Thursday, May 3, 2007


To mark World Press Freedom Day today, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has given its Cano Prize to Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Russian paper Novaya Gazeta. She was praised for her “incredible stubbornness” in “chronicling events in Chechnya when the whole world had lost interest in that conflict” -- until October 7, 2006, when Politkovskaya was shot dead near her Moscow home. (photo at left © UNESCO)
This story brings to mind other women who deserve much credit for writing without fear: the New Yorker's Jane Mayer, for work on U.S. antiterrorism like "Outsourcing Torture," and also the Washington Post's Dana Priest, for her exposés of the CIA's "black sites," and, along with Anne Hull, of the poor medical treatment given wounded veterans.
Credit is also due a woman less well known: 24-year-old economics graduate Awatif Ahmed Isshag, who for the last 4 years has kept her Darfur village aware of events near and far. Her medium? Neither magazine nor the internet, but handwritten missives posted on a tree near her home. Asked about the wisdom of her venture by Stephanie McCrummen of the Post, Isshag gave a reply worthy of the most intrepid reporter:
"Journalism is a profession of risk," she said matter-of-factly, her voice echoing lightly in the nearly empty room. She also said, "I will fast to get the story."

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