Amanpour: “Strong and Vital” Societies need “Free and Rigorous” Journalism

Nov 22011

Veteran foreign correspondent and television anchor Christiane Amanpour said that no country can be strong without the “amazing profession” of journalism.

“There is no such thing as a strong and vital and great society without a strong and free and rigorous press that reports the truth without fear or favor,” she said in remarks at the International Center for Journalists’ Annual Awards Dinner. Amanpour, a seasoned foreign correspondent and host of ABC’s Sunday morning talk show “This Week,” received ICFJ’s Founders Award for Excellence in Journalism for her distinguished career.

Amanpour said journalists must put their lives on the line to uncover the truth and that a leading cause of death for journalists is murder.

“We die mostly because people want to kill us,” she said. “They want to shut up the truth. They don’t want to hear it. So it takes a special kind of commitment to keep doing this work. It’s really vital.”

When asked by emcees Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC about the most moving story she had covered this year, she said: “It has to be the Arab Spring. I’ve seen revolution. Seen what can go wrong. We’ve always said ‘where are the young voices? And here were all these people, who spontaneously came out. Not because they were urged by the United States, but they believed in the depths of their hearts. They said, ‘Here we are. We’re trying to get our freedom. So help us.’”

“I get very moved by these historic human movements,” she added. “When you see people who have been oppressed all their lives and they have this hope, this vision that something is going to change. They see their dictator no longer able to act with impunity. There’s something deeply moving about that. We’re all the same. What I want, what they want in Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, everywhere, it’s the same.”

On the state of U.S. television news and its coverage of international events, she said Americans need more coverage because “America is now inextricably linked to the rest of the world.” She said, “America is not a fortress anymore. America is 100 percent globalized… So it stands to reason there should be a lot more news about the rest of the world. You can’t just amputate half your body. You need that information.”

She praised ICFJ’s other honorees, two Mexican reporters who cover drug-related violence along the U.S. border, and a Cambodian filmmaker who spent a decade chronicling the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. She also lauded the work of ICFJ, saying “What ICFJ does is unbelievable. Teaching people the tools to recognize what it means to be a reporter. Not just writing a story. But teaching what governance means. What it means to build a thriving democracy.”

In honor of Amanpour, ICFJ announced the Christiane Amanpour Award for Religion Reporting. The award will recognize a journalist in 2012 who has produced the most enlightening coverage of religious issues. ICFJ has a long tradition of bringing together journalists of different cultures and religions to improve coverage and understanding.