ICFJ Honorees Demonstrate the Power of Reporting the Truth in Challenging Times


Last night, at the ICFJ Tribute to Journalists 2020, we celebrated valiant journalists whose work makes an indelible mark on their communities.

In powerful remarks, the evening’s honorees – Fareed Zakaria of CNN, Roman Anin of Russia, and Lina Attalah of Egypt – underscored the importance of truth-telling in an era rife with disease, disinformation and discord, as world leaders with authoritarian leanings seek to divide communities and nations.

Our remarkable emcee, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, delved into the likely fallout from President Donald Trump’s testing positive for COVID-19 and looked ahead to the post-pandemic era in a special Q&A session with CNN’s Zakaria, who received the ICFJ Founders Award for Excellence in Journalism for a lifetime commitment to the highest professional standards. U.S. and other Western journalists “are now joined in this struggle” with journalists who risk their lives to tell the truth, Zakaria said.

We heard from such journalists who are part of ICFJ's vast network – from Cuba, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, the U.S. and more – in our first ever global awards event. More than two dozen reporters and other supporters “took the stage” for an inspiring virtual event to celebrate outstanding journalism at a time when we need it most.

  • Among the highlights: Zakaria warned about an ominous global trend – that democratically elected leaders are undermining the electoral systems that put them in place. “What we have to ask ourselves is, how do we combat this new form of authoritarianism, which wraps itself in the guise of popularity and populism, wraps itself as the tribune of the people and tries to set people against people by playing a kind of class warfare,” he said. This is diminishing the quality of democracy and the role of the free press, he added, and striking “at the heart of truth itself.” Read more or watch his tribute video and conversation with Blitzer.



  • “When the world goes crazy,” said Russian investigative reporter Anin, those “who believe in the power of the truth and in the right of people to know it can save it from a complete collapse.” Anin founded the investigative reporting site IStories to “tell you about the real heroes who have changed the world around us for the better.” He received ICFJ’s 2020 Knight Trailblazer Award. Watch his tribute video and remarks.



  • Journalists must persevere in “bearing witness in dark times,” said Attalah, co-founder and editor-in-chief of independent news site Mada Masr in Egypt. She leads a team of intrepid reporters who expose high-level corruption amid the country’s crackdown on independent voices. She received the Knight International Journalism Award. Watch her tribute video and remarks
  • Documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, a past winner of the Knight International Journalism Award, presented the “It Takes a Journalist” Network Mosaic. This stunning visual tribute honors ICFJ’s amazing network of international journalists. From providing lifesaving information during a global pandemic to uncovering corrupt government officials, the reporters in our network do important, inspiring and impactful work. Watch the video.
  • CNN correspondent Nima Elbagir presented ICFJ’s salute to embattled Rappler founder Maria Ressa and the #HoldtheLine coalition. Elbagir and Ressa are past winners of the ICFJ Knight International Journalism Award. “The only defense of a journalist,” Ressa said, ‘is to keep doing what we do: telling stories.” Watch the video.
  • Reporters highlighted how ICFJ is giving them the tools they need to cover COVID-19 and deliver stories that can save lives. More than 8,500 journalists have connected with health experts and one another through our pandemic reporting forum. And they singled out the International Journalists’ Network (IJNet), which has produced more than 630 resources, in eight languages, to help reporters better cover the health crisis. Learn more.

Our pre-show, hosted by entertainment reporter Joi-Marie McKenzie Lewis, included a live drawing by New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly, a tutorial from spirits and cocktail expert Derek Brown, and highlights from our stunning photo auction sponsored by National Geographic.

You can watch the full show here.

We are deeply grateful to everyone who made a donation or purchased a photo in our auction. Your contributions support ICFJ programs that empower this unparalleled global network of journalists. And it is not too late to donate! Our work is more needed than ever, so please consider making a contribution.

And thank you for joining us for this special tribute to outstanding journalists.

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