2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards : three winners selected and special prize honors Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily in Hong Kong

The 2020 RSF Press Freedom Awards Ceremony, which took place on 8th December in Taipei, has awarded Russian journalist Elena Milashina with the Prize for Courage, Afghan radio station Merman with the Prize for Impact, and Egyptian chief editor Lina Attalah with the Prize for Independence. A special prize was also bestowed on Hong Kong’s Apple Daily founder, Jimmy Lai.

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For its 28th edition after London in 2018 and Berlin in 2019, the 2020 Press Freedom Awards ceremony was hosted on 8th December at the National Central Library in Taipei, Taiwan. During the ceremony, which was broadcasted live on social media, two journalists and a radio station were awarded. The jury also bestowed a special prize on Jimmy Lai, the founder of Apple Daily.

Considering the sharp decline in press freedom in Hong Kong due to pressure from the Chinese regime, the jury wished to provide particular support to Jimmy Lai, founder of one of the few Hong Kong media which still dares to openly criticise the Chinese regime and which widely covered last year's pro-democracy protests. The award was received by his son, Sebastian Lai, as his father, accused of "fraud", was arrested again last week and is in detention in Hong Kong.

The Prize for Courage aims to award journalists, media or NGOs who demonstrate courage in the practice, defence or promotion of journalism. This year, it was awarded to Russian investigative reporter Elena Milashina who works for the Moscow tri-weekly Novaya Gazeta. Milashina specialises in covering Chechnya and is often the target of physical attacks, death threats and censorship. She uncompromisingly continues to write articles about the most sensitive subjects in Chechnya, an autonomous republic ruled with the iron fist of Ramzan Kadyrov.

The Prize for Impact aims to award journalists, media or NGOs who contributed to evident improvements in journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism, or to an increase in awareness of these matters. This year, it was awarded to Afghan radio station Merman, the first to broadcast in Kandahar with the mission of promoting the cause of women (“merman” in Pashtu) in Afghanistan. The team of 15 women also provides journalism training for women and carries out its activities despite threats from the Taliban, warnings from security services and attacks on its journalists.

The Prize for Independence aims to award journalists, media or NGOs who have resisted financial, political, economic or religious pressure in a remarkable way. This year, it went to Lina Attalah, the editor and co-founder of the online newspaper Mada Masr, one of the few independent news outlets in Egypt. Attalah has been subjected to police raids and questioning as a result of investigations and interviews. Access to the Mada Masr site within Egypt has been blocked by the authorities for the past three years.

“The RSF Press Freedom Awards laureates exemplify ideals of journalism as we see it” said Christophe Deloire, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Secretary General. “High standards, courage, impact, and independence, all while respecting journalism ethics, are among the criteria of these awards. But beyond the recognition of the work of the laureates, the RSF Awards also intend to support all of the nominees, their work and highlight the risks they frequently must take to inform the public."

“In RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, Taiwan consistently ranks among the top in the Asian region and presents the best alternative model to the Chinese authoritarian system,” states Cédric Alviani, RSF East Asia Bureau head. 

The jury for this 28th edition, headed by RSF President Pierre Haski, consisted of eminent journalists and freedom of expression defenders from all over the world: Rana Ayyub, an Indian journalist and Washington Post opinion columnist;  Raphaëlle Bacqué, a leading French reporter for Le Monde; Mazen Darwish, a Syrian lawyer and president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression; Zaina Erhaim, a Syrian journalist and communication manager at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting; Erick Kabendera, a Tanzanian investigative reporter; Hamid Mir, a Pakistani reporter, columnist and author; Frederik Obermaier, a German investigative journalist with Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper; and Mikhail Zygar, a Russian journalist and founding editor-in-chief of Dozhd, Russia’s only independent TV news channel.

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Updated on 08.12.2020