The Committee to Protect Journalists and media luminaries from around the world last night celebrated courageous journalists from Sudan, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam at the 28th annual International Press Freedom Awards. Also joining the ceremony were two past awardees who had been imprisoned at the time they were honored.
“The forces of press repression seem to be getting louder and more powerful by the minute. Bullies, despots, and murderers think they are winning. They believe they can shut us up forever because no one cares about journalists,” said Kathleen Carroll, chair of CPJ’s board. “But they are wrong. They won’t win. Because we will keep fighting them. It will take all of us, but we will keep fighting.”
Of CPJ’s 2018 awardees, Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, known as Me Nam or “Mother Mushroom,” accepted her award from veteran journalist and “60 Minutes” correspondent Lester Holt. The blogger was sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison, but released last month following advocacy by CPJ and others.
Venezuelan investigative reporter and co-founder of independent news website Efecto Cocuyo, Luz Mely Reyes, received her award from Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and a CPJ board member, presented the award to Anastasiya Stanko, a Ukrainian broadcast journalist. Amal Khalifa Idris Habbani, a freelance journalist and contributor to the Sudanese news outlet Al-Taghyeer, was presented her award by Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief of HuffPost and a CPJ board member.
Two journalists who were imprisoned when they were named awardees in 2017 and 2012, respectively–Ahmed Abba, a Cameroonian correspondent for Radio France Internationale, and Tibetan documentary filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen–also took the stage to accept their honors.
Rappler editor Maria Ressa was presented with the 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award by Sheila Coronel, director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, dean of academic affairs at the Columbia University School of Journalism, and a CPJ senior adviser.
The event, at the Grand Hyatt New York, included an appeal matched by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and raised over $2.2 million. CPJ also launched a campaign seeking justice for slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Hundreds of guests filled out signs highlighting the importance of journalism and shared photos on social media with the hashtag #JusticeForJamal.
“CPJ is a voice for all jailed journalists. Their staff publicly and privately calls for imprisoned journalists to be released and for restrictive media laws to be reformed. They conduct advocacy so that government leaders know their actions are being watched,” said Meher Tatna, president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the awards dinner chair. “Because of their dedication to the safety of journalists, the HFPA was honored to grant a million dollars to CPJ at our last Golden Globes in January, and I am honored to represent the membership of HFPA here today.”
CPJ is honored to present its 2018 International Press Freedom Award to Ukrainian journalist Anastasiya “Nastya” Stanko.
Anastasiya Stanko is a Ukrainian journalist and TV presenter and a member of the “Stop censorship” movement, an anti-censorship group made up of journalists and media organizations in Ukraine. In 2013, she co-founded the independent media channel Hromadske, which is registered as a non-governmental organization. She previously had worked for the national TV channels Pershiy and TVI.
Since the early days of the Maidan Revolution–anti-government demonstrations in late 2013 and early 2014 that led to the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych–Stanko covered the protests in Kyiv, streaming hours of video.
In March 2014, Stanko was in Crimea covering the referendum and annexation of the peninsula. Two months later, she became a war correspondent, reporting on the conflict in the Donbass area of eastern Ukraine. In June 2014, she and her cameraman were taken hostage by the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic and held in the basement of a building in Luhansk city. Two days later, they were freed.
Stanko has produced various video reports and articles about the war, with an emphasis on civilians living in and around the conflict zone. She started a project called “Hromadske.East,” which focuses on the stories around the conflict. She has also authored several investigations about the mass shooting on Maidan Square in early 2014, which feature interviews with the police’s special forces unit who were charged with killing unarmed protesters. As a result of these works, Stanko won the main prize at the 2016 Mezhyhirya Festival and was a finalist at another journalism competition.
Stanko continues to report on human rights violations by the police and Ukraine’s Security Service in the conflict zone. Her latest documentary, “The Secret Compound,” is about people illegally detained by Ukraine’s Security Service.
The text of Anastasiya Stanko’s acceptance speech, as prepared for delivery, is below.
“Ladies and gentlemen,
It has been four years since I filed my first report from a war zone in eastern Ukraine. Today, I am standing on this stage not only as Nastya Stanko, a journalist of the Hromadske television station but also as a representative of many Ukrainian investigative journalists who report on war and corruption in my country. We are caught between a rock and a hard place–on the one hand is Russia with its propaganda against Ukraine, and on the other–the Ukrainian government, that always says: “Do not criticize us when we are under attack from an external enemy. Do not tell all the truth, but just part of the truth. You will tell the whole truth when the war is over.” It’s difficult to work when you are expected to choose between patriotism and professional journalism.
Standing here in front of my colleagues from all around the world I know this pressure is not something only we, Ukrainians, feel. It’s the pressure experienced by anyone who chooses journalism as their profession. But I also know that there is no need to choose: honest journalism is the best form of patriotism.
My colleague, journalist Myroslava Gongadze, is sitting today in the audience. Her husband, journalist Georgy Gongadze, was killed 18 years ago. Those who ordered his murder have not been found.
Twenty years ago, CPJ gave its International Press Freedom Award to the Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet. Two years ago, Pavel was killed in a car explosion in central Kyiv. Today we still don’t know either those who had ordered the crime or who carried it out. Were the masterminds from Russia, which he heavily criticized? Or were the killers connected to the Ukrainian authorities? Or maybe it was an attempt to frighten all of us, those who tell the truth in turbulent times, the journalists who report on two wars in Ukraine–the military action against Russia and the war against corruption?
This award is not about my personal achievements. It’s a sign of what Ukrainian journalists have to deal with, while moving our country toward Europe and the rest of the civilized world and their values–respect for freedom of speech and human rights, transparency and accountability of those in power, respect for human dignity, equality and non-violence. I strongly believe that we will succeed in taking this road thanks to honest and brave journalism. Thank you!”
Yunus Erdoğdu – Kyiv