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Peter Mackler Award Ceremony Recap

October 5, 2009

The first annual Peter Mackler Award Ceremony was a success, with attendees including a wide range of journalists from around the world, all there to honor the memory of Peter Mackler and show support for the award winner, jailed Sri Lankan journalist J. S. Tissainayagam.

Clothilde Le Coz, Washington Director of Reporters Without Borders, gave an impassioned speech, denouncing J. S. Tissainayagam’s wrongful imprisonment and calling for justice to be sought in all cases where journalists have been unfairly imprisoned.

Tissa’s wife, Ronnate, accepted the award on her husband’s behalf.

“For the last 20 years my husband has endeavoured to pursue the goals that Mr. Mackler believed in as a journalist,” she said. “Like Peter, my husband was never too busy to encourage those who wanted to learn to write and has helped many in journalism. Today my husband is continuing to teach me courage and grace in difficult times. For him no matter what the circumstances are; there is no excuse for unkindness. No matter what circumstance fellow human beings must be treated with dignity.”

Marcus Brauchli, a friend to Peter Mackler and the executive editor of The Washington Post, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony and gave credit to reporters who face everyday challenges in developing nations or in countries which do not value freedom of speech.

“Doing such good journalism as the Peter Mackler Award encourages takes courage,” said Brauchli.

J. S. Tissainayagam’s is a Tamil reporter and editor cited by President Barack Obama as an “emblematic example” of the struggle for press access and freedom worldwide. He was arrested on March 7, 2008 by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) of the Sri Lanka police and has been sentenced to 20 years in jail for inciting “communal disharmony”. He is the first journalist in his country to be convicted under terrorism laws.

You can view a video of the ceremony here.

Pictured (from left to right): Clothilde Le Coz of Reporters Without Borders, Lauren Mackler, daughter of Peter Mackler, Catherine Antoine, wife of Peter Mackler, Ronnate Tissainayagam, wife of J. S. Tissainayagam, and Camille Mackler, daughter of Peter Mackler

Photo Credit: Adrian Winter/PMA, Parameswaran Ponnudurai/AFP

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.