The Committee to Protect Journalists said it will honor four courageous journalists from Belarus, Guatemala, Mozambique, and Myanmar with the 2021 International Press Freedom Awards.

The press freedom group noted that all four journalists reported during a historically turbulent time, covered protests and political upheaval in their countries.

“In the midst of a battle over the control of information, these journalists are on the side of the people, covering events, informing communities, and ensuring accountability,” CPJ executive director, Joel Simon, said.

“They have paid a price, confronting violence, harassment, repression, and persecution but refusing to back down. We honor their commitment and sacrifice and look forward to celebrating their courage, alongside all those who stand firm for press freedom and independent journalism.”

According to a statement released by CPJ Monday, the awardees include Belarusian Katsiaryna Barysevich, a staff correspondent for the influential Belarusian news outlet; Guatemalan Anastasia Mejía, a radio journalist based in Joyabaj; Mozambican Matías Guente, the executive editor of Canal de Moçambique, an independent weekly investigative newspaper, and its daily digital publication CanalMoz; and Burmese Aye Chan Naing, co-founder, chief editor, and executive director of the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).

The quartet will be honoured on November 18, 2021, at CPJ’s annual awards ceremony, a gala that will be both virtual and in-person.

The event will be chaired by the president of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker, and hosted by ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir.

PREMIUM TIMES publisher, Dapo Olorunyomi, was among the four winners of the prestigious award in the last edition of the event.

About the awardees

Katsiaryna Barysevich (Belarus): In 2020, Barysevich was reporting on pro-democracy protests in the country and published a story about a protester allegedly killed by law enforcement, contradicting authorities’ official statements. As a result, she spent six months behind bars and faced fines. Her colleagues at continue to face detentions and harassment.

Anastasia Mejía (Guatemala): She co-founded Xolabaj Radio and Xolabaj TV to cover issues of importance for the local community, particularly topics of concern to Indigenous women. In September 2020, police arrested Mejía on criminal charges connected to her coverage of local demonstrations, and she was held in pretrial detention for five weeks before being released on house arrest. Today, her journalistic work is severely restricted.

Matías Guente (Mozambique): Over the years, he has faced a myriad of threats for his hard-hitting reporting, including police interrogations, charges of violation of state secrecy and conspiracy against the state, and an attempted kidnapping in 2019. In 2020, unidentified individuals set the outlet’s offices ablaze.

Aye Chan Naing (Myanmar): As a pioneer in Myanmar’s exile media movement starting in the 1990s, he led DVB’s transition from exile-based to in-country operations in 2012, despite continued harassment from the government. In 2021, multiple DVB journalists were arrested or detained amid a harsh crackdown on media and civil society following the military junta’s takeover in February.


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