Sunday, November 23, 2008

Journalists cited for risks

Journalists cited for risks
By H. JOSEF HEBERT – 2 days ago

WASHINGTON (AP) — Five journalists and an attorney who has long battled
for press freedom were cited Thursday for risking their lives and
liberty to report the news, often under the pressure of authoritarian

The six, who work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Cuba, are
recipients of this year's International Press Freedom Award presented by
the Committee to Protect Journalists. At a press conference, Andrew
Mwenda, managing editor of the Ugandan news magazine The Independent,
said only hours earlier he had been informed that his publication had
been raided by security forces in Kampala when employees reported for
work at 8 a.m., and documents and computer files were seized.

If he had been there "I would have been arrested," said Mwenda, who
plans to report to the police when he returns to Uganda next week. Last
April police also raided Mwenda's offices and detained him and two
reporters because of news stories critical of the Army's role in
northern Uganda's civil war.

Other recipients of the freedom award are Associated Press photographer
Bilal Hussein, released last April after two years in detention by U.S.
forces in Iraq; Danish Karokhel, managing editor, and Farida Nekzad,
deputy director, of Pajhwok Afghan News, Afghanistan's leading
independent news agency; Hector Maseda Gutierrez, a leader in Cuba's
independent press movement, who is now serving a 20-year prison sentence
in Cuba; and Beatrice Mtetwa, who has defended numerous journalists
caught up in Zimbabwe's repressive media laws.

"These journalists and media activists ... have risked their lives and
liberty to bring us the news," said Joel Simon, executive director of
the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Simon said the group would campaign for the release of Hector Maseda
Gutierrez, 65, saying that the journalist was imprisoned "for doing what
everyone here today is doing — his job as a reporter."

The committee also had been among those who had pressed for the release
of AP photographer Bilal Hussein, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for
his news photography, including the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi.
Hussein was on assignment and did not attend the news conference.

Steven Hurst, former AP bureau chief in Baghdad, said Hussein was taken
into custody and held for more than two years without charges. "He did
nothing but his job as a photographer in a war zone," said Hurst, adding
that the military evidently "didn't like the story that was being told
by his pictures."

Karokhel, the managing editor of Pajhwok Afghan News, said the risks to
journalists in Afghanistan, particularly those working outside the
capital of Kabul, ranged from being potential targets of U.S. air
strikes to kidnapping for ransom. These risks seriously limit
journalists mobility, he said.

Mtetwa, a prominent media and human rights lawyer in Zimbabwe who was
cited for lifetime achievement in defense of the press, has faced
repeated reprisals, harassment and on several occasions beatings for her
defense of journalists against charges brought by the government. She
was also honored in 2005 by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

She said of her work: "It is a job that needs to be done."

The awards will be formally presented at a dinner in New York City on
Nov. 25.

"These are the frontline reporters who risk their lives and their
liberty to bring the news not only to the people of their own countries
but to a global audience," said Paul Steiger, chairman of CPJ's board of
directors, in a statement.

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