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Winners of the 2005 Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France Prize

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is a 7 December 2005 RSF press release:

Winners of the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France Prize

The 2005 Prize goes to:

Journalists who, through their work, attitude or principled stands, have shown a strong commitment to press freedom

The winner is Chinese journalist Zhao Yan, a Beijing researcher for the US daily the New York Times and ex-reporter for the magazine China Reform. He has been imprisoned since 17 September 2004 in Beijing, for supposed fraud and disclosing of state secrets. The 43-year-old journalist faces execution for allegedly passing on notes to a New York Times colleague about rumours of tension between the current and former Chinese presidents. The authorities keep putting off his trial.

A media outlet that exemplifies the battle for the right to inform the public and to be informed

The winner is Afghanistan's main privately-owned TV station, Tolo TV. It was founded by an Afghan-Australian media group, Moby Capital Partners, and broadcasts very independent news programmes (and also music) that contrast with the dry style of the government TV station. Since Tolo's October 2004 launch, the religious authorities have called its programmes "immoral and anti-Islamic" and are pressing very hard for the station to be banned. Despite these threats, Tolo TV continues and has just started the first talk-show for Afghan women, called "Bonu."

A defender of press freedom

The winner is the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ, formerly SOJON), founded in Mogadishu in 2002 to defend journalists and press freedom in Somalia, which has been torn apart by civil war since 1991. The NUSOJ has tackled dozens of urgent cases, doing investigations and alerting international organisations and media, as well as writing reports on the media conditions in a country ruled by warlords. Its secretary-general and the president of its supreme council were forced to flee Somalia in early September 2005 after being attacked, hounded and threatened by militiamen.

A cyber-dissident prevented from informing the public online

The winner is Massoud Hamid, a 29-year-old journalism student and one of the very few journalists who has managed to take and send abroad photographs of a pro-Kurdish demonstration in Syria. For this he was sent to prison for three years on 10 October 2004 and has spent the first year in solitary confinement. He was tortured several times and beaten on the soles of his feet with a studded whip. His feet are now completely paralysed and he suffers from dizziness and back pain.

By honouring a journalist, a media outlet, a defender of press freedom and a cyber-dissident, Reporters Without Borders and the Fondation de France are alerting people to the wide range of attacks on the right to inform the public and to be informed and to the need to actively support press freedom. Each prize is worth 2,500 Euros.

Since it was set up, the Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France Prize has been awarded to: Zlatko Dizdarevic (Bosnia-Herzegovina - 1992), Wang Juntao (China - 1993), André Sibomana (Rwanda - 1994), Christina Anyanwu (Nigeria - 1995), Isik Yurtçu (Turkey - 1996), Raúl Rivero (Cuba - 1997), Nizar Nayyouf (Syria - 1998), San San Nweh (Burma - 1999), Carmen Gurruchaga (Spain - 2000), Reza Alijani (Iran - 2001), Grigory Pasko (Russia - 2002), Ali Lmrabet (Morocco - 2003) and Hafnaoui Ghoul (Algeria - 2004).

Several winners of the prize have been released just a few weeks or months after being awarded it, including Lmrabet (who won on 10 December 2003 and was freed on 7 January 2004), Pasko (won in December 2002 and released the following month), and San San Nweh (won in December 1999 and freed in 2001).

The prize is awarded by an international jury, whose members are:

Ekram Shinwari (Afghanistan), Andrew Graham-Yooll (Argentina), Rubina Möhring (Austria), Nayeem Islam Khan (Bangladesh), Zhanna Litvina (Belarus), Olivier Basille (Belgium), Colette Braeckman (Belgium), Maung Maung Myint (Burma), Sebastião Salgado (Brazil), Carlos Cortes Castillo (Colombia), Miriam Leiva (Cuba), M'Baya Tshimanga (Democratic Republic of Congo), Domenico Amha-Tsion (Eritrea), Francis Charhon (France), Noël Copin (France), Laurent Joffrin (France), Elise Lucet (France), Pierre Veilletet (France), Sabine Christiansen (Germany), Michael Rediske (Germany), Sailab Mahsud (Pakistan), Ricardo Uceda (Peru), Micea Toma (Romania), Alexey Simonov (Russia), Fernando Castelló (Spain), Maria Dolores Masana Argüelles (Spain), Vicente Verdu (Spain), Eva Elmsater (Sweden), George Gordon-Lennox (Switzerland), Gérald Sapey (Switzerland), Sihem Bensedrine (Tunisia), Barbara Crossette (United States), Ben Ami Fihman (Venezuela).

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