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Journalists Gather to Honor Endangered & Slain Reporters

John and Diane Foley, parents of James Foley - peoplewhowrite

John and Diane Foley, parents of James Foley (photo courtesy of CPJ and Getty Images)

“There is a new war on journalists,” Alberto Ibargüen reportedly said in a speech at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 24th Annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 25th. The president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and chairman of the awards dinner, continued, “Today’s terrorists will kill a journalist not to stop a story, but to create one.”

Hosted by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour at Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, the night honored Iranian freelance journalist Siamak Ghaderi, who spent four years in prison for “propagating against the regime,” “creating public anxiety,” and “spreading falsehoods.”; Burmese journalist Aung Zaw whose publication The Irrawaddy was labeled “enemy of the state” by the former Burmese military government; Mikhail Zygar, editor-in-chief of the Russian independent TV channel Dozhd, which offers alternative programming from Kremlin-controlled stations; Ferial Haffajee, editor-in-chief of City Press in South Africa and the weekly Mail & Guardian, with her award. “Under her leadership, both papers have broken important stories, including ‘Nkandlagate’–the controversy around the alleged use of public funds for improvements to President Jacob Zuma’s homestead,” the CPJ website reports.

Vietnamese blogger Nguyen Van Hai, whose posts about government corruption made him a target and ultimately resulted in a two-, then 12-year prison sentence, was also on hand to accept the International Press Freedom Award he received in absentia last year because he was imprisoned.

John and Diane Foley represented their son James Foley who had been twice held by terrorist organizations seeking to use him as a negotiation chip with the US government, and was recently beheaded by ISIS. (Journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS shortly after Foley.) “Jim’s life challenges us to continue his passions for freedom of the press and commitment to those in poverty or ravaged by war,” Mrs. Foley said.

The awards ceremony doubled as a fundraiser and took in more than $2.7 million. Monies raised will go towards advocacy as well as support of “reporters without institutional support, such as freelance or local journalists”. There’s more information at http://cpj.org/awards and photos here.

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