The 2016 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – TV5 Monde Press Freedom Prize will be awarded to Syrian reporter Hadi Abdullah, the Chinese news website 64Tianwang, and Chinese citizen journalists Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu at a ceremony in Strasbourg tomorrow evening (8 November).
The ceremony will be held as part of the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg for the fourth year running, with laureates, politicians and media figures in attendance. TV5 Monde journalist Philippe Dessaint will host the event, while the well-known Turkish journalist Can Dündar, the former editor of the Cumhuriyet newspaper and 2015 RSF Prize laureate, will be guest of honour.
64Tianwang is the winner in the media category. This website and its citizen journalists are still being hounded 12 years after RSF awarded its Cyber-Dissident Prize to its founder and editor, Huang Qi. Regarded by the Chinese government as subversive, the site has been the target of repeated cyber-attacks, and its reporters take great risks to inform their fellow citizens. Five of them were arrested in various parts of the country in September while covering protests coinciding with the G20 summit in Hangzhou. But their determination does not flag. As Huang Qi recently said, “in 18 years of activity, no 64Tianwang journalist has ever agreed to sign a confession drafted by the authorities.” And none of them has thereby contributed to the Party’s propaganda, which includes broadcasting such “confessions” on CCTV and Xinhua with the aim of discrediting dissidents.
In the citizen journalist category, the prize is going to Lu Yuyu and his partner, Li Tingyu, two Chinese citizen journalists who were arrested on 15 June and were held incommunicado for more than three weeks before being able speak to lawyers. Charged with disturbing public order for systematically documenting strikes and demonstrations throughout China, they are being mistreated in detention and are facing the possibility of long jail sentences.
“We are very pleased to award this prize to journalists and media outlets that have distinguished themselves by their professionalism and courage in countries where practicing journalism often means taking your life into your own hands,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
“At 29, Hadi Abdullah has become the international community’s eyes in Syria, reporting the daily atrocities in what is one of the world’s deadliest countries for the media. Citizen journalists Lu Yuyu and Li Tingyu are among the 80 citizen journalists and bloggers currently detained in China, paying a high price for their commitment to freely and independently-reported information in China. The news website 64Tianwang also wages a heroic fight for the same goal, and is similarly targeted by the Chinese regime.”
Hadi Abdullah is being awarded the prize in the journalist category. He is a 29-year-old freelance reporter who has braved many dangers to cover the war in Syria, entering high-risk areas where few colleagues venture in order to film and to enable civil society’s actors to speak to the outside world. He has had many brushes with death and was briefly kidnapped by the Al-Nusra Front last January. His cameraman, Khaled al-Issa, was killed in June by an explosive device left outside the home they shared, and Abdullah himself was badly injured by the blast.
Now in partnership with TV5 Monde, RSF has been awarding its Press Freedom Prize since 1992 to journalists and media outlets that have made a noteworthy contribution to the defence or promotion of freedom of information. This is the 25th year running that the prize has been awarded.