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CPJ awards celebrate free media and the power of the press

From left: Shahidul Alam (Rahnuma Ahmed); Svetlana Prokopyeva (Artiom Avanesov); Dapo Olorunyomi (Dapo Olorunyomi); Mohammad Mosaed (Farid Kamran Nia)

Journalists from Bangladesh, Iran, Nigeria, and Russia honored

New York, November 19, 2020

In a tumultuous year marked by a global pandemic, social upheaval, and tense political divides, the overarching message from Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ’s) 2020 International Press Freedom Awards Thursday night was simple: journalism matters more than ever and solidarity has never been more important.

“Whether covering the pandemic or protests, journalists everywhere are under attack,” actor Meryl Streep said during the virtual event, which was hosted by NBC’s Lester Holt. “The very truth they seek to bring us is under attack,” Streep said.

Mohammad Mosaed. “Despite intimidation and the ever-present threat of ending up in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, independent journalists have persisted in bringing us the truth,” Amanpour said. Mosaed was recently sentenced to more than four years in prison and banned from practicing journalism because of his critical reporting.
Dapo Olorunyomi, veteran Nigerian journalist and publisher of the newspaper Premium Times. Olorunyomi said of the award, “It reminds me in particular, and I believe many of my colleagues, of the very important work that remains undone in the development of our media and the struggle to expand and give true consequence to our democracy.”
Svetlana Prokopyeva, a Russian correspondent for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty who this year was convicted of “justifying terrorism.” Prokopyeva noted in her speech that in Russia, “Journalism is often equaled to crime. We are sliding into totalitarianism – again. Because if there is no freedom of speech, other freedoms are out of reach.”
Shahidul Alam. “The media is under threat worldwide, vigorously being attacked. I think it is important for the world to recognize the role of the media, the value it has, and the fact for those of us on the ground to recognize that we are not alone and that we’re supported,” Alam said in his speech.
Streep presented lawyer Amal Clooney with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award. During the evening, the editor of Rappler and the 2018 Gwen Ifill Awardee, Maria Ressa, interviewed Clooney.

“You can’t defend democracy if you don’t have a thriving and independent media,” Clooney said during the interview. In her acceptance speech, Clooney noted that “Americans voted in a new leader who can reclaim moral leadership on the world stage. They rejected the candidate who called the press ‘enemies of the people’ and shrugged off the murder of a Washington Post columnist.” Separately this week, CPJ published a proposal to the incoming Biden administration on restoring U.S. leadership in global press freedom.

The program included a star-studded call to action by investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, political satire host Samantha Bee, CNBC’s Shepard Smith, and actor Rosamund Pike, among other noted journalists and advocates.

The awards were chaired by Patrick Gaspard, President of the Open Society Foundations. Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the Knight Foundation, announced that Knight would match each donation up to $250,000.

“We are grateful for our dinner chair Patrick Gaspard and all those who have generously contributed to CPJ and made this evening such a success. It is inspiring to see people in the U.S. and around the world rally to support press freedom,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, news outlets around the world streamed the event, including sponsoring media partners ABC News, Bloomberg, CBS News, HuffPost, NBC News, and Yahoo! News, and supporting media partners Drik Picture Library in Bangladesh, Kenya’s Nation Media Group, The Los Angeles Times and PBS NewsHour in the U.S., Premium Times in Nigeria, Rappler in the Philippines, RTÉ in Ireland, and RFE/RL, which broadcasts across Europe.

The full event, including the awardees’ stories and acceptance speeches, can be viewed at ipfa2020.org. A press kit is available for download and media interviews can be arranged by emailing press@cpj.org.

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