Background Essay and Panelist Biographies

International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Honorees

Background Essay

The International Women’s Media Foundation has honored 63 journalists since 1990, when the Courage in Journalism Awards first took place. The awards recognize women who have gone above and beyond the reporter’s call of duty and found the strength to keep writing, even when continuing their work means evading a new threat every day. To be a journalist, one must be prepared for a life of long nights, questionable sources and perpetually looming deadlines. However, working as a journalist in Iraq or any other war-torn country with an authoritarian government also means donning a bullet-proof vest, knowing how to protect oneself from bomb blasts and all too often, watching loved ones die. The article below was originally published on the IWMF’s website and helps the reader envision a day in the life of six previous Courage Award winners: Shatha al Awsy, Zaineb Obeid, Huda Ahmed, Ban Adil Sarhan, Alaa Majeed Sahar Issa. This piece merely scratches the surface of what these women have gone through for the sake of bringing the news to their fellow citizens (not to mention the rest of the world), but it gives a good sense of the sacrifice involved in being a recipient of a Courage in Journalism Award.

 

Panelist Biographies

Since joining the Associated Press as one of the only women on staff in 1966, Edith Lederer has been recognized as one of America's premier foreign correspondents. Lederer tackled domestic assignments in New York and San Francisco for a few years before accepting an offer to move to Vietnam in order to become the first female AP reporter to cover the Vietnam War full time. Subsequently, she relocated to Israel to cover the Yom Kippur War, and then moved on to Mexico City. In Peru, Lederer was the first woman to head a foreign bureau for the AP and later reported from Hong Kong, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia among other countries.  Throughout her career, from locations all over the world, Lederer has written about the important stories of the times. In her capacity as the AP's chief correspondent at the United Nations, Lederer continues to cover global events and the vital issues facing the international community.  

Farida Nekzad is the managing editor and deputy director of Afghanistan’s only independent news outlet, Pajhwok, and acts as vice-president of the South Asia Media Commission. Nekzad and the rest of Pajhwok’s journalists pride themselves on their balanced reporting, refusing to be a mouthpiece of the establishment and encouraging free expression and government accountability. As a result, like so many other female Afghan reporters, Nekzad lives in constant fear of assassination, yet she refuses to leave Afghanistan because of her dedication to helping advance women’s role in the media. “Of course there is risk and we are in a very tough situation,” she said in an interview. “But that is why I stay, continuing my job and duty: because of my future, because of my country, because of my women.”
 
Sevgul Uludag hails from Cyprus and is an extraordinarily accomplished journalist as well as an internationally recognized social activist. In her home country, there is fierce tension between Turkish and Greek Cypriots that often results in violence, but Uludag allows her extensive background in conflict management to shine through in her articles, which offer constructive suggestions on ways to help the two sides see eye-to-eye. Her opinions, however, are the source of much controversy in Cyprus. One such article resulted in her termination from the newspaper that was to publish it, and she is constantly on the receiving end of death threats – in 2003, the Volkannewspaper publicly called for her mutilation. Nevertheless, the psychological terror campaign has not hampered her reporting, as she is currently a correspondent for a political daily, Yeniduzen, and contributes columns to various Cypriot publications.
 
Aye Aye Win lives and works in Myanmar, where she files insightful stories about government affairs for the Associated Press despite the country’s strict military dictatorship, which began its rule in 1988. In the years since, the junta has assumed near total control of the media, but Win, one of the very few female Burmese journalists, still manages to report on pro-democracy movements in Myanmar, including the activities of the National League for Democracy party. Her writing makes her a prime target for government surveillance, so she must frequently change her hairstyle and don gender-neutral clothing in order to stay below the authorities’ radar.