On September 18, 2007, the National Endowment for Democracy will present its annual Democracy Award to an organization and three individuals who have bravely contributed to increasing and preserving press freedom and independent media in Egypt, Southeast Asia, Venezuela, and Russia.
“A free press is a critical ingredient for any democracy,” said National Endowment for Democracy Chairman Vin Weber. “In countries with little or limited press freedom, independent journalists and activists committed to providing citizens with honest news and information often find themselves in the vanguard of the struggle for democracy, sometimes with their lives on the line. This year’s Democracy Award calls attention to the courage of those journalists who risk so much.”
The four recipients of the 2007 Democracy Award are:
- Hisham Kassem, one of Egypt’s most prominent publishers and democracy activists, he was until recently the publisher of Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s first independent daily paper. He was also Vice President of the opposition Hizb Al-Ghad Party.
- Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) – Venezuela is a press freedom monitoring group established in 2002 during a period of growing concern about the state of press freedom of expression in Venezuela. It has become an authoritative voice on freedom of expression issues in Venezuela, and is a point of reference for journalists, academics and human rights defenders. Ewald Scharfenberg, director of IPYS – Venezuela, will accept the award on the organization’s behalf.
- Kavi Chongkittavorn is a tireless campaigner for press freedom throughout Southeast Asia, and worldwide. A journalist for more than 20 years, he is the assistant group editor of Nation Media Group, publisher of The Nation, Krungthep Turakij and Kom Chat Luek in Thailand.
- Anna Politkovskaya, the courageous reporter for the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta who was murdered at her apartment building on October 7, 2006, will be honored posthumously. Throughout her distinguished career as a Russian journalist, Anna was an outspoken advocate for human rights and an end to the devastating war in Chechnya. Politkovskaya’s award will be accepted by fellow Novaya Gazeta reporter Elena Milashina.
Confirmed speakers at the Capitol Hill Award Ceremony include US Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). The Democracy Award presentation and reception will be preceded by a panel discussion addressing the topic “Defending Free Media in Difficult Environments.” In addition to the four honorees, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Freedom of the Press, has been invited to participate on the panel.
The National Endowment for Democracy is a private, nonprofit, bipartisan grant-making organization created in 1983 to strengthen democratic institutions around the world. It is active in more than 90 countries, supporting grassroots, democratic initiatives. It now houses the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), which is devoted to strengthening the field of media assistance. More information about NED and the Democracy Award can be found at www.ned.org.
What: National Endowment for Democracy 2007 Democracy Award Presentation and panel discussion
When: September 18 3:30 – 5:30 Panel Discussion, “Defending Free Media in Difficult Environments” 5:30 – 7:30 Reception and Award presentation
Where: Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515 Panel: Room 2325 Reception: Room B-339
Contact: Jane Riley Jacobsen (202) 378-9700, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Endowment for Democracy 2007 Democracy Award Honorees
A tireless campaigner for press freedom throughout Southeast Asia and, indeed, throughout the world, Kavi Chongkittavorn is the assistant group editor of Nation Media Group, publisher of The Nation, Krungthep Turakij and Kom Chat Luek in Thailand. Kavi has been a journalist for more than two decades, covering Thai and regional politics. He was a bureau chief in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from 1988-1990 and Hanoi, Vietnam from 1990-1992. He also served as special assistant to the secretary general at the Jakarta-based Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from 1993-1994 before returning to journalism.
In 1993, Kavi was a Reuters Fellow at Oxford, and in 2001, a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He was named the Human Rights Journalist of 1998 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights by Amnesty International, Thailand. From 1999-2003, he was the president of Thai Journalists Association. Since 1999, he has chaired the Bangkok-based regional free media advocacy group, Southeast Asian Press Alliance. Kavi also serves as Jury President for the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, UNESCO, which consists of fourteen professional journalists and editors from all over the world. Under his leadership, UNESCO awarded its press freedom prize posthumously to Anna Politkovskaya at its recent conference in Colombia.
One of Egypt’s most prominent publishers and democracy activists, Hisham Kassem was, until recently, the publisher of Al-Masry Al-Youm (“The Egyptian Today”) Egypt’s first independent daily paper. He is also former Vice President of the liberal opposition Hizb al-Ghad (Tomorrow Party), and has served as chairman of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
Last year the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl noted that “It’s worth marveling at the mini-revolution his paper has wrought,” pointing out that before Hisham launched Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egyptian [daily papers] consisted solely of official organs such as al-Ahram, whose editors are appointed by the regime.”
Hisham is a staunch advocate of independent journalism, noting that “the manipulation of media by politics during the past 50 years has led to a serious drop in readership.” He stresses the importance of transparency in newspaper ownership and funding for preventing corruption and covert political influence. Egypt is one of only 12 states that impose prison sentences for libel. “That makes the press a risky investment, which is plainly bad,” he says, “because all press must be owned by private, joint-stock companies without political agendas if we’re to have a free flow of information.”
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) – Venezuela
IPYS-Venezuela was founded in 2002 during a period of growing concern about the state of press freedom of expression in Venezuela. It is the Venezuelan branch of a regional organization established in 1993 by Peruvian journalists, editors and media owners to defend freedom of expression and freedom of the press throughout Latin America.
Over the past five years, IPYS-Venezuela has become an authoritative voice on freedom of expression issues in Venezuela, and is a point of reference for journalists, academics and human rights defenders. Drawing on the IPYS methodology, IPYS-Venezuela has established a national network of correspondents in nine cities throughout Venezuela. These correspondents are responsible for continuously monitoring press conditions, receiving information from journalists on attacks or threats, investigating the cases to ensure they are credible, and reporting them to IPYS-Venezuela’s central office.
In 2006 alone, IPYS-Venezuela and its correspondents documented 65 alerts concerning freedom of expression and freedom of the press violations; 31 in Caracas and 34 in the interior of the country. These reports were coordinated with the main office in Lima and distributed via the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) to an international audience. Additionally, IPYS-Venezuela annually hosts a series of training workshops to strengthen journalistic practices in Venezuela.
The director of IPYS-Venezuela is Ewald Scharfenberg, who will accept the award on the organization’s behalf.
October 7, 2007 will mark the first anniversary of the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Throughout her distinguished career as a Russian journalist, Anna was an outspoken advocate for human rights and an end to the devastating war in Chechnya. Up to the day of her death, Anna reported on the corruption and abuses of high-ranking officials and the need to protect those who were victims of the war. Her career was marked by a determination to report the truth regardless of the consequences, for which she paid with her life. Earlier this month she received UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Prize on the 10th anniversary of the award, the first time it was awarded posthumously.
Anna’s award will be accepted by her colleague at Novaya Gazeta Elena Milashina, a courageous investigative journalist in her own right. Ms. Milashina has reported from Chechnya on a number of occasions, focusing primarily on investigations of the Beslan tragedy.