Women Journalists Take Center Stage At The 2017 Courage In Journalism Awards In Los Angeles
Ceremony honors Deborah Amos, Saniya Toiken, Hadeel al-Yamani, Cindi Leive, and Stephanie Sinclair amid stories of adversity and support
[October 26, 2017, LOS ANGELES] – The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) last night honored a group of extraordinary women journalists who are committed to bringing us truth, regardless of challenge. As attacks against women journalists escalate around the world, local media representatives, press freedom advocates and Hollywood actors gathered at NeueHouse to honor seasoned reporters who persist amid daily threats and fresh faces in journalism who have already proven their tenacity. In their remarks, each honoree insisted that the true heroes are those whose stories they tell.
IWMF’s 2017 winners who were honored at the event included Saniya Toiken, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Kazakhstan who has been harassed, threatened, and scrutinized for covering government corruption and labor issues; Deborah Amos, Middle East Correspondent for NPR News, who has worked on numerous front lines and covered Syria’s violent and protracted crisis; and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Stephanie Sinclair, winner of the 2017 Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award.
“When I am asked why I would risk my life, I can’t offer any simple explanation,” said RFE/RL’s Toiken. “For me, journalism is my life and I can’t change it. I dedicate this award to people who are not afraid to tell the truth.”
Hadeel al-Yamani, the first woman television correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic in Yemen, was recognized in absentia, as she was denied a visa to travel to the U.S. Instead the event featured compelling footage of the journalist telling her story and reporting amid explosions from the front line of the Yemeni civil war. Her story also has been picked up by outlets such as Huffington Post and MSNBC.
The Boyle Heights Beat, a bilingual community newspaper written and produced by high school student reporters, received the 2017 Los Angeles Community Award. Although unable to attend the LA event, 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Andrea Mitchell (NBC, MSNBC) and Gwen Ifill Award winner Michele Norris (The Race Card Project, Aspen Institute, formerly with NPR) were honored at ceremonies in New York and Washington D.C. earlier this month.
Cindi Leive, Editor-In-Chief of Glamour Magazine, was recognized as this year’s IWMF Leadership Honoree. “God knows there’s work to do for women in this world, but with a roomful of people like this – every one of us ready to open doors for one another – I am highly optimistic,” said Leive.
Sinclair participated in an onstage discussion with CNN’s Michaela Pereira. “Journalism is under attack now more than ever,” said Sinclair. “The IWMF provides a place where we can have support and training, and you don’t feel like you’re alone out there.”
Willow Bay, Dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, and Natalie Morales of the TODAY Show and Access Hollywood co-hosted the ceremony. “Women represent at least half the world’s population, and so it’s imperative that the news media include their clear, strong voices… asking tough questions and pushing for the truth,” said Bay. “And yet, in 2017, we live with the reality that many female journalists around the world face violence, harassment and threats for just doing their jobs. It is these women we honor,” added Morales.
Others in attendance showing their support for women journalists included actors Chelsea Handler, Connie Britton, Rashida Jones (who presented to Cindi Leive), Sophia Bush, Zoe Lister-Jones (who presented to Saniya Toiken) and more.
The event also acknowledged the 11 female journalists who have died reporting in 2017. Co-hosts Bay and Morales asked those present to pay tribute to journalists Kim Wall of Sweden, who was murdered while reporting a feature story in mid-August; Daphne Caruana Galizia of Malta, who died when her car was bombed on October 16; and Russian radio journalist Tatyana Felgenhauer, who is in critical condition after being stabbed during a break-in at her office on Monday.
IWMF Executive Director Elisa Lees Muñoz shared the critical supports IWMF has been able to provide women journalists in the past year through the IWMF Emergency Fund, such as providing living expenses for a Southeast Asian journalist who had to flee her country after a colleague was murdered and was temporarily unable to work. Just last month, IWMF supported previous Courage winner Tatyana Goryachova, who needed emergency surgery to save her eyesight due to an acid attack 25 years earlier. IWMF also relocated a Mexican journalist and her daughter who needed to flee to safety after her partner was killed. Through video, Lees Muñoz also offered a glimpse of the Hostile Environment and First Aid Training that IWMF provides for its Fellows as they prepare to work in areas of unrest. “Our trainings and support are intended to empower women with the skills to be able to do the work they love while reducing some of the barriers,” she said.
More about the Courage in Journalism Award Winners
Deborah Amos | USA | Middle East Correspondent, NPR News Twitter @deborahamos
Deborah Amos covers the Middle East for NPR News; her reports can be heard on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. A seasoned journalist with nearly 40 years of experience working from conflict zones, Amos covered such world-changing events as the Tiananmen Square massacre, the first Gulf War, the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the “Arab Spring” series of popular revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa. Amos reported on an ongoing basis from Syria and was kidnapped in Somalia and detained in the Balkans and Iran. Today she brings us stories of migration in the U.S. and teaches journalism at Princeton University.
Saniya Toiken | Kazakhstan |Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Saniya Toiken is a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Kazakhstan, where journalists are routinely threatened, beaten, or killed because of their work. Toiken reports on workers’ rights, government corruption, and a variety of social and political stories in Kazakhstan and across the Central Asian states, where dictatorial regimes do everything to silence independent media. Toiken has been repeatedly harassed and threatened for her work and has captured some incidents on her mobile phone. A target of government, she was run off the road while covering oil and gas workers’ rights in 2010 and was evicted from her apartment under false pretenses in 2012. Her family and friends have been harassed as well.
Hadeel al-Yamani | Yemen | Al Jazeera Arabic
Hadeel al-Yamani is the first woman to become an Al Jazeera Arabic (AJA) television correspondent in Yemen, a country that routinely ranks in the bottom tier for women’s rights around the world. What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that al-Yamani came into her own as journalist during a period of extreme upheaval, as she works from the front lines of Yemen’s brutal conflict. Her stories show her as the only woman present, microphone in hand, wearing body armor that covers her abaya and hijab as she brings news to the world of a crisis that is often forgotten. Al-Yamani covers the humanitarian issues that affect Yemen’s most vulnerable and has paved the way for other women journalists in the country to make their voices heard.
2017 Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award Winner
Stephanie Sinclair | USA | Pulitzer Prize-winner and founder, Too Young to Wed
Stephanie Sinclair is known for gaining unique access to the most sensitive gender and human rights issues around the world. She has documented the defining conflicts of the past decade with a fearless persistence. Her widely published images of the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan refute characterizations of violence in anything but human terms. The ongoing capstone of Ms. Sinclair’s career is her 15-year series, Too Young to Wed, which examines the deeply troubling practice of early, forced and child marriage as it appears in a variety of cultures around the world today.
Lifetime Achievement Award Winner
Andrea Mitchell | USA | Chief foreign affairs correspondent, NBC News Twitter @mitchellreports Andrea Mitchell is currently in her fifth decade of political reporting. She has been with NBC News for nearly 40 years and is the network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.” She served as lead correspondent for numerous presidential campaigns and administrations, including seven U.S. presidents. Mitchell covered the complex U.S.-Cuban relationship for decades and led network coverage of the historic thaw with the island country, beginning in 2014. Mitchell’s past assignments for NBC News have included exclusive reports from North Korea, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Bosnia, Kosovo, Pakistan and Haiti. She has been honored with the Matrix Award, the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism and the Leonard Zeidenberg Award.
Gwen Ifill Award Winner
Michele Norris | USA | Former host, National Public Radio Twitter: @Michele_Norris
Peabody-winning journalist Michele Norris served as a host of NPR’s evening news program “All Things Considered” for over a decade. In 2010, after publishing her family memoir, The Grace of Silence, she founded The Race Card Project to capture, cultivate and archive the unheard conversations around race in America. She continues her work on the project as executive director for The Bridge, the Aspen Institute’s new program on race, identity and inclusion. Earlier in her career, Norris was a Washington correspondent for ABC News and worked as a staff writer for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.
About the Courage in Journalism Awards
Since its inception in 1990, IWMF has honored more than 100 women journalists from 55 countries as part of its Courage in Journalism Awards program. and recognizes an outstanding woman journalist of color who carries forward Ifill’s legacy of mentorship, leadership and commitment to diversity in journalism. Funds raised at the events sustain IWMF programs and grants that empower women journalists with the training, opportunities, and support to become leaders in the news industry, including direct support for the IWMF’s Emergency Fund, which supports female journalists in crisis. More information on the IWMF Courage in Journalism Awards and a complete list of past winners can be found here. Follow event announcements on social media via #IWMFCourage.
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About the IWMF:
Since 1990, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) has worked to unleash the potential of women journalists as champions of press freedom to transform the global news media. We seek to ensure that women journalists worldwide are fully supported, protected, recognized and rewarded for their vital contributions at all levels of the news media. As a result, consumers will increase their demand for news with a diversity of voices, stories and perspectives as a cornerstone of democracy and free expression. Through our programs and grants, we empower women journalists with the training, opportunities, and support to become leaders in the news industry. Follow IWMF on Twitter: @IWMF; Facebook: @IWMFpage; and Instagram: @theIWMF.