Courageous Investigative Reporters Honored at International Journalism Gala

Nov 82013

Nearly 600 journalists, media professionals and supporters gathered at the International Center for Journalists Awards Dinner in Washington to honor reporters who have risked their lives to tell ground-breaking stories with tremendous impact.

The prestigious Knight International Journalism Awards went to Roman Anin, a Russian investigative reporter who tracked down millions of dollars stolen from the country’s budget, and Umar Cheema, a Pakistani journalist who exposed government corruption despite being brutally tortured.

The winners produced “quality journalism that substantially improves people’s lives,” said Carol Coletta, vice president for community and national initiatives at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as she presented the awards.

Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, received the Excellence in International Reporting Award for his intrepid coverage of revolutions and conflicts in the tumultuous Middle East.

Engel said the widespread digital revolution won’t replace the need for “educated, experienced” reporters. He said the more data that’s out there, the more vital quality journalism becomes. “We cannot give up the fight for press freedom, and we can’t assume the Internet will take care of that for us.”

In Engel’s honor, ICFJ Vice Chair Pamela Howard announced the creation of a new course called Security for Journalists in the Digital Age. The course will help to train journalists across the globe to use new technology to protect themselves from rapidly escalating cyber threats. A manual will also be produced in Arabic.

CNN’s lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer was the event’s master of ceremonies for the second year in a row. The evening’s keynote speaker, Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times, said investing in international reporting is crucial for good governance.

Empowering overseas journalists is vital to overcoming the “fundamental constraints” of foreign coverage, he said. “The reason that ICFJ and local news organizations are so important isn’t just because of solidarity with fellow journalists, but because it’s…the most cost-effective and reliable way to bring a measure of civil society and accountability to countries that desperately need it.”

Secretary of State John Kerry praised the award winners as "truth-tellers in a noble cause." In a special video, he called the three honorees “exceptional” journalists who demonstrate “that special brand of courage in reporting."

Now in its 29th year, “ICFJ runs more innovative programs than ever in our history and they’re having huge impact,” said President Joyce Barnathan. “We help journalists use the latest digital tools to keep their communities informed while upholding the highest professional standards.”