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Risk-taking regional journalists receive 2017 Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press
June 5, 2017
Author: Timothy Maloy
Source: Annahar English
In a moving ceremony honoring regional journalists for stories often reported at risk to their lives, this year’s Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press was bestowed Friday upon reporters who ranged from Syria and Iraq to Egypt.
The awards were given on the 12th anniversary of the assassination of prominent Lebanese-journalist Samir Kassir, an Annahar journalist and opinion writer, professor at the University St. Joseph, and a prolific book writer, whose ongoing work was devoted to media freedom.
The Kassir Foundation honors were formally conferred by the Delegation of the European Union at the Sursock Palace, Ashrafieh.
"We firmly believe that the pen is stronger than the sword. We believe in the power of words and ideas. Freedom of expression is one of the foundations on which a robust democracy rests. That is why we must always remember the need to quickly face all attempts to oppress this freedom, " said Ambassador Christina Lassen, head of the delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, adding, “The situation of journalists has deteriorated and has reached globally one of its lowest levels in a decade".
She noted: "Freedom of expression now exists only for 13 percent of the world's population. The press is subjected to social and economic pressures all over the world: in the Middle East and in the Gulf countries, media are suffering from attacks and harassment, and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen make these countries the most deadly places for journalists."
The award recipients were as follows - In the Opinion category: Syrian journalist Issa Ali Khodr (born in 1993), a writer and journalist whose articles have been published in Hentah, Al-Modon and Al-Joumhouria. He also filmed news reports for Sky News Arabia, Syria 24 and Al-Arabiya. He is currently pursuing an online Bachelor’s degree in psychology at the Swiss Open University.
For the Investigative category: Egyptian journalist Ghada El-Sharif (born in 1981), an editor at Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper since 2008. Currently, she is in charge of the political Islam and women’s sections. She previously worked at Al-Shorouk (2007-2008) and at Al-Ghad newspapers (2002-2007). She holds a B.A. in literature from the University of Alexandria
In the Audiovisual report category: Iraqi journalist, Asaad Zalzali (born in 1984),  the general manager of Maraya Media for media development and Maraya Media news agency. He is also a correspondent for Biladi satellite TV and is an investigative journalist with Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ). He holds a degree in internal architecture and is currently enrolled in a B.A. program in radio and television at Imam Jaafar Al-Sadeq University.
Gisèle Khoury the widow of Samir Kassir, and a well-known media figure as well, noted, "His body was shattered in the explosion of his car because he had the audacity to express himself, to lead an (press) intifada and to dream.” She added, “We were few in his funeral; (but) Today, many of us commemorate his martyrdom and award this prize.”
She spoke to a rapt audience which encompassed cabinet ministers, Parliament deputies, ambassadors, Lebanese and regional journalist, activists, and students, numbering in the hundreds, who not only roundly applauded Khoury but gave a series of extended loud applause to the three award winners.
Khoury lauded the works of young journalists in the MENA region, saying they are, “Fighting to unveil the truth, defend the Arab people and break the wall of fear."
Funded by the EU, the competition is open to journalists from the countries of North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf. This year, the award jury received 191 submissions from 12 countries. The largest number of submissions came from Egypt, followed by Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.