National Press Club

NPC press freedom award honors three who died in Syria, intelligence reporter

June 10, 2012 | By Will Lester | wjlester@aol.com

The National Press Club is honoring three journalists who died this winter covering the conflict in Syria and an intelligence reporter who has repeatedly uncovered material the government would prefer to keep secret and who is fighting in court to protect a source.

The winners of the 2012 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award for international coverage are reporters Anthony Shadid, Marie Colvin and photographer Remi Ochlik, who died in Syria during February. All three had led distinguished careers in which their work shed needed light on a troubled region.

Shadid, a reporter for The New York Times, died after suffering an asthma attack while traveling in the country. Colvin, a reporter for The Sunday Times of London and Ochlik, a freelancer, were killed by Syrian military shelling.

The winner for domestic coverage is James Risen, a New York Times reporter being honored for a career of reporting material the government would prefer to keep from public view -- from warrantless surveillance to a botched program to give Iran flawed nuclear weapons designs. He is currently fighting in court against a third subpoena seeking his disclosure of an anonymous source for a 2006 book, State of War. Risen was also a reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

“Foreign correspondents risk their lives to shine a light on the darkest corners of the world so that we may know the truth,” said Theresa Werner, president of the National Press Club. “Shadid, Colvin, and Ochlik died doing their job so that we would know the real story of the Syrian people.”

Werner noted that, “Right here in our own country we still have to defend a free press, as Risen continues to do by standing up to our government to protect his sources.”

The Aubuchon Press Freedom Award honors people whose actions embody the struggle to advance press freedom and open government. Each year the Club selects a domestic and an international figure to receive the award. The late Aubuchon was a former Club president and an ardent advocate of press freedom.

“The Club wanted to recognize the brave lives and untimely deaths of those covering the important developments in Syria, and so we took the unusual step of honoring three journalists posthumously with one award,” said John M. Donnelly, a member of the NPC board who chairs the club’s Press Freedom Committee. “Their stories are important in themselves and as exemplars of the kind of challenges that reporters worldwide face in order as they try to shine a light in some dark places.”

Shadid, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner at The Washington Post, had also worked at The Associated Press and the Boston Globe. He died after experiencing an asthma attack in Syria while reporting on the uprising against that country’s president. Shadid, who survived a gunshot wound in the West Bank and was captured in Libya, was returning from Syria to Turkey when he collapsed.

Colvin, recognizable for the eye patch that hid a shrapnel injury, had worked for Britain’s Sunday Times for a quarter century. She was killed by shelling in the besieged Syrian city of Homs. Colvin died alongside French freelance photojournalist Ochlik.

The National Press Club Awards dinner will be held on Tuesday, July 24. A reception will be held in the Holeman Lounge beginning at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and a program at 7 p.m. in the ballroom.

Tickets are $50 per person. Reservations are required. To reserve your seat for this event, please call 202-662-7501. You must pay for your ticket when making your reservation. For more information, please contact Joann Booze at 202-662-7532, jbooze@press.org.