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Newhouse School announces winners of Tully Center Free Speech Award
Newhouse School announces winners of Tully Center Free Speech AwardJanuary 14, 2009Wendy S. Loughlinwsloughl@syr.edu
The Tully Center for Free Speech, part of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, has announced two winners of the Tully Center Free Speech Award, which is given annually to a journalist who has faced obstacles to free speech: Barry Bearak, co-Southern Africa bureau chief with The New York Times; and Frank Chikowore, a freelance journalist in Zimbabwe.
An awards ceremony will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 7:30 p.m. in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse 3. Chikowore will attend the ceremony and will tell the story of his jailing last year in Zimbabwe and why he believes in free speech and a free press. He will also speak to Newhouse classes. Bearak is on assignment in Africa and unable to attend, but his story will be told in a student-produced multimedia presentation.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Bearak was jailed in Zimbabwe last spring for covering the elections without government permission. He was taken into custody during a raid on a small hotel frequented by foreign journalists in Harare and held in prison for five days before being released on bail. The raid was believed to have been part of a crackdown by the government of longtime President Robert Mugabe, who was doing poorly in the elections.
“I was being charged with the crime of ‘committing journalism,’ Bearak later wrote in his Times account of the ordeal. “One of my captors, Detective Inspector Dani Rangwani, described the offense to me as something despicable, almost hissing the words: ‘You’ve been gathering, processing and disseminating the news.’”
The charges against Bearak were dismissed after about two weeks, and he returned home to Johannesburg before authorities could re-arrest him.
Chikowore was also arrested in events surrounding last spring’s Zimbabwe elections. He was taken into custody while covering a strike organized by the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, which was demanding the release of the election results. Initially held incommunicado, he remained in detention for 17 days while police tried and failed to accuse him of various crimes. He was finally charged with public violence connected with a bus burning at the site of the strike and released on bail. He was eventually removed from remand after the state failed to prosecute him.
Chikowore was a reporter for the Weekly Times before government authorities closed the paper in 2005. He has since been working as a freelance reporter. He also runs a popular blog that provided critical coverage of the presidential election and its aftermath, but the government has placed tight restrictions on it.
“At the end of the day, I feel I have an obligation to inform Zimbabweans of what’s going on in the world around them,” says Chikowore. He says all journalists in Zimbabwe face a constant battle in the quest for free speech. “We’ve been threatened, yes. But we will not succumb to the pressure.”
The original slate of nominees for the award was put forth by a distinguished panel of professionals, including Sandy Baron, executive director, Media Law Resource Center; Joan Bertin, executive director, National Coalition Against Censorship; Jane Corbin, correspondent, BBC; Gene Policinski, vice president and executive director, First Amendment Center; and Elisabeth Witchel, program coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists.
Finalists were chosen by a committee of SU students and faculty, including Nikki Allem, Newhouse graduate student and researcher for the Tully Center; Danny Hayes, assistant professor of political science in SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs; Barbara Fought, director of the Tully Center; Joel Kaplan, Newhouse associate dean; and Kristen Putch, a senior in Newhouse and SU’s College of Arts and Sciences.
Endowed by the late Joan Tully ’69, the Newhouse School’s Tully Center educates students and the public about the important value of free speech through education, resources and research.
For more information, contact Fought at (315) 443-4054 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: Bearak and Chikowore are both available for interviews. Bearak can be reached at email@example.com, and Chikowore at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Chikowore will also be available for interviews during his visit to Syracuse. Contact Wendy Loughlin at (315) 443-2785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.