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Peter Mackler Award Winner Faisal Salih: \”There is always a window for reporting.\”

From L-R: Catherine Antoine, Faisal Salih, Mrs. Salih, Delphine Halgand

In a ceremony at National Press Club in Washington DC, Thursday, Sudan’s persecuted newspaper editor and media trainer, Faisal Mohamed Salih, became the fifth recipient of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism. The keynote speaker at the event was Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman, former US special envoy to Sudan.

At the event Salih, who has been repeatedly harassed and briefly jailed by the regime of President Omar al-Bashir spoke of the challenges facing journalists in Sudan including pre-publication censorship. Salih said he considered the award an honour not only to him but also to other Sudanese journalists persecuted by the Khartoum regime.
In his keynote address Lyman said, “Sudan needs now as much or more than ever, the means for a free and full national dialogue about its future. And that requires a free and active media.”
He went on to say, “The press is not only a medium of debate but can also channel the views of academia, civil society and various actors into the public square. This debate may well be raucous. But better it be raucous in the press than in armed clashes…

The Programme for the evevt

“[The press] can be a model of transformational governance that leads to true freedom and democracy. This is what people like Faisal, and so many of his colleagues strive for, take risks for, and what they deeply believe is possible. They are the allies of change, and of stability, of freedom and justice. If only those who fear those outcomes will stand aside and allow them to do their work, Sudan can succeed. There is no better alternative.”
Lauren Mackler introduced the Peter Mackler Award and Delphine Halgand, director of Reporters without Borders (RSF) in Washington DC, spoke of RSF’s work in Sudan and countries where freedom of expression is under attack. 
On Wednesday, speaking at the School of Journalism, Columbia University in New York, Salih outlined the pressure under which journalists operated in Sudan. Although the government did not own any newspapers, he said, it was successful in coercing the media to toe the line because of weak media laws and its control of advertising.
Salih also spoke of direct censorship where the ‘agents’ of the government would be present in the newspaper office to monitor their content. If there was material the government considered inimical, the entire edition would be confiscated. “So in the end, we prefer pre-printing censorship because if a decision to censor is taken ahead of time, it is cheaper for the paper,” he said.
On the September riots in Sudan following price increases of petroleum products he said that the government had insisted the media publish only the official version. Although the social media was used to disseminate what could not be written in newspapers, there was not much impact because of low rates of internet penetration in the country.
Answering a question as to what outside help would work in Sudan, Salih said the regime liked to present itself as respecting human rights; hence pressure on rights violations by the international community was helpful.
Asked how journalists worked in these conditions, Salih replied, “There is always a window for reporting.” For instance, if there was a ban on reporting hard news, journalists would write a column; or they would comment on a report by the international media.
Speaking of how the regime punished independent journalists he said that due to international pressure, journalists were not incarcerated. But they were ordered to report to the security office and had to sometimes sit for 13 hours in a chair, alone in the room.
“I am serving my people, my country; I am serving things I believe in. Doing something I love. By doing journalism, I am campaigning for social justice, for human rights, for freedom,” Salih said.
[Please see these links for this blog’s coverage of Sudan and Salih: one, two, three, four]

2010 Award Ceremony Recap – Ilya Barabanov Receives Peter Mackler Award

As he stood before a packed room of journalists and DC insiders on October 22, 2010, Ilya Barabanov called on his colleagues to speak about not only the most tragic examples of violence against journalists in his native Russia, but to remember all of those who have suffered because they pursued their profession. “Each and every one of these incidents is connected to a very real human tragedy, disastrous for our colleague, his friends and family. Today, standing here at this podium, I would like to call upon you to pay attention to all of these cases.” said Barabanov, the deputy editor of the Russian News Weekly The New Times.

Barabanov was awarded the 2010 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism at a ceremony held at the National Press Club last Friday. Barabanov, who flew in from Moscow for the ceremony, was named this year’s winner not only for his work exposing corruption within the Russian government, but also for his courage in defending his profession’s right to do so. While introducing Barabanov, Peter Mackler Award Project Director Camille Mackler stated that “By getting up and going to work every day, Ilya shows more courage than any of us will probably be called to display during our life time … Ilya’s work reminds us that the principles of a free press can never be compromised.”

During his acceptance speech, Barabanov spoke about the difficulties faced by journalists in Russia, but also noted that for independent media journalists, “our work gives us great pleasure. Being an investigative journalist in a country whose state authorities do everything to prevent such activity, is perhaps more interesting than working in an environment free of such obstacles.”

Russia, which recently ranked number 140 on Reporters Without Borders’ 2010 Press Freedom Index, is generally viewed as being at a cross roads regarding press freedom. Clothilde Le Coz, Director of Reporters Without Borders – USA, told guests at the ceremony that “in a country where being a reporter too often rhymes with renouncing your freedom, Ilya is part of the young generation of reporters who are fighting back for change.” Nonetheless, violence, harassment, and intimidation of journalists whose opinions do not align with the Kremlin continues to be rampant as the perpetrators remain able to act with impunity.

David E. Hoffman, the evening’s keynote speaker, also deplored the situation in Russia. “Russia today is not the Soviet Union. It is not an absolute dictatorship. Rather, Russia is at a crossroads. After communism, it did not develop as a full democracy. It has gone backwards in recent years.” Hoffman, a contributing editor to the Washington Post and Foreign Policy Magazine, is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Dead Hand, a look at the arms’ race during the Cold War. He also served as Moscow Bureau Chief for the Washington Post and spoke of his own friends and experiences when describing the dangers faced by journalists in Russia. Hoffman also praised Barabanov’s courage: “Ilya’s investigations are a testament to the courage of all journalists in Russia who work against such terrible odds. This kind of work is not glamorous and not easy. There is a great deal of secrecy, threats, and coercion.”

Hoffman concluded by praising Barabanov, telling him to “realize that your articles are part of making history in Russia, making a new society, building a new democracy. All around you it may seem like a dry desert – but you are a green shoot of grass. You are an example of what has gone right with Russia since the collapse of communism.”

2009 winner, J. S. Tissainayagam, also spoke at the ceremony, praising the work of the Peter Mackler Award and stating that the existence of such an award provides “solace and encouragement” to journalists who work in difficult situations, and helps shine a spotlight on the situations reporters face world wide. Tissainayagam was unable to personally accept his award last year, as he was serving a twenty-year prison sentence after having been falsely convicted on terrorism charges. After being granted a pardon, Tissainayagam arrived in the United States in June, 2010. This year’s Peter Mackler Award Ceremony was Tissainayagam’s first public speaking engagement since his release. Le Coz also praised Tissainayagam and his wife, Ronnate, saying that “it is great to see you tonight with your wife Ronnate, still determined to get the word out when it comes to Sri Lanka’s sad reality.”

Barabanov took advantage of his trip to the United States to meet with government officials and media outlets to speak about the situation of journalists in Russia. He granted interviews to Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. Barabanov also participated in a Question & Answer session with students at Columbia University’s Journalism School.

The Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism was founded in 2008 to honor the memory of Peter Mackler, a thirty-year career journalist who passed away June 20, 2008. The award is run jointly by the US branch of Reporters Without Borders and the Global Media Forum, a company founded by Mackler to provide journalism training.

Russian Journalist Receives Peter Mackler Award

Russian Journalist Receives Peter Mackler Award (AFP)

WASHINGTON — Russian journalist Ilya Barabanov praised the dozens of colleagues who have lost their lives over the past decade as he accepted the Peter Mackler Award for courageous journalism.

“Today standing here at this podium I would like to call upon you to pay attention to all of these cases,” Barabanov, deputy editor of Novoye Vremya (New Times), said in an acceptance speech at the National Press Club.

“It is the reality of Russia now that independent media outlets are not able to feel safe,” he said. “But that’s not really news to any journalist working in countries with authoritarian regimes.” Read more…

Invitation to 2010 Peter Mackler Award Ceremony

Reporters Without Borders / Global Media Forum

October 22, 2010
6.00 PM

Join us for the presentation of this year’s
Recipient : Ilya Barabanov

Guest Speaker: J. S. Tissainayagam, 2009 Peter Mackler Award winner
Keynote Speaker: David Hoffman, Pulitzer Prize Winner, Author: The Dead Hand
National Press Club – 529 14th Street, N. W.
Washington DC

Cocktail reception to follow with Silent Auction to benefit the Peter Mackler Award
Tickets: $25 ($10 with student ID)
Available at the door or in advance at
More Information: