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Text of Remarks by Clothilde Le Coz During 2010 Peter Mackler Award Ceremony

October 27, 2010

Thank you all for being here tonight and joining us on this ceremony to honor Peter Mackler’s legacy. It is a very special event this year.

Tonight, you’ll hear from two very important journalists. I am very honored to have J.S. Tissainayagam speaking tonight. As some of you know, he was sentenced to 20 years in jail in Sri Lanka because of his journalistic work in 2009. This is the reason why he could not received the Peter Mackler Award he was awarded last year. But it is great to see you tonight with your wife Ronnate, still determined to get the word out when it comes to Sri Lankan sad reality. Journalists disappear and media are openly attacked. There is no way to investigate on any of these acts. The media are controlled by the government. Can you imagine that during the latest election, 97% of news program air-time was devoted to the president and his aides ? A voice like Tissa’s is of course not welcome. Especially when it comes to the Tamil minority. But you’ll hear more from him in just a few minutes.

As a journalist myself, I am amazed and impressed by the work of Ilya Barabanov. 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. No longer than a month ago, armed and masked police officers went on a 3 hour raid to The New Times, to disclose the sources of one of his interview. Of course, they are still looking for them. But The New Times is no exception. In the past year, the same happened to at least 4 newsrooms in Moscow.

Russia is not known for press freedom. Most Russians get their news via TV but have very little chance of hearing independent views on it. Opposition figures and government critics have no access to nationwide stations.

Murders of journalists and human rights activists and physical attacks on them, especially in the Caucasus republics, make Russia one of the world’s most dangerous countries for independent journalists.

For more than 25 years, Reporters Without Borders has been fighting for press freedom. Tonight just shows us how useful that is. As a reporter, it is an honor to be in front of them, standing up and fighting for their own rights everyday. They are not only reporters. They are examples, role models and heroes. Even if they will be too humble to admit it.

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