WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the National Press Club announced the winners of its 2013 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Awards: Zeynep Kuray, a woman reporter from Turkey, which jails more journalists than any other nation; and, in the United States, “The Whistleblower.”
Each year, the NPC confers its Aubuchon award on people whose work and lives have advanced the cause of press freedom and transparency. The annual award goes to one domestic recipient and one international one.
This year, for the first time, the Club is honoring a group of people—whistleblowers–rather than an individual person.
NPC President Angela Greiling Keane, a Bloomberg News reporter, said: “By conferring its domestic award on The Whistleblower, the Club is not only honoring those who have bravely stepped forward to become sources for news stories, often at personal risk to themselves or their careers. It is also recognizing a person whose identity is not yet known—who may be trying to decide whether to speak to a reporter about wrongdoing at a government agency or corporation. In honoring The Whistleblower, the Club is acknowledging that, without sources, reporters can’t do their jobs and our democracy can’t properly function.”
The decision to honor The Whistleblower is also a way of highlighting the extent to which people who speak to the press are increasingly under siege. The threats to sources run along a spectrum. On the lower end, they include a growing tendency to forbid officials and executives from speaking with reporters on the record or on background without handlers present. On the higher end, they include government attempts to prosecute whistleblowers under espionage laws and to try to compel reporters to disclose confidential sources. Sources are increasingly at risk because of the ease with which digital communications can be monitored.
The Club will use the prize money that goes with the domestic Aubuchon award to create programs to educate sources and reporters about protecting identities in this perilous environment.
This year’s foreign winner is Zeynep Kuray, a woman reporter who was working for the Istanbul daily newspaper, Birgun, when she was arrested in December 2011. Kuray was one of at least three dozen reporters jailed in Turkey last year, most of whom remain there. She was just released at the end of April 2013, but her charges are still pending. The “evidence” against her includes her reporting on arrests of pro-Kurdish journalists and attorneys.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Turkey, one of America’s NATO allies, holds more reporters in jail than any other country—more, for example, than widely known offenders such as Iran and China.
“No reporter anywhere should be put in jail for the supposed ‘crime’ of doing his or her job,” Greiling Keane said. “That standard applies to every country in the world.”
The press-freedom honors will be presented at the Club’s annual awards dinner Aug. 6, at which a host of winners in numerous journalism categories will be recognized.
The award is named after John Aubuchon, a former NPC president who was an ardent advocate of press freedom.
The National Press Club, founded in 1908, is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. Located in Washington, D.C., the Club counts among its members more than 3,000 journalists and news sources.
World Press Freedom Day was created in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly. It is celebrated on May 3 each year and has three goals: to evaluate the state of press freedom; to defend the press from attacks on its independence; and to honor those who have sacrificed, sometimes with their lives, to bring the public the news.