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Newhouse School announces finalists for Tully Center Free Speech Award

December 12, 2008

Wendy S. Loughlin
(315) 443-2785

Wendy S. Loughlin

The Tully Center for Free Speech, part of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, has announced five finalists for the Tully Center Free Speech Award, which is given annually to a journalist who has faced obstacles to free speech.

Tully Center"It is sad that so many journalists, both in the U.S. and around the world, are encountering obstacles to reporting freely," says Barbara Croll Fought, director of the Tully Center. "We had an amazing pool of nominees, all deserving of the award because of the struggles they have faced."

Finalists include:

Iqbal Athas, consultant editor and defense correspondent, The Sunday Times (Sri Lanka).  Athas has faced intimidation and threats as a result of his coverage of defense issues relating to the Sri Lankan government. His 2007 article investigating irregularities surrounding a deal to purchase fighter jets from the Ukraine resulted in threats, harassment and a mob of protesters gathered outside his house-as well as an abrupt withdrawal of his government security detail, which had been assigned after previous threats to his life. In 1998, armed military men broke into his home and threatened him and his family with guns. He lives in isolation and travels only with guards.

Barry Bearak, co-Southern Africa bureau chief, The New York Times (United States). Earlier this year, Bearak was arrested "for committing journalism" as part of a raid on a Harare, Zimbabwe, hotel frequented by foreign journalists. The raid appeared to be a crackdown by government forces after an election that undermined President Robert Mugabe. He was eventually allowed to leave Zimbabwe, escaping before authorities could re-arrest him.

Frank Chikowore, correspondent, Voice of America (Zimbabwe). Chikowore has endured ongoing harassment and imprisonment as the result of his coverage of the elections in Zimbabwe. Last April, he was arrested while covering a protest organized by the opposition group Movement for Democratic Change, which was demanding the release of election results. Held for days without bail and without charges being filed, he was finally charged with "public violence" and released on bail. He also runs a popular blog that provided critical coverage of the presidential election and its aftermath, but the government has placed tight restrictions on it.

Ibrahim Issa, editor, Al-Dustour (Egypt). Issa has faced relentless legal persecution as the result of his paper's criticisms of the Egyptian government. His paper, Al-Dustour, was twice shut down by the government. Eight cases are currently pending against him in the courts, most filed by members of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's ruling Democratic Party. In September, he was sentenced to two months in prison after publishing articles that questioned Mubarak's health. He was later pardoned by the president.

Eynulla Fatulayev, editor, Realny Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan). Fatulayev is currently serving an eight-and-a-half-year sentence for charges of terrorism, incitement of ethnic hatred and tax evasion. An investigation by the Committee to Protect Journalists found that the charges were baseless and motivated by his reporting-specifically, his reporting on the murder of Elmar Huseynov, an independent journalist who was a vocal critic of President Ilham Aliyev's administration.

Other nominees for the award included:

  • Daniel Coronell, columnist, Semana; news director, Canal Uno (Columbia)
  • Amy Goodman, producer, Democracy Now! (United States)
  • Ari Harsin, bureau editor, Awene (Iraqi Kurdistan)
  • Syed Shoaib Hasan, correspondent, BBC (Pakistan)
  • Toni Locy, former reporter, USA Today; professor, Department of Journalism and Mass Communications, Washington and Lee University (United States)
  • Dana Priest, reporter, The Washington Post (United States)
  • James Risen, reporter, The New York Times (United States)

The original slate of nominees was put forth by a distinguished panel of professionals, including Sandy Baron, executive director, Media Law Resource Center; Joan Bertin, executive director, National Coalition Against Censorship; Jane Corbin, correspondent, BBC; Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director, First Amendment Center; and Elisabeth Witchel, program coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists.

Finalists were chosen by a committee of SU students and faculty, including Nikki Allem, Newhouse graduate student and researcher for the Tully Center; Danny Hayes, assistant professor of political science in SU's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; Fought; Joel Kaplan, Newhouse associate dean; and Kristen Putch, a senior in Newhouse and SU's College of Arts and Sciences.

The winner will be announced later this month, with an awards ceremony held at the Tully Center in early 2009.

Endowed by the late Joan Tully '69, the Newhouse School's Tully Center educates students and the public about the important value of free speech through education, resources and research.

For more information, contact Fought at (315) 443-4054 or bcfought@syr.edu.

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