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Golden Pen of Freedom to Honour Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty

The 2015 Golden Pen of Freedom, WAN-IFRA’s annual press freedom award, has been awarded to Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty, an exceptional announcement that highlights the on-going tragedy of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for the right to freedom of expression.

At the time of the announcement, says the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), it is estimated that nearly 1,200 journalists have been killed since 1992. Sixteen journalists have so far lost their lives in 2015, including eight in a single attack on 7 January at the offices of the French satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo.

"In honour of fallen colleagues, and to focus the international spotlight on the issue of safety and impunity for journalists worldwide, awarding the Golden Pen of Freedom to Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty sends a powerful message to the perpetrators of crimes against the media, as well as to legislators and those with the power to enact better laws and enforce stronger protections for newsgatherers around the world," said the WAN-IFRA Board in making the award.

“With this award, the world’s press is sending a resounding signal of resistance to those who believe that silencing journalists will curtail freedom of expression,” the Board said. “While we honour the lives and work of some of our bravest colleagues who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us informed, we pledge to continue their commitment to shine light into the darkest corners of the world to expose wrongdoing, defy the abuses of the powerful, and ensure the public’s right to know.”

“If the same deadly statistics existed in relation to any other profession that had such an impact on how we define and understand our world, we would reasonably expect the outcry to be emphatic, the investigations relentless, and the commitment to reversing the trend universally forthcoming. That it is not so for the lives of journalists killed in the line of duty is a global tragedy that must be addressed with urgency if our belief in open, free societies is to endure.”

The Golden Pen of Freedom is an annual award, made by WAN-IFRA since 1961, to recognise the outstanding action, in writing or deed, of an individual, a group or an institution in the cause of press freedom. The award is traditionally given during the opening ceremony of the World News Media Congress, the World Editors Forum, and the World Advertising Forum, which this year takes place in Washington, D.C., from 1 to 3 June.

Of the estimated 1,200 journalists killed since 1992, statistics from the Committee to Protect Journalists reveal that some 742 were murdered outright. In 90 per cent of these cases, no perpetrator has been brought to justice.

A climate of self-censorship is the inevitable result of these appalling figures, a situation that severely undermines the independence of the press and the ability of journalists to investigate issues of accountability, transparency and wrongdoing. The impact of this spiralling situation, common in so many parts of the world, means the public loses its best defence against corrupt governance.

By awarding the Golden Pen of Freedom to Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty, WAN-IFRA aims to mobilise the international news publishing community to call for an end to the violence that targets the profession. It calls on the industry to engage with the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, as well as other safety mechanisms, to better protect newsrooms and the lives of journalists. It calls for a serious and pragmatic discussion as to the implications on media companies of the financial costs and technical limitations that may prevent stronger safety measures from being implemented.

At the same time, the award is an urgent call to governments worldwide to demonstrate the political will required to end impunity for the killers of journalists, and for them to recognise the work of independent journalism as a positive aid to the economic, political and social progress demanded of them by their societies.

Click here for more information about the Golden Pen, including a complete list of laureates.

For materials relating to the latest International Day to End Impunity Day, click here.

For WAN-IFRA’s statistics on journalists killed, click here.

For more information on WAN-IFRA’s press freedom work, click here.