World Association of News Publishers

Marcelo Rech's 2016 Golden Pen of Freedom Presentation Speech

Marcelo Rech's 2016 Golden Pen of Freedom Presentation Speech

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"In recognition of Dmitry Muratov's vision and leadership, and in acknowledgement of the courage, determination, and professionalism of those who - at great personal sacrifice - keep this flame of freedom burning and the independence of the press alive in Russia, we stand in appreciation of the work of Novaya Gazeta."

Your excellencies

Dear colleagues from all over the world

Over the past 55 years, the Golden Pen of Freedom has been an award that has grown in importance. Threats to freedom of expression have not only intensified but have also become more sophisticated and subtle. From laws that restrain free exercise of journalism to the repulsive murder of journalists, press freedom is suffering setbacks in many countries.

Fortunately, here in this magical city of Cartagena, in a country that is defeating the political and narco violence, we can freely celebrate this award.

Despite the many ongoing challenges already mentioned by Tomas Brunegard, the press of Colombia has faced particularly tough times in the past. In 2016, one especially tragic event is completing exactly 30 years.

Before we move to present the winner of the Golden Pen of Freedom of this year, I would like to invite you all to watch a video that recalls that moment.

Many Colombian journalists are committed not to letting this crime fall by the wayside and to fighting every day for the value of press freedom.

One of these professionals is here with us: Fidel Cano, editor in chief of El Espectador and nephew of Guillermo and Luis Gabriel Cano.

I would like to invite Fidel to come up here on stage.

Please join me to present this Golden Pen of Freedom.

As in El Espectador, the staff of Novaya Gazeta, from Russia, also knows very closely the violence against its journalists.

WAN-IFRA remains deeply concerned by the deterioration of media freedom seen in Russia over the past decade-and-a-half. The celebrated, yet brief Glasnost, has been swallowed up by the Kremlin and the structures that have come to dominate the country under President Vladimir Putin's tenure.

Throughout his political rise we have seen the importance Putin has placed on controlling the message - at any cost. One of his first acts upon assuming power in 2000 was to take control of the independent TV broadcast.

Perhaps one of Putin's legacies will be to have destablised the conversation just enough so that no one is exactly sure of what is, and what is not fact, truth or deception. Some call it statecraft. For others, it is simply propaganda.

Regardless, the Kremlin is now responsible for having orchestrated growing intolerance of dissenting opinion.

Censorship and self-censorship are reportedly common amongst state media employees, while independent media face heavy restrictions as to what they can, or cannot cover. Independent critics are increasingly harassed and persecuted

Violent attacks have steadily increased. Fifty six journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992. Impunity for the killers stands at nearly 90%.

Given such conditions in a such an oppressive environment, it is a miracle Novaya Gazeta and its editor-in-chief, our Golden Pen of Freedom laureate Dmitry Muratov, still stand.

But then, Novaya Gazeta is no ordinary newspaper. It has been described as a truly critical voice with national influence, known for its in-depth investigations on sensitive issues such as high-level corruption, human rights violations and abuse of power.

In 1993, Dmitry Muratov and some 50 colleagues founded Novaya Gazeta with the goal of creating "an honest, independent, and rich" publication that would influence national policy.

Tragically, Novaya Gazeta has paid the heaviest price for its investigative journalism: seven of its journalists have been killed in retaliation for their work or have died under suspicious circumstances.

Victor Popkov,

Yury Shchekochikhin

Anastasia Baburova,

Stanislav Markelov

and Natalia Estemirova

All lost their lives in the service of the newspaper.

The most prominent casualty was investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who gained international recognition for her independent coverage of Chechnya and the North Caucasus. Almost 10 years ago, she was shot and killed. Those responsible for ordering her killing have never been identified.

Despite the Kremlin's success in marginalising independent reporting and despite the levels of violence and impunity, Novaya Gazeta continues to wield considerable influence with its uniquely uncompromising editorial line.

Its multi-award-winning staff are beloved by liberal intellectuals, open-minded young people, and all those who stand for the newspaper's democratic values.

However, in a 2015 interview,MrMuratov said Novaya Gazeta was hamstrung by a political system that has scared off advertisers, shareholders and investors. He hinted that it might cease publishing in paper form.

Despite the challenges, despite the worsening situation for the independent press and the pressures facing the paper at every turn, thankfully Novaya remains with us.

In recognition of Dmitry Muratov's vision and leadership, and in acknowledgement of the courage, determination, and professionalism of those who - at great personal sacrifice - keep this flame of freedom burning and the independence of the press alive in Russia, we stand in appreciation of the work of Novaya Gazeta.

Sadly, Mr Muratov could not be here in person to accept his award due to a recent medical procedure. We wish him a speedy, and full recovery. In his place, we are delighted to welcome deputy editor Sergei Sokolov, a Novaya Gazeta veteran who has been by Mr Muratov's side since the beginning.

Mr Sokolov, I would like to welcome you on stage, and in the name of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, ask you to accept the 2016 Golden Pen of Freedom on behalf of Dmitry Muratov and Novaya Gazeta.


Hedvig Lundstrom's picture

Hedvig Lundstrom


2016-06-03 11:46

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The Golden Pen of Freedom is WAN-IFRA's annual award recognising individuals or organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom. Read more ...

In countless countries, journalists, editors and publishers are physically attacked, imprisoned, censored, suspended or harassed for their work. WAN-IFRA is committed to defending freedom of expression by promoting a free and independent press around the world. Read more ...

WAN-IFRA provided summaries of all presentations during the Printing Summit 2011 Conference in Mainz, Germany, held on 6 and 7 April. Read more ...