The Committee to Protect Journalists honoured journalists from India, El Salvador, Turkey and Egypt with its annual International Press Freedom Awards for their commitment to a free press despite death threats, imprisonment and exile. CPJ executive director Joel Simon said threats against journalism are increasing around the world, including in the United States following the presidential election victory of Republican Donald Trump, who has branded mainstream media dishonest and who hasn’t held a news conference since his election.
“It’s a very intimidating, hostile environment,” Simon said before the ceremony. “Now, we’re not going to compare it to some of the things we’re going to see tonight, but certainly the climate’s changed and the notion that we’re here living in this First Amendment paradise defending the rights of our more vulnerable colleagues around the world, that gap has closed considerably.”
India’s Malini Subramaniam, a contributor to the news website Scroll was honoured. She has been harassed by police and members of a vigilante group for her critical coverage of human rights abuses in the Bastar area of Chhattisgarh state.
She said the award was important to send a message to the government that it’s being watched.
“The importance is also to those journalists who are there, who feel that, OK, even if it is a small place like Bastar in Chhattisgarh the fact that this has come out in the international media, the fact that their situation has been understood, that itself is very good,” Subramanian said.
El Salvador’s Oscar Martinez, co-founder of Sala Negra, the investigative unit of Central America’s first online-only magazine, El Faro, also was honoured.
Martinez was forced to flee El Salvador for three weeks after receiving death threats over an investigation into the killings of eight gang suspects by police.
Turkey’s Can Dundar, chief editor of the daily Cumhuriyet, was another honouree. He was arrested on November 26, 2015, after publishing an article alleging the government intelligence service sought to send weapons to Syrian rebel groups.
He was charged with disclosing state secrets, espionage and aiding a terrorist group and was sentenced to five years in prison. He remains free, after spending 92 days in jail, while his appeal is considered.