bombing attack.

Gwen Ifill award

The Gwen Ifill Award is given annually by CPJ’s board of directors to recognise extraordinary and sustained commitment to press freedom.

Last year, the CPJ named Dawn Editor Zaffar Abbas the recipient of the award for his “extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom”.

This year’s awardee, lawyer Amal Clooney, has represented embattled reporters around the world, including Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo of Reuters, who were imprisoned in Myanmar for 17 months.

She promotes freedom of speech and journalism through the Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch initiative, which monitors the trials of journalists worldwide and provides free legal representation for those in need.

“Journalists in trouble have no better champion than Amal Clooney, which is why we are so delighted to honour her with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award.

The winners will be honoured on November 19 at CPJ’s annual benefit gala, to be chaired this year by Patrick Gaspard, president of Open Society Foundations, and hosted by veteran broadcast journalist Lester Holt.

Due to health and safety restrictions related to Covid-19, this year’s gala will be virtual.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2020