The 2009 Reporters Without Borders - Fnac Press Freedom Prize was awarded today to Israeli newspaper reporter Amira Hass and the Chechen quarterly Dosh at a ceremony hosted by journalist Bernard de La Villardière at the Espace Fondation EDF in Paris.
“In a world dominated by lies that are organised and manipulated, the Reporters Without Borders - Fnac Prize winners deserve our recognition and solidarity not only because they seek the truth, sometimes at risk to their lives, but also and above all because they tell it,” said French human rights lawyer and politician Robert Badinter, who was guest of honour at the ceremony.
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said: “This year we are honouring a courageous journalist, Amira Hass, and a beleaguered news media, Dosh. Both, in different terrains, have displayed a remarkable degree of boldness and abnegation.”
Hass received the “2009 Journalist of the Year” prize for her independent and outspoken reporting from the Gaza Strip for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz during Operation Cast Lead, the offensive which Israel waged against the territory from 27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009.
“Being an independent reporter in Israel is not the difficult part. But there are two conditions for this independence to have an effect and be significant. The first one is to have a venue, the media vehicle that is ready to publish ; and the second is to have a readership : I am lucky to have a paper which publishes my reports –Haaretz- and the full backing and interest of my editors, especially the news editor. As for the second condition, Israeli readers still find it hard to accept a version of the events different from the official one“.
Hass added : “I cannot say I am pleased to get this award knowing that my articles have not succeeded in making people questions their views. Also I cannot help thinking about what one of the surviors in Gaza recently told me : We, the living, look at pictures of the dead ; and envy them“.
The Chechen magazine Dosh was awarded the prize in the Media category for its fight for the right to inform and be informed. Dosh has been covering politics and current affairs in Chechnya and other parts of the Russian Caucasus since 2003, continuing to operate against all odds in a region where media independence has never been welcome.
The prize was received by Dosh editors Israpil Shavkhalov and Abdulkhazhi Duduyev. “We are not heroes, just independent journalists but that means being considered enemies of the motherland,” Shavkhalov said. “This prize gives us the strength to continue working and covering what is going on in the North Caucasus.”
Shavkhalov added with emotion: “We think today of the people with whom we should have been celebrating this prize – Magomed Yevloyev, Natalia Estemirova and Anna Politkovskaya.”
A special tribute was paid to Christian Poveda, a French photographer and filmmaker who was murdered in El Salvador on 2 September. “It was inevitable that we chose Christian,” said Dominique Gerbaud, the president of the French section of Reporters Without Borders. “He was an investigative journalist who embodied determination and a concern for the truth, which ended up costing him his life. We will be participants in the trial in order to ensure the truth comes out.”
Reporters Without Borders has been awarding a press freedom prize every year since 1992. The prize goes to a journalist and a news media that have made an exceptional contribution to the defence or promotion of press freedom in any part of the world. The prize winners are selected by an international jury of journalists and human rights activists.
This is the first year that the French entertainment retail chain Fnac has been the Reporters Without Borders partner in the prize. “With this prize, Fnac is reaffirming its commitment to freedom of information and is proud to continue and broaden the partnership it began with Reporters Without Borders 15 years ago,” said Fnac CEO Christophe Cuvillier.
The previous winners in the “Journalist” category are Zlatko Dizdarevic (Bosnia and Herzegovina - 1992), Wang Juntao (China - 1993), André Sibomana (Rwanda - 1994), Christina Anyanwu (Nigeria - 1995), Isik Yurtçu (Turkey - 1996), Raúl Rivero (Cuba - 1997), Nizar Nayyouf (Syria - 1998), San San Nweh (Burma - 1999), Carmen Gurruchaga (Spain - 2000), Reza Alijani (Iran - 2001), Grigory Pasko (Russia - 2002), Ali Lmrabet (Morocco - 2003), Hafnaoui Ghoul (Algeria - 2004), Zhao Yan (China - 2005), U Win Tin (Burma - 2006), Seyoum Tsehaye (Eritrea - 2007) and Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso (Cuba - 2008).
The previous “Media” category laureates are: The Daily News (Zimbabwe - 2003), Zeta (Mexico - 2004), Tolo TV (Afghanistan - 2005), Novaya Gazeta (Russia - 2006), the Iraqi Journalistic Freedom Observatory (Iraq - 2007) and Radio Free NK (North Korea - 2008).
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