David Rhodes, Christiane Amanpour, Judy Woodruff, Meryl Streep Tout Bravery in Journalism

By A.J. Katz 

Hosted by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Freedom Awards has traditionally focused on the bravery shown by journalists in other parts of the world. While the event still has an international focus, and honors the most intrepid of journalists reporting from dangerous environments, it has also started to take on an added degree of importance domestically. Attacks on press freedom have started to hit slightly closer to home the last couple of years.

This 27th edition of the annual event was held last night at the Grand Hyatt in New York. The dinner was hosted by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, and chaired by CBS News president David Rhodes.

“Tonight, we honor the work of journalists who have faced great hardships, risked their lives — and, too often, lost their lives — in order to shine light on some of the darkest corners of the world,” said Rhodes. “We are moved by their passion to find and report the stories we need to read, hear and see. They have a special kind of courage. They take risks to tell these stories, no matter the sacrifice.”


Amanpour’s opening remarks included a critique of yet another Pres. Trump “fake news” tweet directed at her employer.

“The good news is that despite being targeted with that red hot branding iron of fake news, some of the best journalism has taken place and is being produced this year, whether it’s on cable or broadcast, in print, online,” said Amanpour.

“We are providing facts, without fear or favor,” she continued.

Meryl Streep made a surprise visit and gave props to journalists, “you intrepid, underpaid, over-extended, trolled, and un-extolled, young and old, battered and bold, bought and sold, hyper-alert crack-caffeine fiends. You’re ambitious, contrarian, fiery, dogged and and determined bullshit detectives,” Streep said.

The annual CPJ dinner raises money for the New York-based organization advocating for journalists’ rights around the globe, also serves as both tribute to press values and an opportunity to honor those putting their lives on the line each day.

This year, the CPJ honored Pravit Rojanaphruk (Thailand) Ahmed Abba (Cameroon), Patricia Mayorga (Mexico), and Afrah Nasser (Yemen), while also honoring two past recipients who have since been killed: Pavel Sheremet (Ukraine) and Javier Valdez Cardenas (Mexico).

Nasser on being honored: “For me, being here is not to represent Yemeni journalists only, but all Yemenis who feel abandoned by world leaders and international media that are not covering their suffering sufficiently.”

60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker took the stage on behalf of Abba, who was unable to accept the award in person because he’s in the midst of serving a 10-year sentence for committing the “crime of telling the truth.”


Additionally, Judy Woodruff was presented with the first Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award in honor of her late PBS colleague.

Speaking of the late-PBS icon, Ifill’s alma mater, Simmons College, announced yesterday that it is naming a new school after her, set to open next year.