Marshall McLuhan coined “The medium is the message”. On Thursday evening, November 16th, CPJ’s 33rd International Press Freedom Awards was held at The Glasshouse in Manhattan.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. On what has become the deadliest period for journalists covering conflicts since CPJ began, no organization knows better that symbiotic relationship between the various mediums where messages influenced are how message are perceived.
Gathering the world’s brightest in media meant fostering discussions on all matters of world affairs. Google hosted a pre-dinner cocktail reception with an open bar and hor’s doerves of General Tso’s chicken bites, prosciutto wrapped figs, spicy salmon on rice cakes, mini crab cakes and veggie spring rolls.
CPJ’s annual International Press Freedom Awards dinner honored five courageous journalists from around the world. The dashing CNN reporter Omar Jimenez served as the Master of Ceremonies who commended the awardees for their bravery and highlighted the growing number of journalists killed in the Israel-Gaza war.
This year’s dinner was chaired by Meredith Kopit Levien, President and CEO of The New York Times Company. Meredith gave a rousing speech on the shrinking independent free press.
Media power players from Google, Nasdaq, Washington Post, Open Society, Apple News, CNN, NBC, ABC, Bloomberg, Newsweek and Forbes convened to their own candlelight tables at the black tie dinner. Dinner guests feasted on a beet citrus salad, Pacific Halibut with heirloom carrots and lentils followed by a decadent Devil’s food cake with caramel and passion fruit.
In addition to John S. & James L. Knight Foundation and New York Times Company, the Blue Chip benefactors for the dinner included Pfizer, Microsoft, Salesforce and Debevoise & Plimpton.
The founder and director of independent broadcaster, Mtavari Arkhi, Nika Gvaramia received his award from Editor in Chief of the Wall Street Journal, Emma Tucker Pardoned after serving 3.5 years in jail, Gvaramia is the only journalist in Georgia to receive a prison sentence in retaliation for their work since CPJ started keeping record of jailed journalists in 1992. Nika expressed his solidarity for Evan Gershkovich. Over 100 days have passed for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in a Russian prison. There was a standing ovation for his parents Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich who attended the dinner.
The leader of L’Alternative, Ferdinand Ayite has fled persecution in Togo after fearless coverage of alleged corruption and protests against the rule of President Faure Gnassingbé. Ayité received his award in an impassioned speech in French with subtitles from Beast of No Nation author, Uzodinma Iweala.
After dinner New York Times reporters and authors of the book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, Jodi Canter and Megan Twohey presented an award to Shahina K.K. The Indian journalist and Senior editor of Outlook magazine, Shahina is out on bail pending trial for seeking to silence her reporting on religious minorities and vulnerable caste groups.
As CPJ urges Guatemala to ensure a fair trial for presenter José Rubén Zamora he presented an award to María Teresa Montaño, investigative reporter and founder and editor of The Observer, a fact-checking and investigative website. Despite harassment and being abducted she has returned and continues to report on of corruption, transparency and gender violence in Mexico.
CPJ President Jodie Ginsberg recalled the journalists lost, tortured, jailed and forced into exile who are also fathers, mothers, colleagues and friends. Jodie made quite the auctioneer raising funds for the nonprofit’s advocacy work worldwide. The money raised was matched dollar for dollar by John S. & James L. Knight Foundation.
Gwen Ifill Award was presented by Ford Foundation President Darren Walker to his long time friend, Alberto Ibargüen. After his tenure for eighteen years as president of the Knight Foundation he was honored to received CPJ’s Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award named posthumously after their trailblazing colleague and friend for an an individual who has shown extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom.
New CPJ Chair Jacob Weisberg gave closing remarks and heralded the dinner raised $2.8 million dollars for the global nonprofit’s work to make a stand, advocate and protect journalists and a free press.
The post dinner reception hosted by the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation with coffee, aperitifs ,mini carrot cakes, lemon meringues tarts, red velvet cakes and chocolate walnut brownies.
The annual benefit dinner champions the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) global work of advocating for press freedom and providing direct assistance to journalists in distress as the work of factual reporting is more important than ever.