CJFE announces 2012 International Press Freedom Award Winners
Mae Azango (Liberia) and Rami Jarrah (Syria) risked their lives to report the news in their countries
TORONTO, Sept. 27, 2012 /CNW/ – Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is honoured to award its 2012 International Press Freedom Awards (IPFAs) to Mae Azango of Liberia and Rami Jarrah of Syria for their courage and tenacity in reporting the news despite the grave threats they faced. The awards will be presented at the 15th annual CJFE Gala, to be held December 5, 2012, at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto.
CJFE’s IPFAs are awarded to journalists who demonstrate a commitment to human rights and honest reporting, and who have overcome tremendous odds to produce news in the public interest. The 2012 IPFA winners were selected for their dedication and bravery in reporting on sensitive issues in their respective communities, and both have faced extreme personal reprisals for their work.
“This year’s honourees have shown tremendous bravery by reporting news stories they felt were important to the safety, security and health of their communities,” said Carol Off, CJFE Gala Steering Committee chair. “Both have paid a considerable price for their work, but they continue to bear witness and report the serious events taking place in their countries, helping to keep the world informed about issues we would otherwise not have access to. We’re honoured that both will join us in Toronto in December.”
Mae Azango is a Liberian reporter at daily newspaper and website FrontPage Africa, and is a senior member of New Narratives—Africans Reporting Africa, a not-for-profit media development initiative. Her career as a journalist has focused on coverage of issues widely considered taboo in Liberian communities, such as female genital cutting, child rape, the frequency of teenage motherhood and police brutality. Her story on the practice of female genital cutting published in March 2012 drew death threats that forced Azango and her daughter into hiding. Azango continued to publish stories for FrontPage Africa and Foreign Policy magazine during this period.
Following pressure from global advocacy groups that compelled the government to make its first public commitment to ending female genital cutting, Azango returned home. While she continues to face aggression and backlash from community members for her reportage, Azango remains committed to exposing hardships faced by women and girls in Liberia.
Rami Jarrah is a Cyprus-born, U.K.-raised Syrian citizen journalist who often operates under the alias Alexander Page. Jarrah’s work in journalism began in early 2011 when he began attending and often filming Syrian demonstrations inspired by the early Arab Spring protests in Tunisia and Egypt. After being arrested at a Damascus protest in March 2011, Jarrah was detained and tortured by intelligence officers for three days. After his release, Jarrah quit his job at a technology distribution company and committed his time to exposing the dire political situation in Syria.
Using the pseudonym Alexander Page, Jarrah quickly became well known for his daring, on-the-ground footage and frequent testimonies he provided to international media outlets barred from entering the country. This ability to report honestly and safely was compromised however, when his identity was leaked to Syrian government officials. Threats to personal safety forced Jarrah and family to flee to Egypt in October 2011. Jarrah is currently based in Cairo, where he co-produces ANA News Media Association, an independent citizen press group that offers training and support to a network of journalists in Syria.
About the Gala
The CJFE Gala is made possible by the valued support of Scotiabank, CBC News, CTV News and Henry’s, along with many other organizations and individuals in the media, legal, academic and business communities.
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression boldly champions the free expression rights of journalists and media workers around the world. In Canada, we monitor, defend and promote free expression and access to information. We encourage and support individuals and groups to be vigilant in the protection of their own and others’ free expression rights. We are active participants and builders of the global free expression community.
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