The International Press Institute on Wednesday declared Dawn editor and columnist Cyril Almeida in Pakistan the recipient of its 71st World Press Freedom Hero award. The institute lauded Almeida for his “tenacious coverage of the Pakistani state’s patronage of militant groups”. The World Press Freedom Hero award honours journalists who have made significant contributions to the promotion of press freedom.
The institute in a statement said that the Pakistani journalist’s work has made him and Dawn a target. In 2016, the government imposed a travel ban on Almeida after he reported on an “extraordinary verbal confrontation” between the country’s civilian government and military.
The institute praised Almeida for his “critical coverage of Pakistan’s powerful military and its direct or indirect involvement in political affairs”.
In 2018, Almedia was named in a treason case and banned from leaving the country after he published an interview with former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who suggested that Pakistan’s military aided the militants who carried out the 2008 terrorist attack in Mumbai. The publication and Almeida were forced to appear before a military-initiated tribunal and were asked to reveal their sources.
Almeida said press freedom in Pakistan is under severe and sustained attack. “I am grateful to the IPI-IMS jury for its acknowledgment of the fight to preserve and protect media freedom in Pakistan,” Almeida said. “What has been inflicted on Dawn and me is one strand of a wider, systemic repression of the media in Pakistan.”
Almeida is a Rhodes scholar with a law degree from Oxford University. He had a short stint as a lawyer before he joined journalism.
International Press Institute Executive Director Barbara Trionfi urged Pakistan to drop all charges against Almeida. Trionfi said Almeida “embodied the dedication to press freedom and courageous public-interest journalism” shared by recipients of the World Press Freedom Hero awardees. “Despite the press freedom crisis engulfing Pakistan, he, and Dawn newspaper, have refused to back down from writing about issues that matter,” she said.
Meanwhile, the institute and International Media Support also announced the Egyptian news site Mada Masr the recipient of the 2019 Free Media Pioneer Award. The institute said Mada Masr “courageously defied Egypt’s media crackdown to deliver independent, investigative news to a public otherwise starved of it”.
The awards will be presented in a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland on June 5.