Journalists from Tanzania, Brazil, India and Nicaragua win 2019 International Press Freedom Awards Updated for 2021

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Updated: March 6, 2021

The Committee to Protect Journalists and press freedom supporters from around the world celebrated journalists from Brazil, India, Nicaragua, and Tanzania last night at the 29th annual International Press Freedom Awards in New York. CPJ presented the 2019 Gwen Ifill Award to veteran Pakistani journalist, Zaffar Abbas.

CPJ 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Lester Holt speaks at CPJ's 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Credit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ
CPJ 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Lester Holt speaks at CPJ’s 2019 International Pess Freedom AwardsCredit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ

All the honorees work in developing democracies that have experienced a deterioration in their respective press freedom environments, and they have had to fight in the face of censorship and threats to bring stories and information to their communities. Earlier this week, the awardees met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to raise concerns about threats to press freedom around the globe, including rhetoric about “fake news” from leaders in their countries.

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CPJ's 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 21: Laurene Powell Jobs speaks onstage at the Committee to Protect Journalists' 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 21: Laurene Powell Jobs speaks onstage at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

“This is the 29th CPJ gala. Some of you were here at the first one. You knew then that a free press is the underpinning of democracy, and that it cannot be taken for granted,” said veteran U.S. journalist and IPFA host Shep Smith. “If the events of the past decade have shown us anything it is that independent journalism is more necessary than ever.”

CPJ2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Kati Marton and Joel Simon at CPJ's 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Photo Credit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ
CPJ2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Kati Marton and Joel Simon at CPJ’s 2019 International Pess Freedom AwardsPhoto Credit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ

A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, presented the award to Lucía Pineda Ubau, news director of 100% Noticias, and Miguel Mora, the outlet’s founder and director, who were freed on June 11 after six months behind bars in Nicaragua. Miami Herald investigative reporter Julie K. Brown–who earlier this year broke stories on Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking–presented the award to freelance investigative journalist Neha Dixit, who has also reported on sex trafficking scandals in India. 

CPJ 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Shep Smith, host of CPJ's 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Credit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ
CPJ 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Shep Smith, host of CPJ’s 2019 International Pess Freedom AwardsCredit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ

Maxence Melo Mubyazi, a champion of online freedom of expression in Tanzania, was presented with his award by veteran journalist and former CPJ board chair Sandra Mims Rowe. Folha de S. Paulo reporter Patrícia Campos Mello received her award from Colombian journalist and CPJ board member Maria Teresa Ronderos, who is founding a Latin American cross-border investigative reporting center.

CPJ's 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Shep Smith, Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora Credit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ
CPJ’s 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Shep Smith, Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel MoraCredit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ

Zaffar Abbas, editor of the Pakistani daily Dawn, was presented with the 2019 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award by Lester Holt, anchor of “NBC Nightly News” and “Dateline NBC” and a CPJ board member.

CPJ 2019 International Press Freedom Awards Joel Simon, Zaffar Abbas, Patrícia Campos Mello, Maxence Melo Mubyazi, Shep Smith Lucía Pineda Ubau, Miguel Mora, Neha Dixit and Kathleen Carroll Credit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ
CPJ 2019 International Press Freedom Awards Joel Simon, Zaffar Abbas, Patrícia Campos Mello, Maxence Melo Mubyazi, Shep Smith Lucía Pineda Ubau, Miguel Mora, Neha Dixit and Kathleen CarrollCredit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ

The award is named in honor of the late journalist and CPJ board member Gwen Ifill, and is presented annually to an individual who has shown extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.

CPJ's 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 21: Awardee Maxence Melo Mubyazi speaks onstage at the Committee to Protect Journalists' 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 21: Awardee Maxence Melo Mubyazi speaks onstage at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

“Today, the U.S. media is under pressure from another leader who disparages and undermines journalists at every turn. As our honorees have affirmed, that rhetoric is empowering autocratic leaders around the world who are cracking down with greater ferocity,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “And so the question arises, how should journalists respond to this pressure? If the past is any indication, they should go out and report the news as they see fit. They—you—should report the news with fairness, accuracy, integrity, and rigor.”

CPJ's 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 21: Julie K. Brown (L) and awardee Neha Dixit onstage at the Committee to Protect Journalists' 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 21: Julie K. Brown (L) and awardee Neha Dixit onstage at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

At an emotional point early in the evening, the room gave a standing ovation to Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who attended the event. The two were released earlier this year after spending more than 500 days behind bars in Myanmar for their reporting.

CPJ's 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 21: Awardee Patrícia Campos Mello speaks onstage at the Committee to Protect Journalists' 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 21: Awardee Patrícia Campos Mello speaks onstage at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 29th Annual International Press Freedom Awards on November 21, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

The event, held at the Grand Hyatt New York, raised nearly $2.7 million, with support from the evening’s dinner chairs, the Emerson Collective’s Laurene Powell Jobs and Peter Lattman. The evening also included an appeal matched by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Kicking off the appeal, host Smith announced that he would personally donate $500,000 to CPJ.

CPJ 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards A.G. Sulzberger speaks at CPJ's 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards Credit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ
CPJ 2019 International Pess Freedom Awards A.G. Sulzberger speaks at CPJ’s 2019 International Pess Freedom AwardsCredit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ

During the night, CPJ also collected messages of support for imprisoned journalist and 2012 awardee Azimjon Askarov of Kyrgyzstan, which will be delivered to him in prison. Supporters can also fill out a message to Askarov on CPJ’s website to show their solidarity.

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CPJ 2019 International Press Freedom Awards Patrícia Campos Mello, Maxence Melo Mubyazi, Shep Smith Lucía Pineda Ubau, Miguel Mora, and Neha Dixit Credit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ
CPJ 2019 International Press Freedom Awards Patrícia Campos Mello, Maxence Melo Mubyazi, Shep Smith Lucía Pineda Ubau, Miguel Mora, and Neha DixitCredit: Barbara Nitke/CPJ
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