Russian journalist receives Peter Mackler award

23rd October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russian journalist Ilya Barabanov praised the dozens of colleagues who have lost their lives over the past decade as he accepted the Peter Mackler Award for courageous journalism here Friday.

"Today standing here at this podium I would like to call upon you to pay attention to all of these cases," Barabanov, deputy editor of Novoye Vremya (New Times), said in an acceptance speech at the National Press Club.

"It is the reality of Russia now that independent media outlets are not able to feel safe," he said. "But that's not really news to any journalist working in countries with authoritarian regimes."

Barabanov, 24, was honored for his work exposing official corruption by the US branch of Reporters Without Borders and Global Media Forum, a journalism training company founded by Mackler, an AFP journalist who died two years ago.

Barabanov said that at New Times, "we try not to take sides and attempt to be equally critical of both the representatives of the ruling elite and to those who call themselves political opponents of the regime.

"Over the past 10 years an unhelpful notion has developed that any media outlet in Russia which allows itself to write about politics without adjusting its position to that of the Kremlin is by definition in opposition," he said.

"I don't want to seem like I'm complaining," Barabanov added.

"My colleagues and I get sheer pleasure from the opportunity to practice investigative journalism in Russia despite the fact that the nature of our jobs presents certain difficulties."

Barabanov is the second winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism.

Last year's winner, Sri Lanka's J.S. Tissainayagam, was also at Friday's ceremony after being unable to personally accept his award last year because he had just begun serving a 20-year prison sentence.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse granted a pardon in May to Tissainayagam, who has written extensively about the plight of Sri Lanka's minority Tamils during the country's civil war.

Tissainayagam said receiving an honor like the Peter Mackler Award provides "solace and encouragement" to journalists working in difficult situations.

"It shines a spotlights on the issues they have been reporting," he said.

Clothilde Le Coz, the US director for Reporters Without Borders, welcomed Tissainayagam's release but said "Sri Lanka is still a very dangerous place for reporters."

"And Russia is one of the world's most dangerous places for reporters," she added.

The Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism was founded in June 2008 to honor the memory of Mackler, who died of a heart attack that month at the age of 58.

Mackler worked at Agence France-Presse for more than 30 years. He also founded the Global Media Forum, which has helped to train journalists and non-profit organizations to use the media as a tool for social change.

The prize in his memory rewards journalists who fight courageously and ethically to report the news in countries where freedom of the press is either not guaranteed or not recognized.

© 2010 AFP

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