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Welcome address by Myron Belkind, president of the National Press Club, Washington DC

Myron Belkind, president of the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Photo: Turner4D

Myron Belkind, president of the National Press Club in Washington D.C. Photo: Turner4D

Good evening and welcome to the National Press Club. And for those of you from Pakistan, Salaam Alaikum.

I am Myron Belkind, the Club’s 107th president, and I want to say it is a double honor to be here this evening.

First, because we are honoring the legacy of Peter Mackler, who had a very distinguished career in journalism, starting out in United Press International and The Associated Press in his hometown of New York City before joining Agence France Presse, where he served for 29 years, including as chief editor in Asia, desk chief in Paris, director for Southeast Asia and the South Pacific and then as chief editor for North America until his untimely death in June 2008.

I often have said that news agencies — perhaps the most competitive media arena there is — always try to outdo their competitors by developing the most advanced technologies. And, of course they do. But ultimately, the biggest impact that a news agency has in earning its reputation is based on its staff, and let me say as a former AP staffer, Peter Mackler is among those key AFP journalists and leaders who contributed so much to the competitiveness of AFP.

I know, because as an Associated Press bureau chief in New Delhi, London and Tokyo, I witnessed AFP’s achievements. I felt them competitively. I respected them.

I also want to pay tribute to Peter Mackler for his active role in media training for 15 years – even while working with AFP – and ensuring that the next generations of journalists develop the highest professional standards.

Finally, I want to pay tribute to Peter’s widow, Catherine Antoine and her daughters, Camille and Lauren, as well as friends and sponsoring organizations, for perpetuating Peter’s legacy though the award established in his memory — not just to remember Peter but to recognize outstanding courageous journalists, as we do this evening.

And thus, I am honored to welcome Asma Shirazi. the 2014 winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.

She does what all journalists strive to do, which is to seek the truth and report it. But there is a difference. She carries out her journalistic mission undeterred by death threats and personal risk in a country, Pakistan, that is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders.

Asma Shirazi, we are honored to have you here this evening at the National Press Club.

I also want to give a special welcome to our keynote speaker, Pamela Constable, herself a distinguished reporter for the Washington Post and whose dispatches from throughout South Asia also exhibited the best in journalism under the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.
Thank you.