National Press Club

Club Salutes Journalists Who Risked Their Lives

November 20, 2008 | By John M. Donnelly

The Club hosted some of the most courageous journalists in the world at an event Nov. 20.

The Club’s Press Freedom Committee co-sponsored an annual news conference with the Committee to Protect Journalists to tell the stories of the reporters who will receive the CPJ’s 2008 International Press Freedom Awards on Nov. 25 in New York City.

John M. Donnelly, the Club Board of Governors’ vice chairman and its liaison to the Press Freedom Committee, kicked off the press conference by saying that press freedom is a core mission of the Club.

Then came the words of men and women who risk their lives every day to do their jobs.

Award recipient Andrew Mwenda, founder and managing editor of the Ugandan newsmagazine, The Independent, said that a few hours before he spoke, paramilitary forces connected to the government raided his magazine’s headquarters and seized materials. A warrant for his arrest was issued.

Mwenda told reporters he would rather “die yesterday” publishing the truth “than live for 1,000 years acquiescing to tyranny.”

The were five other winners of this year’s award.

Bilal Hussein is a photographer for The Associated Press, who risked his life covering Ramadi and Fallujah in the volatile Anbar province in western Iraq and whose 2004 photo of Iraqi insurgents helped AP win a Pulitzer Prize. Hussein was arrested by U.S. forces in April 2006 and held for two years without charge.

Danish Karokhel is director and Farida Nekzad is managing editor and deputy director of Pajhwok Afghan News, Afghanistan’s leading independent news agency. Karokhel and Nekzad are also media rights activists in one of the world’s most dangerous countries. Both committed themselves to the advancement of press freedom after the fall of the Taliban.

Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez was part of Cuba’s flourishing independent press movement when he was arrested and jailed along with 28 other journalists in Fidel Castro’s massive crackdown on political dissidents in March 2003. The following month, Maseda Gutiérrez was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Beatrice Mtetwa, is a tireless defender of press freedom in Zimbabwe, where the law is used as a weapon against independent journalists. The country’s leading human rights and media lawyer, she has won acquittals for dozens of journalists arrested under Zimbabwe’s repressive media laws.

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