Chinese academic Liu Xiaobo has fought tenaciously for more than 15 years for the principle that the Chinese press should be able to question and criticise the omnipotent Communist Party. He has risked imprisonment to publish essays on the Internet or in Hong Kong and Chinese diaspora newspapers. Algerian journalist Hafnaoui Ghoul and the Mexican weekly Zeta also received awards.
The Prize is awarded to:
- A defender of press freedom.
The winner is former Beijing Normal University teacher Liu Xiaobo, who heads the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC), the only one of its kind in China. Liu is determined that the Chinese media should become a counterweight to the all-powerful Chinese Communist Party. He is tirelessly fighting for the universal ideal of press freedom, calling for the release of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents and posting articles on the Internet and in Hong Kong and diaspora newspapers. For all this he risks being re-arrested at any moment.
- Journalists who have shown devotion to freedom of information through their work, through taking a stand or by their attitude.
The winner in this category is Algerian journalist Hafnaoui Ghoul, provincial correspondent of the daily paper El Youm and head of the regional office of the Algerian Human Rights League (LADDH). He was imprisoned for six months for alleged libel after exposing corruption and abuses by local officials. He was conditionally released on 25 November this year.
- A media outlet that exemplifies the battle for the right to inform the public and to be informed.
The winner here is the Mexican weekly Zeta for its investigative reporting and courageous editorial positions. Its motto is « Publish what other papers don’t ». This policy has cost three of its reporters their lives. Despite these big setbacks, the staff refuses to be intimidated and the paper’s management is maintaining its stand. The paper’s battle continues.
By honouring a defender of press freedom, a journalist and a media outlet, Reporters Without Borders and the Fondation de France are alerting people to the wide range of attacks on the right to inform the public and to be informed and to the need to take a stand in favour of press freedom.
Each prize is worth 2,500 euros.
The Prize has been awarded in past years to: Zlatko Dizdarevic (Bosnia-Herzegovina - 1992), Wang Juntao (China - 1993), André Sibomana (Rwanda - 1994), Christina Anyanwu (Nigeria - 1995), Isik Yurtçu (Turkey - 1996), Raúl Rivero (Cuba - 1997), Nizar Nayuf (Syria - 1998), San San Nweh (Burma - 1999), Carmen Gurruchaga (Spain - 2000), Reza Alijani (Iran - 2001), Grigory Pasko (Russia - 2002), Ali Lmrabet (Morocco - 2003), Michèle Montas (Haïti - 2003) and to the independent newspaper The Daily News (Zimbabwe - 2003).
Several winners were released from prison just a few months or even weeks after being awarded the Prize, including Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet (who won it on 10 December 2003 and was freed on 7 January 2004), Russian journalist Grigory Pasko (won in December 2002, freed in January 2003) and Burmese journalist San San Nweh (won in December 1999, released in 2001).
The second category of the Prize is awarded by an international jury comprising:
Ekram Shinwari (Afghanistan), Sabine Christiansen (Germany), Michael Rediske (Germany), Andrew Graham-Yooll (Argentina), Rubina Möhring (Austria), Nayeem Islam Khan (Bangladesh), Zhanna Litvina (Belarus), Olivier Basille (Belgium), Colette Braeckman (Belgium), Maung Maung Myint (Burma), Sebastião Salgado (Brazil), Juliana Nieto Cano (Colombia), Miriam Leiva (Cuba), Fernando Castelló (Spain), Maria Dolores Masana Argüelles (Spain), Vicente Verdu (Spain), Domenico Amha-Tsion (Eritrea), Barbara Crossette (United States), Francis Charhon (France), Noël Copin (France), Laurent Joffrin (France), Elise Lucet (France), Pierre Veilletet (France), Sailab Mahsud (Pakistan), Ricardo Uceda (Peru), M’Baya Tshimanga (Democratic Republic of Congo), Micea Toma (Romania), Alexey Simonov (Russia), Eva Elmsater (Sweden), Georges Gordon-Lennox (Switzerland), Gérald Sapey (Switzerland), Sihem Bensedrine (Tunisia) and Ben Ami Fihman (Venezuela).
The three other journalists nominated for the second category of this year’s Prize were:
- Cheng Yizhong (China)
As editor of the daily papers Xin Jing Bao and Nanfang Dushi Bao, he is the rising star of the Chinese press. He was held in secret for five months for mentioning in print forbidden topics such as the SARS epidemic and the torture death of a student in a police station. Since his release on 27 August this year, he has been under house arrest and banned from working as a journalist.
- Nael H. Shyoukhi (Palestine)
The head of Reuters TV in the southern part of the West Bank. He works as a cameraman, sound-technician and writer. He has been wounded seven times by Israeli troops while doing his job and was nearly killed on 13 March 1998. Since then, he has worked hard to see that journalists working in war zones can do their job in the safest possible conditions.
- Maka Gbossokotto (Central African Republic)
Editor of the independent daily paper Le Citoyen and local correspondent for Reporters Without Borders. He spent a month in prison because of a libel complaint against him. Since his release on 9 August this year, he has fought to get press offences decriminalised. The country’s transitional parliament took a step in this direction on 25 November when it abolished prison sentences for all press offences.
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