The Committee to Protect Journalists will honor four courageous journalists from Belarus, Guatemala, Mozambique, and Myanmar with the 2021 International Press Freedom Awards. All four have reported during a historically turbulent time, covering protests and political upheaval in their countries.
“In the midst of a battle over the control of information, these journalists are on the side of the people, covering events, informing communities, and ensuring accountability,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. “They have paid a price, confronting violence, harassment, repression, and persecution but refusing to back down. We honor their commitment and sacrifice and look forward to celebrating their courage, alongside all those who stand firm for press freedom and independent journalism.”
CPJ’s 2021 awardees are:
Katsiaryna Barysevich (Belarus): Barysevich is a staff correspondent for the influential Belarusian news outlet Tut.by, where she covers legal and social issues. In 2020, Barysevich was reporting on pro-democracy protests in the country and published a story about a protester allegedly killed by law enforcement, contradicting authorities’ official statements. As a result, she spent six months behind bars and faced fines. Her colleagues at Tut.by continue to face detentions and harassment.
Anastasia Mejía (Guatemala): Mejía is a radio journalist based in Joyabaj, a town in the central Guatemalan department of Quiché. She co-founded Xolabaj Radio and Xolabaj TV to cover issues of importance for the local community, particularly topics of concern to Indigenous women. In September 2020, police arrested Mejía on criminal charges connected to her coverage of local demonstrations, and she was held in pretrial detention for five weeks before being released on house arrest. Today, her journalistic work is severely restricted.
Matías Guente (Mozambique): Guente is the executive editor of Canal de Moçambique, an independent weekly investigative newspaper, and its daily digital publication CanalMoz. Over the years, he has faced a myriad of threats for his hard-hitting reporting, including police interrogations, charges of violation of state secrecy and conspiracy against the state, and an attempted kidnapping in 2019. In 2020, unidentified individuals set the outlet’s offices ablaze.
Aye Chan Naing (Myanmar): Aye Chan Naing is co-founder, chief editor, and executive director of the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), an independent broadcast media group in Myanmar. As a pioneer in Myanmar’s exile media movement starting in the 1990s, he led DVB’s transition from exile-based to in-country operations in 2012, despite continued harassment from the government. In 2021, multiple DVB journalists were arrested or detained amid a harsh crackdown on media and civil society following the military junta’s takeover in February.
The winners will be honored on November 18, 2021, at CPJ’s annual awards ceremony, to be chaired this year by Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, and hosted by ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir. Due to health and safety considerations related to COVID-19, this year’s gala will be a hybrid virtual and in-person event.
Learn more about this year’s event and our awardees at ipfa.cpj.org. For more information on the gala, call Buckley Hall Events at (914) 579-1000 or CPJ’s development office at (212) 300-9021, or email CPJipfa@buckleyhallevents.com.