Last night, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) honored four brave individuals from Bahrain, Belarus, Mexico and Pakistan for their fearless reporting in the face of abuses against the press.
ABC's Christiane Amanpour introduced the night's event, which supported CPJ's advocacy work for freedom of the press worldwide. The 2011 International Press Freedom awardees told haunting stories, which outlined the hurdles they face as journalists and how much they put on the line to report.
Mansoor al-Jamri, the cofounder of daily newspaper Al-Wasat in Bahrain, had seen his cofounder, Karim Fakhrawi, tortured to death. Following a violent government crackdown in his country, al-Jamri was threatened by government forces and accused of "publishing false news." Al-Jamri told of how the government harassed and detained his journalists, and how one photographer "had to be hospitalized following severe beating by security forces who used his camera to smash on his head."
Another awardee, Natalya Radina, edits the opposition news website Charter 97 from self-imposed exile in Lithuania. After being imprisoned by the KGB, Radina fled from Belarus. In her speech, she implored the audience to think of her country's 10 million people living under Alexander Lukashenko's dictatorship.
Javier Valdez Cardenas spoke of the fear that pervades his everyday life, from checking his rearview mirrors to suffering bouts of insomnia. Valdez founded Riodoce, a weekly publication in Sinaloa. In Mexico, a country where drug-related violence has claimed over 35,000 lives in just five years and many journalists have censored themselves, running a publication covering crime in Sinaloa is a highly dangerous undertaking. "To do journalism is to walk on an invisible line drawn by the bad guys ... in a field strewn with explosives," Valdez said.
Umar Cheema, a reporter for Islamabad's The News, was abducted and tortured for his reporting in Pakistan. His captors warned him to never speak of the incident, but he bravely returned to tell his story to the public. His takeaway? "Never let the fear dictate your decisions." Cheema continues to take a stand in his coverage of corruption and politics, and still receives threats.
Dan Rather also received the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award for his 60 years of work in the industry.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is a nonprofit organization that fights for press freedom. Last night's event raised nearly $1.4 million toward the organization's efforts, which include paying legal fees for imprisoned journalists and providing support for their families.
Above, watch a short video about awardee Javier Valdez Cardenas, the founder of Riodoce. For more, visit CPJ's website for videos, photos, and information about their work. Below, see photos from last night's event: