Canadian News Anchor Straddles Both Sides of World Press Freedom Day

Lisa LaFlamme is the first Canadian to sit on the UNESCO World Press Freedom Award international jury.

According to Reporters Without Borders, the country with the highest level of press freedom on this, 2016 World Press Freedom Day, is Finland. That’s where CTV News chief anchor and senior correspondent Lisa LaFlamme finds herself today, as as a result of being the first Canadian to sit on the international jury for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Award.

This year’s prize was given to Khadija Ismayilova, a freelance journalist currently sitting in an Azerbaijan jail. LaFlamme was one of a dozen jury members. That’s attendee Christiane Amanpour, above, calling on the 516th day of the reporter’s incarceration for Ismayilova’s release.

In a piece for CTV, LaFlamme notes that World Press Freedom Day is quietly celebrated in Canada, a country ranked 18th on this year’s press-freedom index. (Today, in Ottawa, Vice News national security reporter Ben Makuch will accept a prize from the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom). But she is well aware that is not the case for many colleagues around the world, and frames the valiant efforts of Ismayilova with some of her personal experiences as a globe-trotting journalist:

I have brushed up against journalistic strength in the face of adversity in many places around the world. In the Congo, female reporters I’ve met have been raped to try to force their silence. MOSTLY it hasn’t worked.

This year I met a journalist in Yangon, Myanmar, who spent nine-and-a-half years in prison – again for reporting on an anti-government protest. Nine-and-a-half years!

I asked: What was the trial like?

“Trial,” he said. “I wish, there WAS no trial.”

Accepting the UNESCO prize today in Helksinki, on Ismayilova’s behalf, are her mother and sister. The Cano prize was created in 1997 and named in honor the Colombian journalist, who was killed in 1986 in front of the offices of newspaper El Espectador.