Women from Ethiopia, Palestine and Azerbaijan and Pakistan Honored
WASHINGTON – Each year, the IWMF honors women journalists who have shown extraordinary strength of character and integrity while reporting the news under dangerous or difficult circumstances.
This year’s winners are:
Reeyot Alemu, 31, an Ethiopian columnist currently imprisoned on charges of terrorism after writing critiques of her country’s government; Asmaa al-Ghoul, 30, a Palestinian blogger and freelance writer who has received death threats for her commentary on the culture and politics of Gaza; Khadija Ismayilova, 35, a radio reporter from Azerbaijan who was blackmailed and threatened after her investigation into charges of malfeasance against members of the Azerbaijani president’s family. These are the International Women’s Media Foundation’s 2012 Courage in Journalism Award winners.
“I am humbled to work in the same profession as these heroic women,” said Katty Kay, co-chair of the IWMF. “It is my honor to be involved with the IWMF as it recognizes their dedication and bravery. It is journalists like Reeyot, Asmaa and Khadija who set an example for all of us.”
The IWMF’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Zubeida Mustafa, 70, a Pakistani journalist who has worked for three decades at Dawn, one her country’s oldest and most widely circulated English-language newspapers.
Theodore Boutrous, Jr., IWMF co-chair, said “A free and independent press is vital to freedom and liberty. The IWMF believes that no press is truly fee if women do not share an equal voice. As the first woman to work at Dawn, Zubeida blazed a trail for women journalists in Pakistan, changing hiring policies and mentoring young women. She showed that women journalists can cover serious topics such as healthcare and economic inequality.”
The 2012 awards will be presented during ceremonies in New York on October 24 and in Los Angeles on October 29.
“The IWMF is grateful to the Bank of America, National Presenting Sponsor of the Courage in Journalism Awards for the seventh year and steadfast supporter of heroic women journalists around the world,” said Elisa Lees Munoz, Acting Executive Director of the IWMF.
About the IWMF
Founded in 1990, the International Women’s Media Foundation is a vibrant global network dedicated to strengthening the role of women in the news media worldwide as a means to further freedom of the press. The IWMF network includes women and men in the media in more than 130 countries worldwide. For more information, visit www.iwmf.org.
About the 2012 Courage in Journalism Award Winners
Reeyot Alemu, 31, worked as a columnist for independent Ethiopian newspaper Feteh until her arrest in June 2011. She was held without charge until September of that year, when she was accused of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts and participation in a terrorist organization. The Ethiopian government presented articles Alemu wrote criticizing its actions as evidence at her trial, as well as telephone conversations she had regarding strictly peaceful protests. Based on these materials alone, a judge sentenced Alemu to 14 years in prison. Prior to these events, Alemu was one of her country’s only female reporters who wrote critically about the political climate in Ethiopia, including analysis of government figures. Now, Alemu has fallen ill in prison. Her associates suffer harassment because of their connections with her. Despite this, Alemu has rejected offers of clemency in return for information about her colleagues.
Asmaa al-Ghoul, 30, is a blogger and freelance writer working in Gaza. Her stories analyze social and political life in the Middle East, focusing on the ongoing divisions among Palestinians and abuses of civil rights by both internal and external forces in Gaza. In 2007, al-Ghoul wrote an article in the form of an open letter to her uncle, a Hamas commander, questioning the methods of certain entities claiming to seek peace for Palestine. The article resulted in al-Ghoul’s uncle threatening to kill her. This is not uncommon: al-Ghoul regularly receives death threats against her own life and that of her young son. She has been beaten by Hamas security forces while covering popular protests and went through a period of sleeping in her office for fear of being killed on her way home.
Khadija Ismayilova, 35, is a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijani service. She investigates corruption and power abuse among her country’s elite. In May of 2012, Ismayilova became the target of a massive smear campaign threatening to defame her and put her life at risk unless she stopped reporting. This included an anonymous letter with photos from surveillance cameras planted in Ismayilova’s apartment, depicting her in an intimate situation with her boyfriend. It was made clear that she would stop her reporting, or risk having the photos made public. In the largely Muslim country of Azerbaijan, “honor killings” still occur. This is not the first time Ismayilova has been the subject of attempts to silence her. She is the victim of regular slander campaigns in pro-government media. The Azerbaijani president has personally tried to have her fired. During the many attempts to discredit her, Ismayilova has refused to stop working and has publicly denounced her accusers.