Press freedom awards highlight bravery of journalists

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sub-Saharan hero Tanzanian journalist Maxence Melo MubyaziPHOTO: Supplied
sub-Saharan hero Tanzanian journalist Maxence Melo MubyaziPHOTO: Supplied

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has bestowed this year’s International Press Freedom Awards on five journalists from around the world, including one from sub-Saharan Africa.

Maxence Melo Mubyazi from Tanzania, who co-founded and manages the Jamii Forums online discussion and breaking news website, was the African winner.

He has been relentlessly pursued by his government and in 2017 alone he appeared in court 81 times, charged under the country’s Cybercrimes Act.

The winners were selected for the prestigious awards after having endured imprisonment, threats and online harassment to bring out the news.

Other recognised journalists include Brazil’s Patricia Campos Mello, who works for the Folha de S.Paulo daily newspaper. She was subjected to online harassment and doxxed – an internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting private or identifying information about an individual or organisation – after covering supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro.

Indian freelance investigative journalist Neha Dixit won for facing “legal and physical threats as well as online harassment after reporting on alleged wrongdoing by right-wing nationalist groups and police,” according to a statement by the committee.

Other winners were Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora of Nicaraguan broadcaster 100% Noticas. They were jailed in December last year for to their coverage of political violence and were freed only last month.

CPJ executive director Joel Simon said: “The winners of CPJ’s 2019 International Press Freedom Awards represent the very best of journalism, people who have put their lives and liberty on the line to bring us the news. While we celebrate their courage, we lament that it is required.

“The sad reality is that around the world independent journalism is threatened by populist authoritarians who disdain and disparage the work of the independent press. This is true in the countries represented by our honorees and many others.”

The committee said this year’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award, “recognising extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom”, would be given to Pakistani journalist Zaffar Abbas, who edits the Dawn daily newspaper.

“Abbas is the embodiment of journalistic courage,” said the committee’s board chairperson Kathleen Carroll.

The awards will be bestowed on the journalists in New York, US, in November.

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