News

Professor Pinker receives 2020 Astor Award for press freedom

Posted on: January 27, 2021 by Ian Murray

The Commonwealth Press Union Media Trust (CPUMT) has presented the 2020 Astor Award to Professor Robert Pinker for his outstanding contribution to press freedom across the Commonwealth.

The Astor Award is one of the most prestigious – and one of the oldest – press freedom awards in the world. First presented over 50 years ago in 1970, previous winners represent a remarkable and distinguished cross-section of individuals who have made an enormous contribution to the media in the Commonwealth, particularly in the field of press freedom. 

Since 1970 winners have included figures such as Mabel Strickland, Lyle Turnbull, Derek Ingram, Gilbert Ahnee, Kuldip Nayar and (posthumously) Daphne Caruana Galizia. Most recently the Award has been made to a number of organisations including the Human Rights Network for Journalists in Uganda and the Pakistan Press Foundation. 

This year, the Trustees of the CPU have been unanimous in their choice of Professor Robert Pinker CBE, a long-standing and courageous champion of press freedom and self regulation throughout the Commonwealth. 

Professor Pinker – who had a distinguished academic career spanning 40 years as Professor of Social Policy and Social Work – was one of the founding members of the UK Press Complaints Commission in 1991 and he served on it until 2004. Throughout that time he was the PCC’s Privacy Commissioner, and between 2002 and 2004 its Acting Chairman.

As a member of the PCC and in the years since, Professor Pinker worked closely – and tirelessly – with the Commonwealth Press Union to protect and extend press freedom globally, and in particular to work with many Commonwealth countries to establish successful systems of press self regulation and editorial codes of conduct.

Chairman of the CPU Trustees, Lord Black of Brentwood, said:

“Bob Pinker is an indomitable champion of free speech, a free press and of self regulation. His belief in, and passion for, free speech are as strong as tungsten. For two decades he worked tirelessly with the CPU to promote those aims and values, making a real and tangible impact on the ground in so many Commonwealth countries. He is an immensely worthy winner of the Astor Award. We thank him for all he has done – and the press in many Commonwealth countries is in his debt. His work has not just strengthened press freedom but – as a result – strengthened the Commonwealth, too.” 

Professor Pinker said:

“I am honoured to receive this Award. It was a privilege over many years to work with the CPU in its vital work. In the UK we tend to take press freedom for granted – even though it comes under pressure from time to time. But in far too many parts of the Commonwealth, it is under sustained attack day in day out – and many people have paid with their lives in defending it. The fight must go on to extend freedom of the media, which is at the heart of any democracy, and the establishment of self regulatory systems which are so vital in underpinning it. My days travelling the globe to play my small part in this noble cause are now behind me. But I watch on with awe at those throughout the Commonwealth who continue to fight for all the things I have always held so dear. Long may they do so. I dedicate this Award to them.”