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Pakistani journalist to receive 2011 Tully Free Speech Award

April 05, 2011

Liz Woolery
(315) 443-7353

Pakistani journalist and investigative reporter Umar Cheema is the 2011 recipient of the Tully Free Speech Award from the Newhouse School’s Tully Center for Free Speech. The award is given annually to a journalist who has faced obstacles to free speech.

A discussion and awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, April 14, at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse 3. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in SU pay lots. Cheema will also visit classes during his visit to campus the week of the event.

CheemaCheema is an investigative journalist with The News, a daily newspaper based in Karachi, Pakistan. As a special investigative correspondent, Cheema’s work for the paper centers on national security affairs, corruption, governance, politics and social justice. Cheema has characterized his reporting as “critical towards the ruling elite regarding their corruption, mal-governance and also about the army and intelligence agencies.”

In his work as an investigative journalist, Cheema has faced significant threats. Hostile attitudes toward reporters and members of the media have led to Pakistan’s reputation as the “world’s deadline country for the press in 2010,” as ranked by the Committee to Protect Journalists. In 2010, eight journalists in the country were killed in connection with their work.

Cheema has faced these risks first hand. After writing a series of stories on lack of accountability within the military, governmental misconduct and inefficiencies on the part of intelligence agencies, Cheema was abducted in the early morning hours of Sept. 4, 2010. He was stripped naked, forced to lie with his face on the ground, blindfolded, handcuffed and beaten with a length of leather and a wooden rod. The men who tortured Cheema told him the violence was a consequence of his work as a journalist, and that if he continued to report, he would again be abducted.

Cheema’s work as a journalist has earned him accolades around the world. He was a Daniel Pearl Fellow with The New York Times, worked with The Times’ Washington Bureau, lectured at Columbia University and the Los Angeles Press Club, and served as secretary general of the Islamabad chapter of the South Asia Free Media Association.

He received his master of science in comparative politics (conflict studies) from the London School of Economics and a master of arts in mass communication from Punjab University. Additionally, he taught investigative journalism at the National University of Modern Languages in Pakistan.

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