The 2012 Reporters Without Borders – Le Monde – TV5Monde Press Freedom Prize has been awarded to the Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish and the Afghan daily 8Sobh.
Reporters Without Borders, Le Monde and TV5Monde are pleased to award their 2012 Press Freedom Prize to Mazen Darwish, the head of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), and to the Afghan daily newspaper 8Sobh (8 a.m.). The award ceremony took place today at the Le Monde auditorium in Paris.
“This year, the Press Freedom Prize jury included such prestigious human rights defenders as Taslima Nasreen, Harry Wu et Alpha Oumar Konaré,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.“The jury decided to pay tribute to the Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish, who displayed extraordinary courage in the face of danger and ended up paying with his freedom. Reporters Without Borders continues to demand his release by the Syrian authorities. The winner in the media category, the Afghan daily 8Sobh, is living evidence that freely-reported quality journalism can develop in the most difficult corners of the planet.”
Darwish was declared “2012 Journalist of the Year” because of his courage and commitment to freedom of information. Arrested by airforce intelligence officers during a raid on SCM headquarters in Damascus on 16 February, he has been held incommunicado ever since. According to various sources, he has been badly tortured in detention and his life is in danger, especially as he suffers from serious ailments that require medical attention and are undermining his condition. The Syrian authorities refuse to say where he is being held or to bring him before a judge. He is not being allowed access to his family or lawyers, in complete violation of international law. Darwish bore witness to the violence of a regime that persists in deadly folly, and his arrest sent a warning to journalists and all those who defend the right to information in Syria. A staunch advocate of human rights and freedom of expression, Darwish had been playing a key role in providing information about the situation in Syria at a time when almost all foreign journalists were banned from visiting the country.
8Sobh (www.8am.af) is a Kabul-based daily that was founded in May 2007 by a number of well-known journalists and media freedom activists. Edited by Sanjar Sohail, who is also its owner, it publishes news reports and analyses on all the major topics that concern Afghans, including democracy, human rights and political developments. Its stories are covered objectively with the aim not only of providing balanced and independently reported information but also with the aim of promoting democratization and the development of a state that guarantees free speech and media freedom. It is the only Afghan newspaper that is distributed in six provinces – Kabul, the northern province of Balkh, the eastern province of Nangarhar, the western province of Herat, the central province of Bamyan and the southern province of Ghazni. Because it is secularist and tries to provide neutral and objective coverage, both the Taliban and the authorities harass it. “For us and our readers, this prize honours and encourages a free press in Afghanistan,” Sohail said. “Our still young press faces many challenges but we are convinced that it is thanks to consciousness-raising and to courageous, professional reporting by journalists that the Afghan government and state will become more responsible, more transparent and above all more democratic.”
The Reporters Without Borders Prize has been awarded every year since 1992 to a journalist and a news media in different parts of the world that have made a significant contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom.
The newspaper Le Monde and the television broadcaster TV5Monde have been partners in this prize since last year. Le Monde managing editor Alain Frachon quoted the reason that his predecessor, Erik Izraelewicz, gave for becoming a partner in the prize last year: “From Sidi Bouzid to Sanaa, from Rangoon to Benghazi, from Damascus to Cairo, there has been no shortage of major developments in 2011. The international media have covered them without forgetting that local journalists, often at risk to their lives, have for years been combating the constant violations of media freedom in these places. For 20 years, the Reporters Without Borders Prize for Press Freedom has been reminding the public that their struggle is also our struggle. Le Monde is pleased to join Reporters Without Borders in this undertaking.” Frachon added: “This year, Erik is no longer with us but his words express all the importance that we attach to this prize.”
Yves Bigot, TV5Monde’s director-general, said: “An international TV broadcaster such as TV5Monde has to be at the forefront of the defence of media freedom, as we its embody its universal values every day in the 200 countries where we have a presence. Our staff and the staff of our partner stations – RTBF, RTS, Radio Canada and France Télévisions – are constantly involved with all those who giving testimony to a world in turmoil, a world that is rebelling and a world that is often at war. It was therefore self-evident that we should be linked with Reporters Without Borders and Le Monde to this prize that pays tribute to all those who work with courage and passion, sometimes at the cost of their lives, because they believe that what they are doing is contributing to the freedom of all their fellow citizens.”