The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has honored four journalists who, as executive director Ann Cooper told the Voice of America, faced dangerous obstacles:
"The kinds of threats sometimes are physical violence, but they are also censorship, an attempt to bomb a newspaper office, jail sentences -- these are things that these journalists live with every single day, and yet, they remain very determined. They believe that it is important for their societies to have independent sources of news, which is why they are willing to take the risks."
The 2003 Press Freedom award winners include Manuel Vázquez Portal of Cuba, who helped establish the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro. Last March, he was arrested and imprisoned when Fidel Castro launched a crackdown on the independent press and the opposition.
Musa Muradov is the editor-in-chief of Chechnya's independent weekly, Groznensky Rabochy. He has been repeatedly harassed and threatened by both Russian federal authorities and Chechen rebels.
Aboubakr Jamai is the publisher of two independent weekly newspapers in Morocco. His newspapers have uncovered government corruption and corporate impropriety.
Abdul Samay Hamed of Afghanistan is an independent writer, publisher, and political cartoonist. In 1998, Mr. Hamed fled Afghanistan’s Taleban regime and went into exile. He returned in early 2002 and started the Association for the Defense of Afghan Writers' Rights and the magazine Telaya. In April, two men armed with knives attacked Mr. Hamed in reprisal for his critical comments about the power of Afghan warlords. When he accepted his award, Mr. Hamed said, “The culture and mentality of democracy are new to Afghanistan. The only guarantee for freedom of expression and pluralism is the courage of individual independent journalists and the support of the international community.”
As Ann Cooper of the Committee to Protect Journalists said, all four recipients of the 2003 Press Freedom Awards are devoted to the fundamental principle that all people have the right to seek, receive, and impart news and information.