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Committee to Protect Journalists announces Press Freedom Awards

Posted on: November 23, 2020 by Ian Murray

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has announced the winners of its 2020 International Press Freedom Awards.

Journalists from Russia, Iran, Nigeria and Bangladesh were recognised for their often dangerous work in keeping the flame of journalism alive in extremely difficult circumstances.

A special award was presented to lawyer Amal Clooney by Hollywood actor Meryl Streep during the virtual event.

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

Awards were resented to:

  • 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.

“You can’t defend democracy if you don’t have a thriving and independent media,” Clooney said during the event. 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.

The full event, including the awardees’ stories and acceptance speeches, can be viewed at ipfa2020.org.