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The 16th Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France prize awarded today in Paris

Eritrean journalist Seyoum Tsehaye has been chosen as “Journalist of the Year 2007” by Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France. The panel of judges sought to highlight not only the case of this brave journalist held in Eritrea’s appalling jails since September 2001 but also the catastrophic state of press freedom in this small Horn of Africa country. At least four journalists have died in prison in Eritrea over the last few years. The blame lies chiefly at the door of Issaias Afeworki, the highly authoritarian and obdurate president of the country since its independence in 1993.

Demonstrations by Buddhist monks and the crackdown that followed put Burma at the top of the news agenda at the end of September. Reporters Without Borders and the Fondation de France decided to award the prize in the Media category to the Democratic Voice of Burma TV and radio, one of the most reliable sources of news during the crisis in Burma.

The Arab world features in two of the awards this year. ““The Journalistic Freedom Observatory in Iraq, was rewarded with the prize of Press Freedom Defender for its vital role in exposing violence and murder against journalists. And the young Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer is the laureate in the Cyber-dissident category. The 23-year-old was sentenced to four years in jail for criticism posted on his blog of President Hosni Mubarak and of the Islamist grip on the country’s universities.

Finally, with just a few months to go before the opening of the Beijing Olympics, Reporters Without Borders has awarded a special "China" prize to husband-and-wife human rights team Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan, who are under house arrest. Holed up at home the two activists nevertheless continue to do their best to keep the entire world up to date with damaging effects on the Chinese people of the preparations for the Olympic Games.

The Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France prize has been awarded since 1992

In rewarding a journalist, a media, a press freedom defender and a cyber-dissident, Reporters Without Borders and the Fondation de France alert public opinion to the full extent of violations of the right to inform the public and to be informed and the importance of commitment to press freedom. Each prize is worth 2,500 Euros.

Since it was founded, 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 (Buma - 1999), Carmen Gurruchaga (Spain - 2000), Reza Alijani (Iran - 2001), Grigory Pasko (Russia - 2002), Ali Lmrabet (Morocco - 2003), Hafnaoui Ghoul (Algeria - 2004), Zhao Yan (China - 2005) and U Win Tin (Burma - 2006).

Several laureates have been released, just a few weeks or a few months after receiving the prize. Among them, Moroccan journalist Ali Lmrabet, awarded his prize on 10 December 2003 and released on 7 January 2004 and Russian journalist Grigory Pasko, laureate in December 2002 who was released in January 2003. Syrian Massud Hamid, prize winner in 2005 in the “cyber-dissident” category, was released in July 2006.

The Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France prize is awarded by a 35-strong panel of international judges. They are: Ekram Shinwari (Afghanistan), Sabine Christiansen (Germany), Michael Rediske (Germany), Rubina Möhring (Austria), Nayeem Islam Khan (Bangladesh), Zhanna Litvina (Belarus), Olivier Basille (Belgium), Colette Braeckman (Belgium), Maung Maung Myint (Burma), François Bugingo (Canada), Carlos Cortes Castillo (Colombia), Miriam Leiva (Cuba), Fernando Castelló (Spain), Maria Dolores Masana Argüelles (Spain), Vicente Verdu (Spain), Domenico Amha-Tsion (Eritrea), Ethan Zuckerman (United States), Francis Charhon (France), Laurent Joffrin (France), Elise Lucet (France), Pierre Veilletet (France), Mimmo Candito (Italy), Sailab Mahsud (Pakistan), Ricardo Uceda (Peru), Michel Kik (Lebanon), Donat M’Baya Tshimanga (Democratic Republic of Congo), Mircea Toma (Romania), Alexey Simonov (Russia), Gunnel Werner (Sweden), Omar Faruk Osman (Somalia), George Gordon-Lennox (Switzerland), Gérald Sapey (Switzerland), Sihem Bensedrine (Tunisia), Ben Ami Fihman (Venezuela) and Roslana Taukina (Kazakhstan).

Further information about the laureates of the 2007 16th Reporters Without Borders - Fondation de France prize

JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR, who through their work, attitude and principled stands have shown a strong commitment to freedom of information.

The laureate is the Eritrean Seyoum Tsehaye. Now 54, Seyoum Tsehaye began his career in journalism in the mountains alongside the separatist guerrillas of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). After independence, he became head of national television and then of the radio, before resigning in protest at the authoritarian direction taken by his former companion in arms, President Issaias Afeworki. He then began to work for the irreverent privately-owned press which widely proclaimed its democratic demands, following the second war with Ethiopia (1998-2000). He was arrested in the street on 21 September 2001, the first day of a major round-up and imprisonment of reformers within the sole party, the best known journalists and all those who demonstrated their opposition to the iron rule of the head of state. There are concerns about his state of health. It is not known where he is being held. He has never been allowed a family visit or a lawyer and has never been charged or appeared before a court.

The other 2007 nominations in this category were for Iqbal Athas (Sri Lanka), Hollman Morris (Colombia) and Jila Baniyaghoob (Iran).

A MEDIA that exemplifies the battle for the right to inform the public and be informed.

The prize is awarded to the Democratic Voice of Burma. Founded in 1992 by a group of pro-democracy students who escaped the 1988 massacres, the Norwegian-based TV and radio is one of the rare media that managed to send out images of the crackdown on the demonstrations in September 2007. Using a network of journalists working in secret, the DVB enraged the generals in Rangoon who are used to exercising tight control over news put out by the media.

The other 2007 nominations in the category were for Echo of Moscow (Russia), Agos (Turkey), Umuseso (Rwanda) and Tu do Ngon Luan (Vietnam).

A Press freedom defender

This prize goes to the Journalistic Freedom Observatory (JFO) in Iraq. This body was set up in 2004, after numerous journalists were imprisoned and maltreated by the Iraqi security forces. The founding members of JFO had mostly themselves been the victim of police brutality and decided to join forces to help imprisoned journaists. This organisation has within a few years become one of the most reliable sources of information about press freedom violations in Iraq.

The other 2007 nominations in this category were for the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety (Azerbaijan), Abraji (Brazil) and Beatrice Mtetwa (Zimbabwe).

A CYBER-DISSIDENT prevented from informing the public online

The prize is awarded to Kareem Amer (Egypt). “One year has gone past and I am still deprived of my freedom. The pain of the experience has taught me that no feeling is as bad as that of injustice”, the young blogger Kareem Amer wrote from his prison cell, in September 2007. Abdel Kareem Nabil Suleiman, 23, better known as Kareem Amer, was sentenced to four years in prison for criticizing the authoritarian tendencies of President Hosni Moubarak and condemning the running of the Sunnite university of al-Azhar, where he was studying law.

The other 2007 nominations in this category were Nguyen Van Dai (Vietnam), Roger Santodomingo (Venezuela) and Yang Zili (China).

Special prize China, eight months ahead of the opening of the Olympic Games

This special prize was awarded to an activist couple, Hu Jia and Zeng Jinyan. They find practically no public support in the country but do not give up for all that. “Sometimes we go out in the street, wearing t-shirts printed with “Under surveillance’ or ‘Freedom of expression’ but the police force us to go home”. What they want is for the government to make major changes before the opening of the Olympic Games, including releasing all those jailed for expressing themselves freely.

Download the press pack in English : :

PDF - 4.7 Mb

Download Seyoum Tsehaye’s picture:

JPEG - 41.2 kb

Download the logo of the Journalist Freedom observatory (Iraq)

JPEG - 59 kb


Download the logo of Democratic Voice of Burma:

JPEG - 907.8 kb

Download Kareem Amer’s picture :

JPEG - 185.9 kb

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2005 progress Report
I. The state of press freedom worldwide in 2007
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