CJFE honours Turkish and Eritrean journalists with 2013 International Press Freedom Awards

TORONTO, Oct. 16, 2013 /CNW/ - Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is proud to recognize Eritrean journalists Dessale Berekhet Abraham, Ruth Zecarias Ghebre and Mebrahtu Teclesion Berhe and Turkish journalist Ahmet Şik as recipients of the 2013 International Press Freedom Awards. The awards will be presented at the 16th annual CJFE Gala, to be held December 4 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto.

These journalists were chosen for their extraordinary courage in continuing to report stories about government corruption and social and gender inequality, despite facing persecution and personal threats.

"Our 2013 honourees have shown tremendous courage in speaking out - they've risked everything: their lives, their reputations and their livelihoods," said Carol Off, Chair, CJFE Gala Committee. "Their stories are very different but they share a dedication to making sure that the voices of ordinary people are heard, not just the government line."

Ahmet Şik (Turkey) is a freelance investigative journalist whose work focuses on corruption within the Turkish government, primarily within the police and judiciary. As a result of his work, which includes three books, he has been censored and jailed. His work is highly critical of government officials, pointing to connections between illegal organizations and the military, and the increasing prominence and influence of the Gülen Movement. Şik is considered by many to be one of Turkey's best investigative journalists and he has won several awards for both his written work and his photography. Most recently, Şik was attacked by police during the Occupy Gezi protests.

Dessale Berekhet Abraham, Ruth Zecarias Ghebre and Mebrahtu Teclesion Berhe (Eritrea) worked in what is widely considered to be one of the most censored countries in the world. Dessale, a veteran print and radio journalist, was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by state officials in the country's most notorious prison Wi'A. Mebrahtu, an investigative reporter with the major Eritrean magazine Hidri, was imprisoned and tortured over several years in response to his research on the detention of students in military camps and coverage of women's issues. Ruth, a broadcast and magazine journalist who is also a member of Eritrea's Pentecostal Christian minority, became the target of workplace sexual harassment and abuse, faith-based persecution and threats of imprisonment after she produced stories on gender inequality and Eritrea's economic struggles. All three journalists were forced to flee to Uganda where they have continued their work as journalists - creating Unitevoices Media Centre, a web-based press freedom initiative aimed at providing a hub for unbiased reporting on political and social issues in Eritrea.

The CJFE Gala is made possible by the valued support of Scotiabank, CTV News, CBC News, Toronto Star and Henry's, along with many other organizations and individuals in the media, legal, academic and business communities.

About CJFE:
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) monitors, defends and reports on free expression and access to information in Canada and abroad. Rooted in the field of journalism, we promote a free media as essential to a fair and open society. CJFE boldly champions the free expression rights of all people, and encourages and supports individuals and groups in the protection of their own and others' free expression rights.

Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #cjfegala.

SOURCE: Canadian Journalists for Free Expression

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Jeri Brown / Maria Cortellucci
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