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Newhouse School announces nominees for Tully Free Speech Award

October 06, 2009

Wendy S. Loughlin
(315) 443-2785

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

Nominees are:

  • David Ashenfelter, reporter with the Detroit Free Press: Ashenfelter refused to name government sources for an article he wrote in 2004 revealing that a federal prosecutor was under investigation for suspected misconduct. He cited his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and First Amendment right to protect his sources, but still faces possible jail time for his actions.
  • Suzanne Breen, Northern Ireland editor of Dublin’s Sunday Tribune: Following publication of her stories about the shooting of two soldiers, Breen was contacted by a member of the Real IRA who claimed responsibility for the shooting. After she resisted a court order to surrender her reporting materials, she faced up to five years in prison under the Terrorism Act of 2000, while at the same time dealt with threats from the Real IRA, who warned they would kill her if she cooperated with authorities. Eventually, the Belfast Laganside Court upheld Breen’s right to keep her sources secret and also held that her reporting material was exempt from disclosure under the Terrorism Act.
  • Lydia Cacho, journalist, author and human rights activist: Cacho’s 2005 book, “The Demons of Eden,” exposed a Mexican child pornography ring operating with protection by politicians and the government. Following its publication, she was detained, harassed and tortured, but she continued to write about sexual exploitation of children, violence against women and corruption. She has recently faced harassment by unknown armed officials near her home and death threats via her blog.
  • Euna Lee and Laura Ling, journalists with Current TV: While reporting from China on human trafficking of North Koreans, Lee and Ling were brought to a border river between China and North Korea to see a frequently used smuggling route. They were seized by North Korean soldiers and held for 140 days. During that time, they were put on trial for spying and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. Former President Bill Clinton personally visited North Korea to secure their release after nearly five months of imprisonment.
  • Toni Locy, former USA Today reporter, currently on the faculty at Washington & Lee University: After covering an investigation into Army scientist Stephen Hatfill’s possible link to the 2001 anthrax attacks, Locy was held in contempt of court for refusing to name her confidential sources and was fined up to $5,000 a day. An appeals court later blocked the fine. Though Hatfill eventually settled and the contempt order and fines were dismissed, Hatfill has threatened to sue Locy for part of his legal costs.
  • Jeremy Murphy, English teacher at West Fargo High School in North Dakota: Murphy, advisor to the school’s student newspaper, refused to act as a censor and stood up to administrators who wanted to soften the paper’s coverage of teacher morale and a controversial block scheduling policy. He was subsequently relieved of his duties as the paper’s advisor.
  • He Qinglian, journalist, author and economist: He’s articles and books identifying problems with the governmental structure of China and calling for political reform resulted in harassment by the government and eventually forced her to flee China in 2001. Her books include “Media Control in China” and “The Pitfalls of Modernization.”
  • Roxana Saberi, journalist: Saberi, an American of Iranian and Japanese descent, moved to Iran and worked as a reporter for NPR, the BBC and other news organizations. She was arrested by the Iranian government in April 2009, charged with espionage and sentenced to an eight-year prison term. An appeals court reduced the charge to possessing classified information (a charge she denied) and reduced her term to a two-year suspended sentence. She was released in May.
  • Jorge Luis Sierra, investigative reporter and editor: A Mexican based at the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, Sierra reports on a range of conflict-related topics such as drug trafficking, organized crime, counterinsurgency, gangs and immigration.
  • Robert Stevens, author and videographer: Stevens, who sold videos through his business, Dogs of Velvet and Steel, was charged with violating interstate commerce laws by selling depictions of hunting and animal cruelty and sentenced to 37 months in prison. Stevens appealed the ruling as a violation of his free speech rights. His case went to the Supreme Court and will be heard Oct. 6.

Nominees were selected by a distinguished panel of professionals, including Charles N. Davis, associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition; Tala Dowlatshahi, senior advisor and spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders; David Horowitz, executive director of Media Coalition; and Jane Kirtley, professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The winner will be chosen later this fall by a committee of SU students and faculty.

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

For more information, contact Barbara Fought at (315) 443-4054 or

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