Supporting Freedom of the Press
Myron Belkind | September 18, 2014
I would like to share with our members a statement I sent to the Foreign Editors' Circle of the International Press Institute, which met in Chicago on Sept. 17, detailing the Club's efforts in support of freedom of the press. The NPC was invited to send a statement to the forum, whose participants included international news editors or editors from the United States and Canada responsible for global coverage:
The National Press Club applauds the efforts of the International Press Institute Foreign Editors Circle to have a very timely and important discussion on the common challenges in foreign coverage that the media are facing.
As NPC President, I am proud that the National Press Club has issued more than 20 statements so far this year on freedom of the press issues, including those affecting how journalists operate in China, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Iran, Russia, the United States (specifically in Ferguson, Missouri), and Egypt (with specific reference to the continued detention of the Al Jazeera journalists, about whom I have spoken on behalf of the NPC on Al Jazeera).
The NPC condemned the executions of freelance journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
We also gave four awards at the National Press Club Journalism Awards dinner on July 30 related to freedom of the press and courage in journalism, as follows:
AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus, who was killed in an attack in Afghanistan on April 4, and AP reporter Kathy Gannon, who was wounded in the same attack, were recipients of the NPC President's Award, given only on special occasions with the approval of the NPC Board of Governors. The awards were bestowed "in recognition of their great courage and perseverance of the highest standards of journalism in the most difficult of circumstances."
The overseas winner of the John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award was Ahmed Humaidan, a photojournalist from Bahrain who is in jail for his photo coverage. He was accused of attacking a police station, but was only photographing it at the time. He has been in jail since 2012 and was sentenced earlier this year to 10 more years in jail. A special court in Bahrain upheld the 10-year sentence two weeks ago.
"We, the photographers in Bahrain, worked very hard to deliver the truth as it is, without disguising or overstating the events we have witnessed," Humaidan said in a statement read to the attendees at the Press Club awards dinner by Nada Alwadi, a cofounder of the Bahraini Press Association.
"The action of taking pictures and sharing them with the world was very costly to me and my colleagues - journalists and photographers," he said. "But we were aware of the price of what we were doing. And we have always believed that journalism is not a crime, so we were ready for prison and prosecution."
The U.S. winner of the Aubuchon Press Freedom Award was Joseph Hosey, a reporter for Patch.com, a national network of local news sites. He was held in contempt of court last year by a judge in Will County, Ill., who fined him $1,000, plus $300 a day for every day Hosey does not disclose the name of a confidential source who provided police reports about a double murder in Illinois. If Hosey loses the appeal, which is now pending, he faces indefinite jail time for not divulging the source.
In his remarks accepting the award, Hosey thanked the many people who have supported him since being held in contempt, and especially his attorney.
Thank you and best wishes for a very successful meeting of the IPI Foreign Editors Circle in Chicago, and please come by and visit the National Press Club when you are next in Washington, D.C.
NPC Members: I want to conclude this blog by expressing my deepest appreciation to the Club's Freedom of the Press Committee under the leadership of John Donnelly for monitoring press freedom issues and organizing events in support of press freedom.