Frank Nyakairu, Uganda
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Tonight, I receive this Knight International Journalism award with overwhelming joy. I believe the best reward for a man's toil is not what he gets—but what he becomes by it. My work for free speech has made me a better journalist – and a more responsible citizen of the world. I would also like to congratulate Aliaksei Karol, a man who has worked so hard to better things on his end—enduring attacks from the Government of Belarus.
These awards come at a moment when journalism has become more independent and responsible. However, this success is countered by huge challenges. With this in mind, I accept this award on behalf of thousands of journalists who risk their lives for free speech and justice.
I see this assembly – a room full of distinguished journalists – as an occasion to remember the purpose of good journalism and why it needs our constant and unwavering commitment.
Consider, what the world would be like without good journalism?
The inherent power of the media has given corrupt and tyrannical governments sleepless nights. We have immense power, Ladies and Gentlemen, to expose evil and cause positive change.
My journey here a few days ago started at the border of Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, where I was reporting for Reuters on the recent violence. The scale of human suffering in the Congo is incomprehensible.
Civilians are dying at the hands of barbarous and greedy warlords. War is the only thing some children have ever known. Pain is a fact of life and misery is a constant companion for hundreds of thousands of people watching their loved ones die in senseless wars.
By now, they think this barbarity – guns, noise, hunger, disease and death – is normal. The question that I often ask myself is: What can I do to change things? I have the answer to my own question. I can tell the truth, no matter the consequences. Doing this powerful job comes with a high price. We journalists are threatened, harassed, and imprisoned. Jails doors are open— waiting for anyone who dares to tell the truth. For many – including myself – the fight has not yet broken our backs. But sadly, others have lost the battle, often paying the highest price with their lives. Please join me in a moment of silence in memory of fellow journalists who have lost their lives in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other dangerous places.
The support we get from each other may be our greatest strength. I, for one, was encouraged by someone in this audience.
In 2001, one of us here tonight published an article called: “Good Journalism is Good Business”. It inspired me by telling me that journalism is all about focus. I have no doubt that the story – by Christiane Amanpour of CNN – is partly the reason I am standing here tonight. Many thanks, Christiane.
Thanks, also, to the International Center for Journalists. You are generous supporters of hard-working and visionary journalism. Your work with journalists helps improve the lives of speechless and defenseless people all over the world.
As we retire tonight, let’s all remember that information is so powerful that hiding or hoarding it can and should be equated to an act of tyranny.
Once again, many thanks for this prestigious award. God Bless you all.