CPJ honors courageous journalists fighting repression worldwide

From 2022 International Press Freedom Awardee Niyaz Abdullah (left) with 2023 IPFA Awardees (second from left to right) Ferdinand Ayité, María Teresa Montaño, Nika Gvaramia, and Shahina K. K.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and press freedom supporters celebrated journalists from Georgia, India, Mexico, and Togo last night at the 33rd annual International Press Freedom Awards (IPFA) in New York, which raised a record-breaking nearly $2.8 million to protect journalists around the world.

The 2023 awardees have experienced government crackdowns, kidnapping, exile, and the rising criminalization of their work, representing global trends that increasingly challenge press freedom. The awardees were: Nika Gvaramia, founder of independent Georgian outlet Mtavari Arkhi, who was recently released from prison; Shahina K.K., senior editor of India’s Outlook magazine; María Teresa Montaño, a prominent investigative reporter from Mexico; and Ferdinand Ayité, editor of Togo’s L’Alternative newspaper. Exiled Iraqi Kurdish journalist Niyaz Abdullah, who was unable to travel to the United States to receive the 2022 IPFA, also received her award.

CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg celebrated the awardees and journalists around the world “who humble us by continuing to work despite the most impossible of circumstances—because they, like us, believe press freedom is essential for all our freedoms.” Ginsberg also mourned those who have perished in the course of their work—from Cameroon to Haiti and Bangladesh to the Israel-Gaza war, stating that: “Journalists are civilians. We are not targets. We are not combatants. Our pens and our cameras are not weapons of war but tools of justice.”

At least 42 journalists and media workers have been killed in the Israel-Gaza war

This year’s awards dinner was hosted by CNN Correspondent Omar Jimenez, who commended the awardees’ commitment to journalism while facing imprisonment, exile, and other threats to their liberty. Opening the event, Jimenez also highlighted the deadly toll of the Israel-Gaza war, citing CPJ’s research showing that at least 42 journalists and media workers have been killed and noted that “never have so many journalists been killed in such a short period in a single conflict.”

Almar Latour, chief executive officer of Dow Jones and publisher of The Wall Street Journal, presented the award to Nika Gvaramia, of Georgia, who was the first journalist imprisoned there for his work. “I steadfastly refuse to choose between my homeland and freedom, opting for both—for freedom and for the homeland, for both together,” said Gvaramia.

“Journalism has always been my primary passion, driven by a deep desire to understand how politics and power impact people’s lives,” said Shahina K.K., who continues to fight charges under a draconian anti-terror law, received her award from Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey from The New York Times.

“A message of solidarity” to independent journalists in Togo, Mali, Burkina and Niger – always under threat

Uzodinma Iweala, a lauded Nigerian-American author and CEO of The Africa Center, presented the award to Ferdinand Ayité, who sent “a message of solidarity” to independent journalists in Togo. “I think of all the African journalists who are right now under threat, in particular those in the countries of the Sahel—Mali, Burkina, and Niger—who not only are always under threat from the authorities but also from self-proclaimed groups of patriots who are against all those who do not support the narratives of the ruling military regimes,” said Ayité.

For her reporting, María Teresa Montaño experienced kidnapping, surveillance and death threats

José Carlos Zamora, son of the jailed Guatemalan journalist José Rubén Zamora, presented the award to María Teresa Montaño. “Journalism must be on the side of the people, as a social service that must contribute to democracy and the people,” said Montaño, who has experienced kidnapping, surveillance and harassment from authorities and criminal groups for her reporting. Local authorities have yet to investigate death threats against her.

CPJ’s board of directors honored Alberto Ibargüen, outgoing president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with the 2023 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award in recognition of Ibargüen’s extraordinary and sustained commitment to press freedom. Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and CPJ board member, highlighted how Ibargüen’s record of strategic impact embodies core beliefs shared with the late Gwen Ifill: faith in democracy, diversity, and a vibrant, free media.

Meredith Kopit Levien, president and CEO of The New York Times Company, was the evening’s dinner chair

The annual benefit dinner, held at The Glasshouse in New York City, was supported by the evening’s dinner chair, Meredith Kopit Levien, president and chief executive officer of The New York Times Company. The funds raised, a record-breaking nearly $2.8 million, will support CPJ’s global work advocating for press freedom and directly assisting journalists in distress.

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