IWMF Honors Exemplary Female Journalists at 2017 Courage in Journalism Awards in NYC

The ceremony celebrated journalists Andrea Mitchell, Deborah Amos, Saniya Toiken and Hadeel al-Yamani

Michele Norris announced as inaugural Gwen Ifill Award recipient

[October 18, 2017, New York, NY] – The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) honored several outstanding female journalists at the 2017 Courage in Journalism Awards luncheon this afternoon at Cipriani 42nd Street. The honorees were selected for exhibiting extraordinary bravery and courage as they reported from areas of instability, oppression and conflict. Since its inception in 1990, the IWMF has honored more than 100 female journalists from 55 countries.

This year’s honorees included Deborah Amos, Middle East Correspondent for NPR News, who has worked on numerous front lines, covered Syria’s violent and protracted crisis, and was kidnapped in Somalia; Saniya Toiken, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Kazakhstan, who has been harassed, threatened, and scrutinized for her reporting on government corruption and labor issues; and Hadeel al-Yamani, who is the first woman television correspondent for Al Jazeera Arabic in Yemen and has covered the civil war. Andrea Mitchell, long-time Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent for NBC News and host of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” received IWMF’s Lifetime Achievement Award for entering her fifth decade of political reporting.

Lifetime Achievement winner Andrea Mitchell opened her remarks noting that one IWMF winner–Hadeel al-Yamani–was not in the room.

“Can you tell me why Hadeel–who stood and braved the warzone and all the intimidation and dangers without missing a beat, without losing any of her passion for telling the story of her countrymen–exactly what threat does she pose to the borders of the United States of America? If we cannot give a visa to Hadeel al-Yamani to come to this country and accept the award that she so incredibly deserves, what do we stand for?” Mitchell questioned.

MSNBC’s host Rachel Maddow joined Mitchell on stage following her acceptance to hold a special conversation about the state of our nation and the media’s role in it, specifically as a female journalist. Maddow started the conversation by taking the moment to share what she appreciates most about Andrea and how she has paved the way for female journalists.

“You are the person who made me a feminist at work because you made me realize that I couldn’t do it alone and that the women around me had figured out how to do it in the business that we operate in and that we were not going to be able to get the finish line without each other. And you made room for me in a way that no one else has, and I can never repay you for that,” Maddow said to a room full of roaring applause and appreciation.

At the event, the IWMF also announced American radio journalist Michele Norris as the winner of its inaugural Gwen Ifill Award, which was named in honor of the legendary PBS NewsHour broadcaster and recognizes an outstanding woman journalist of color who carries forward Ifill’s legacy of mentorship, leadership and commitment to diversity in journalism. Norris is a former host of the National Public Radio evening news program, “All Things Considered.” She was the first African-American female host for NPR.

Lisa Caputo, EVP of Marketing and Communications for The Travelers Companies, Inc., was recognized as the IWMF Leadership Honoree.

Norah O’Donnell of CBS News and Cynthia McFadden of NBC News served as co-hosts for the program.

“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. Now, more than perhaps ever before, I think we all appreciate just how important thoughtful and tenacious journalists are in helping to keep citizens informed, bringing truth to power, and in giving voice to those who might otherwise be marginalized,” O’Donnell said in her welcome remarks.

“At a time when the press is being identified as ‘the enemy’; when female journalists have to be escorted out of campaign rallies because of threats to their physical safety, the IWMF’s role to protect journalists, their mission and their integrity is more vital now than ever,” McFadden added.

“Today, in New York, we recognized visionaries in our field. Our Courage winners overcome incredible odds to bring us stories of conflict and humanity–that we would likely not hear otherwise. At a time when press freedom is on shaky ground, we honor their commitment to the truth and to women journalists who follow in their footsteps,” Elisa Lee Muñoz, Executive Director of the IWMF, said.

Presenters included Anne Finucane, who chaired the event; Phil Griffin; Suzanne Malveaux and Bryan Monroe. Additional attendees included Cathie Black, Connie Chung, Poppy Harlow, Gayle King, Cindi Leive and David Rhodes.

The 2017 award winners also are being recognized in Washington, DC on October 23, 2017 in a ceremony hosted by Judy Woodruff (PBS NewsHour) and in Los Angeles on October 25, 2017 in a ceremony hosted by Willow Bay (USC Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication).

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. She witnessed the successful revolution in Eastern Europe amid the fall of the Soviet Union. Amos has reported on an ongoing basis from Syria, covering the country’s violent and protracted crisis. She has worked from numerous front lines; she was kidnapped in Somalia and detained in the Balkans and Iran, among other dangers.

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 has been reporting 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. She has been a target of government scrutiny since at least 2010, when she was run off the road after traveling to cover oil and gas workers’ rights. In 2012, Toiken was evicted from her apartment due to false claims made against her in retaliation for reporting on Kazakh security authorities. Her family and friends have also been harassed.

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. She is always 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. In this grueling and dangerous job, al-Yamani covers the humanitarian issues that affect Yemen’s most vulnerable. As al-Yamani has become more accepted as a war correspondent in Yemen, she has paved the way for other women journalists in the country to make their voices heard.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

Andrea Mitchell | USA

Chief foreign affairs correspondent, NBC News, Twitter @mitchellreports

Andrea Mitchell has been a leading reporter at NBC News for nearly 40 years, and is currently the network’s chief foreign affairs correspondent and host of MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports”. She has extensive experience as a political reporter, and as a lead correspondent for numerous presidential campaigns and administrations, including seven presidents. Mitchell has closely 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. Among her many accolades, she has been honored with the Matrix Award, the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism and the Leonard Zeidenberg Award.

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.

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.

For media inquiries, please contact Jennifer Hyman at jhyman@iwmf.org.


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.