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Welcoming remarks by Catherine Antoine, Peter Mackler’s widow

Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

September 25, 2019 6:30pm

Paolo Borrometi, I am very pleased (for lack of a better word) to present you with the 2019 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical journalism.

Courage and Ethics are two fundamentals of good journalism. Peter, my husband, lived and worked by them.

You have exhibited these values while exercising your job as a reporter in Italy.

You demonstrated remarkable courage while refusing to bow to threats on your life – even after an attack that left your shoulder damaged. You continue to display extraordinary courage when you bear witness in court against those who have pledged to eliminate you.

Ethics are the road map to fair and strong journalism. They are what differentiates solid reporting in search of the truth from social media rumors and opinions. And we COMMEND you for teaching those values in schools around Italy and Europe. Peter took it as a mandate to mentor the next generation of reporters. He would have liked you very much, he would have been proud of you.

By joining the Peter Mackler family, as my daughter Camille would say, you join a group of remarkable journalists: Faisal Mohamed Salih received the 2013 Award for his work in Sudan under the rule of Omar Al-Bashir, the first president ever to be indicted by the International Criminal Court. Today, Faisal is minister of culture and information in the new government, following the democratic uprising earlier this year.

Zaina Erhaim from Syria was honored in 2015 for her work with citizen reporters who took over the coverage of this terrible conflict when international media had to retreat following kidnappings and murders of foreign journalists. Today, working mostly from Turkey, she remains one of the most vocal advocates for women journalists in a society that does not tolerate them easily.

And Asma Shirazi, the 2014 winner, continues to face up to an amazing amount of harassment and threats for being a TV anchor in Pakistan, a country that does not view women’s participation to the news business kindly.

Perhaps most telling, is the fate of last year’s winner, Jovo Martinovic, from Montenegro, who was unable to join us for the ceremony because his government found his contacts with criminal gangs incriminating. Think of it: a journalist being condemned for talking to criminals, in other words a journalist condemned for doing his job – in a country that is part of NATO and aspires to become a member of the European Union.

Today, Jovo is waging a lonely fight to clear his name and still did not get authorization to travel to this country, to be among us tonight – this time because of the reluctance of the United States to grant him a visa. We stand by him and will help anyway we can.

With the Peter Mackler Award, we have traditionally honored reporters who work in authoritarian countries. But something has changed. Even in democracies, increasingly the free press is under threat from organized criminal networks that seemingly operate with impunity.

The Italian Mafia may be the most famous, but it’s hardly the only crime organization in Europe today that has put reporters’ lives in danger. Because these reporters’ work exposes not only these gangs but also the politicians who protect them. In honoring you, Paolo, we also pay respect to your colleagues in Italy, in the rest of Europe, and in Asia and elsewhere who face danger not just from strong-armed governments, but from ineffective governments that can’t prevent deadly criminals from trying to intimidate the press into silence.