Press freedom awards ceremony defends journalists in an ‘increasingly repressive world’

By Brian Stelter, CNN Business

A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can register for free here.

In the words of the Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Joel Simon, “Practicing journalism in the face of grave danger requires a deep sense of optimism and a sincere faith in humanity.

Those qualities were on display Thursday night at the band’s International Press Freedom Awards ceremony in New York. Journalists from Guatemala, Mozambique, Myanmar and other countries were rewarded for their courageous work. The winners did not travel to the United States, due to Covid-era concerns and uncertainty, but the fundraising gala was back in person, complete with an online streaming option.

You should read all about the CPJ award winners here. The quote that struck me the most is that of Matías Guente, editor-in-chief of Canal de Moçambique and CanalMoz. His newsroom was ravaged by arson in August 2020. He has also been sued by local officials, harassed and intimidated in recent years. “They can burn down newsrooms,” he said, “but they can’t burn down thoughts. The threat of fire only increases what these arsonists fear most, critical thinking.

From my perspective, this annual event always reinforces the privileges of working in a flawed but fiercely free information environment like the United States – a stark contrast to many other parts of the globe. Simon, who is to resign of CPJ at the end of the year after 15 years of formidable running, said Thursday evening: “I have always believed, and I continue to believe, that a free society and a free people need a free press . All over the world, people deserve it. And we must continue the fight on their behalf.

Spotlight on the case of Jimmy Lai

Via ABC’s recap of the event: “CPJ also presented media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai with its Gwen Ifill Freedom of the Press Award – an award reserved for an individual who has demonstrated extraordinary achievement. and supported for the cause of freedom of the press.” Lai, owner of the Apple Daily newspaper and pro-democracy media mogul, has been behind bars for nearly a year. CPJ reiterated Thursday that Lai should be released immediately and that all charges against him should be dropped…

An “increasingly repressive world”

The host of the evening, ABC’s “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir, began by making this point:

“At first glance, the job of a journalist is simple: to collect and then report the news. But for many journalists in today’s increasingly repressive world, even asking questions can be a crime. During the Covid pandemic, journalists have been imprisoned and intimidated simply for collecting data on the number of infections and hospitalizations. Many governments have not told the truth about their inability to control the disease. Some have used Covid coverage to stifle political dissent. Journalists who seek to cut through this propaganda and misinformation are of course a threat to those trying to control the message. And these journalists constantly run the risk of being silenced.

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