IWMF Announces 2023 Courage in Journalism Award Winners

Women journalists from Belgium, Iran, Mexico, Palestine, Poland, Ukraine and U.S. honored for bravery

[July 17, 2023 – WASHINGTON, DC] – The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) today announced the winners of the 34th annual Courage in Journalism Awards, which recognize women journalists working under duress to bring truth to light. The 2023 honorees are María Teresa Montaño Delgado, a veteran Mexican journalist covering widespread corruption in political power; the women journalists of The Washington Post reporting from the frontlines of Ukraine in 2022; and, posthumously, Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian American career broadcast journalist who reported from the Middle East for decades and was killed in 2022.

Iranian photojournalist Yalda Moaiery was awarded the 2023 Wallis Annenberg Justice for Women Journalists Award, which is given annually to a journalist who is unjustly jailed, detained or imprisoned. Moaiery is currently facing trial in Iran for covering anti-state protests in Tehran.

In its third decade, the IWMF’s Courage in Journalism Awards remind the public of the cost, and benefit, of working as a woman journalist and the increasing threat facing press freedom worldwide. As challenges mount outside of conflict zones and into the online sphere, women in news media also work against additional, intentional campaigns of discreditation and intimidation simply because of their gender.

“For this year’s Courage Award winners, any reporting – no matter the nature or the medium – presents a risk to their careers, their lives and even the well-being of their families,” said IWMF Executive Director Elisa Lees Muñoz. “Their existence as truth tellers amid a sea of disinformation and public, state-sanctioned efforts to silence their voices is a true act of bravery. The IWMF is honored to recognize these women working tirelessly, and collaboratively, to reveal truths otherwise untold.”

Reporting from the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists (in 2022), María Teresa Montaño Delgado is regularly at risk, and was kidnapped in 2021 due to her ongoing investigative work into suspicious, multi-million-dollar contracts awarded by the State of Mexico. Assembled following the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, The Washington Post’s Ukrainian bureau and rotating reporting team of women illuminated transgressions otherwise shrouded by the chaos of war while covering Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The death of Shireen Abu Akleh in 2022 speaks directly to the dangers journalists face on the frontline and the continued impunity surrounding their cases. This posthumous recognition also honors the years of threats she endured before her death as she covered conflict for Al Jazeera.

Yalda Moaiery – this year’s Wallis Annenberg Justice for Women Journalists award recipient – has spent her career in photojournalism documenting conflict, war and natural disaster. In 2019, she gained attention for speaking out against former U.S. president Donald Trump after he used her photography to support an attack on Iran. Her arrest in 2022 occurred during protests surrounding the death of Mahsa Amini, and she awaits an upcoming trial date and sentencing while on bail.

The Courage in Journalism Awards are made possible by Bank of America, the awards’ National Presenting Sponsor for 17 consecutive years. The IWMF would like to thank Bank of America for its commitment to journalism, diversity in news media and the pursuit of press freedom.

The 2023 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winners will be recognized during private ceremonies in Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles this fall. This year’s IWMF Courage in Journalism Event Chair is former Vice Chair of Bank of America and former Chair of Bank of America Europe Anne Finucane. In addition to overseeing the strategic direction of the bank, Finucane is recognized for her innovative approach to corporate and social responsibility initiatives advancing racial equity.

About the 2023 Courage in Journalism Award Winners

María Teresa Montaño Delgado (Mexico) ­– Investigative Journalist

Maria Teresa Montaño Delgado is a freelance journalist and director of the investigative portal The Observer. Her reporting focuses on corruption within the State of Mexico (Edomex), a bastion of the PRI party, which held power in Mexico from 1929 to 2000. Her most recent investigation is a collaborative reporting initiative for Forbidden Stories, The Guardian and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which was also published in El País.

For more than 30 years Montaño has chronicled corruption within her home country. She began her career as a correspondent for national media such as Notimex, El Universal, Milenio, and El Financiero. During this time, Montaño began to experience government harassment including public denigration of her reporting, smear campaigns, demands from powerful politicians, tax harassment and isolation by coercion; she was also sued for libel and the lives of her family were threatened. Despite the continuous abuse – including state-sanctioned espionage in 2019 – Montaño continued to report.

In February 2020, Montaño was fired from Heraldo de México due to her investigation of Edomex. At this time, she launched The Observer, which specializes in investigative journalism and fact-checking, and is open to all audiences.

In August 2021, assailants kidnapped Montaño, threatening death, then stole her car and entered her home to steal laptops, recording equipment and cameras. After her release, Montaño went into exile in Spain until late 2022.

Today, in addition to her journalistic pursuits, Montaño spends time promoting the right to freedom of expression for journalists in Mexico and collaborates with Article 19 and CIMAC. She also recently assisted in the creation of the Law for the Protection of Journalists in Mexico.

Read more of Montaño’s story here.

Women of The Washington Post Reporting on Ukraine (Belgium, Poland, Ukraine, United States) – Journalism Team

Twitter: @washingtonpost, Instagram: @washingtonpost

The Washington Post was the first American news organization to establish a Ukraine bureau in May 2022. In 2022, the bureau was regularly joined by a rotation of The Post’s women journalists on assignment.

The Ukraine reporting team included: Ukraine bureau chief Isabelle Khurshudyan and contributors Anastacia Galouchka and Kamila Hrabchuk. Rotating reporters on assignment in Ukraine in 2022 included: then-Cairo bureau chief Siobhán O’Grady, video journalists Whitney Shefte and Whitney Leaming, contributing photojournalist Heidi Levine, Baghdad bureau chief Louisa Loveluck, national security reporter Missy Ryan, Bogotá bureau chief Samantha Schmidt, Berlin bureau chief Loveday Morris, contributing photographer Kasia Strek, political video reporter Joyce Koh and international reporter Miriam Berger.

When the full-scale invasion began, the Post team was in Kyiv as it came under Russian fire. In Kharkiv, Khurshudyan and Leaming were two of the last Western media reporters to leave the city as it came under heavy bombardment. O’Grady and Galouchka came under targeted artillery shelling twice while reporting on artillery combat in the Donetsk region. Shefte, who helped detail the story of women giving birth in underground bunkers, embedded with a military unit near Mariupol that had been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014.

Levine – the recipient of the IWMF’s inaugural Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award in 2015 – joined the team as a photographer. She commented, “Women photojournalists are often in the minority and gender discrimination still exists: Now more than ever it’s critical to recognize the achievements of women in journalism. We share this award with those at The Post who worked around the clock help ensure our team’s safety and provided constant logistical support. We also share this award with the Ukrainian people, who allowed us to tell their story; their pain, sacrifice and resilience have deeply inspired us.”

Due to the work of this collaborative, The Post’s coverage included exclusive reporting and content from the frontlines of Ukraine, including information from sources that were cultivated for months. The Post team’s reporting also included how Ukrainian forces were able to repel Russian occupiers using covert resistance fighters, drone-guided artillery fire and traditional trench warfare. Collectively, their reporting depicted – gravely and comprehensively – the human toll of war on a civilian population.

Read more about the teams behind The Post’s Ukraine reporting here.

Shireen Abu Akleh (Palestine, United States) ­– Broadcast Journalist

Twitter: @shireennasri, Instagram: @shireenabuakleh

Shireen Abu Akleh – a renowned Palestinian American journalist who worked with Al Jazeera for more than 20 years – was a household name in Palestine and abroad. On May 11, 2022, Abu Akleh was killed by an Israeli soldier while on assignment covering a military raid on the Jenin refugee camp.

Abu Akleh studied journalism at Yarmouk University in Jordan. In her early career, she worked at the Voice of Palestine and Monte Carlo. In 1997, Abu Akleh began working with Al Jazeera as a correspondent and became one of the first Arab women field reporters for the network.

During the second Intifada, or uprising, Abu Akleh rose to prominence covering stories in the Arab world and abroad. She reported on the Israeli invasion of the Jenin refugee camp in 2002, the Gaza Wars of 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021, the war on Lebanon in 2006, and the Arab Summit in Damascus and Egypt. Internationally, Abu Akleh covered multiple elections in the United Kingdom and United states as well as many other international events of importance.

Abu Akleh was always eager to learn new skills and keep up with new technologies in journalism. In addition to co-founding Sawt Falasteen Radio, in 2020 Abu Akleh earned a diploma in Digital Media from Birzeit University. In the years following, she became a trainer at the university’s Media Development Center where she taught several courses to undergraduate students.

In her career and in her personal life, Abu Akleh was consistently honored for her work, professionalism and courage. In 2020, she commented: “In addition to political issues [of the day], my concern has been – and will always be – the human story, and the daily suffering of my people under occupation.”

Reacting to this posthumous award from the IWMF, Abu Akleh’s family commented, “We are honored that this year’s IWMF Courage in Journalism Award recognizes Shireen’s career, legacy and bravery. This award is a testament to Shireen’s courageous voice that echoed through every home in Palestine. Her work has inspired generations of young women and girls to pursue careers in journalism, and we hope this award will remind the world of Shireen’s legacy, reporting and contributions to journalism. Most importantly we hope the Courage Award will bring us closer to achieving accountability and justice. While our family continues to grieve this insurmountable loss, these honors bring us comfort and solace. Thank you, IWMF.”

Read more of Abu Akleh’s story here.

Yalda Moaiery (Iran) – Photojournalist

Twitter: @yaldamoayeri, Instagram: @yaldamoaiery

Currently on bail in Tehran, Yalda Moaiery (یلدا معیری) is an Iranian photojournalist who has covered conflict, war and natural disasters for the past 20 years. Her assignments have taken her to Georgia, Indonesia, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Somalia. Moaiery’s most recent work covered life in Afghanistan following the resurgence of the Taliban as well as mass protests in Iran surrounding rising fuel prices.

Moaiery is a member of the Iranian Photojournalists Association (IPJA), and her photojournalism has appeared in Time, Newsweek, the San Francisco Chronicle, Le Monde, The Mail on Sunday, Le Figaro and El Pais, among other international news outlets. One of Moaiery’s most poignant pieces of work is her photo essay on women serving in the Iranian military and the legacy of Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini.

On September 19, 2022, Moaiery was arrested by security agents of the morality police in downtown Tehran while covering protests surrounding the death of Mahsa Amini. During the arrest, Moaiery sustained physical injuries and was taken with other women protestors to the Qarchak prison, a women-only detention facility south of Tehran.

Moaiery was released on bail on December 20, 2022, and continues to work while awaiting her court date and potential trial.

Moaiery’s family commented, “Our family is thrilled to see Yalda receiving such a notable recognition. Since she was 18, Yalda’s courageously put herself on the frontline in many dangerous situations due to her commitment to photojournalism. Yalda deeply deserves this award, and we thank the International Women’s Media Foundation for recognizing Yalda.”

Read more of Moaiery’s story here.

About the International Women’s Media Foundation

The IWMF is the only global organization built to serve the holistic needs of women and nonbinary journalists. We are a bold and inclusive organization that supports journalists where they are with awards, reporting opportunities, fellowships, grants, safety training and emergency aid. As one of the largest supporters of women-produced journalism, our transformative work strengthens equal opportunity and press freedom worldwide. Follow the IWMF on Twitter at @IWMF, on Facebook at @IWMFPage, on Instagram on @TheIWMF and on TikTok @theiwmf.