The dangers faced by journalists around the world as well as the campaign to get justice for murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi were front and center at the Committee to Protect Journalists 2018 International Press Freedom Awards, which were held Nov. 20 at the Grand Hyatt New York.

Five female journalists who have worked to uncover and battle corruption and censorship were honored at the ceremony, which was hosted by veteran CBS journalist and “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker. The awards dinner was chaired by Hollywood Foreign Press Association president Meher Tatna.

There were four recipients of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award:

Lester Holt presents Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh with her award.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, one of Vietnam’s most prominent independent bloggers, was jailed in connection with 18 articles she posted online, including reports on a toxic industrial spill that affected large areas of the country’s coastline. Prior to her arrest, she had frequently been harassed by Vietnamese authorities. She was jailed in 2016 and was just released and allowed to the leave the country last month. Quynh told the crowd that effects of her imprisonment linger. “Even now, as I breathe the air of freedom,” she said, “I must confess that I have yet to find complete happiness.”

Luz Mely Reyes
Luz Mely Reyes

Luz Mely Reyes, an investigative reporter from Venezuela, was editor-in-chief of the national newspaper Diario 2001 from 2012 until 2015. After Venezuela’s attorney general launched an investigation into the paper, demanding to see Reyes’ sources for stories it had printed, she resigned to co-found the independent news website Efecto Cucyo, along with fellow journalists Laura Weffer and Josefina Ruggiero. “More than 1,000 journalists have emigrated or gone into exile,” Reyes told the audience. “But we are stubborn. Amid the darkness, Venezuelan journalists find a way.”

Anastasiya Stanko

Anastasiya Stanko, a Ukrainian journalist and TV presenter, is a member of the “Stop Censorship” movement, made up of journalists and media organizations in the Ukraine. She has reported on the demonstrations that led to the ouster of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. In 2014, while working as a war correspondent in the Donbass area of eastern Ukraine, Stanko and her cameraman were held hostage for several days. “It’s difficult to work when you are expected to choose between patriotism and professional journalist,” she said. “But I also know there is no need to choose: honest journalism is the best form of patriotism.”

Amal Khalifa Idris Habbani

Amal Khalifa Idris Habbani, a freelance journalist and contributor to the Sudanese news outlet Al-Taghyeer, is co-founder of the Sudanese Journalists Network, an independent press freedom group based in Khartoum. Arrested in January 2018 while covering anti-inflation protests, she was held for 34 days and suffered serious injuries while in custody. Her arrest followed years of harassment by Sudanese authorities. The government of Sudan has a long history of confiscating newspapers and silencing unfavorable news coverage.

Maria Ressa
Maria Ressa

CPJ’s 2018 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award, presented to an individual who has shown extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom, was given to Maria Ressa, founder, CEO and executive editor of Rappler, a Philippine news website known for its critical coverage of president Rodrigo Duterte. Authorities have subjected Rappler to a string of attacks, indicting the site for tax evasion, revoking its registration and banning the website. But Rappler continues to operate. “We need to be truthful, not neutral,” she said. “American social media technology platforms, once empowering, are now weaponized against journalists, activists and citizens.”

In addition to presenting the awards, CPJ also used the event to promote its effort to bring attention to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. It distributed cards with a picture of the Saudi journalist and the #JusticeForJamal hashtag, encouraging attendees to share them on social media.