Chinese journalist Cheng Yizhong awarded UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2005Chinese journalist Cheng Yizhong was named as the laureate of the 2005 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, on the recommendation of an independent jury of media professionals from all over the world.
Kavi Chongkittavorn executive editor of the Bangkok English-language daily The Nation, who chairs the jury, declared: “Mr Cheng represents Chinese journalism at its best; he speaks out for the weak and checks the strong. His courageous outspokenness has contributed to raising public awareness in China.”
As editor of Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis Daily) Mr Cheng, 40, broke new ground in Chinese journalism. His editorial independence and professional know-how helped turn his paper into one of the most successful dailies in the country, publishing articles revealing the SARS epidemic and a case of death in a Canton police station.
Imprisoned for five months with two of his Nanfang Dushi Bao colleagues, Yu Huafeng and Li Minying, Mr Cheng was released in August 2004. While no formal charges were laid against him, he has been barred from resuming his professional activities.
Expressing his gratitude for the Prize, Mr Cheng said: “I feel very relieved and comforted, but I also feel sad. All we have done is act according to our conscience. Unfortunately we have had to pay a price for following our conscience.”
The $25,000 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is awarded each year on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, May 3, which will be celebrated this year in Dakar (Senegal).
The Jury, chaired by Mr Chongkittavorn (Thailand), includes the following members: Ruth de Aquino, (Brazil); Conor Brady, (Ireland); Oliver Clarke (Jamaica); Souleymane Diallo, (Guinea); Kunda Dixit, (Nepal); Yosri Fouda, (Qatar); Ferial Haffajee, (South Africa); Marvin Kalb, (USA); Daoud Kuttab, (Jordan); Remzi Lani, (Albania); Artūras Račas, (Lithuania); and two representatives of the Fundación Guillermo Cano (Colombia).
The prize, created by UNESCO’s Executive Board in 1997, aims to honour the work of an individual, organization or institution defending or promoting freedom of expression anywhere in the world, especially if this puts the person’s life at risk.
It is named after Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano, who was murdered in 1987 for having denounced the activities of his country’s powerful drug barons. Candidates are put forward by Member States, regional and international organizations that promote freedom of expression.