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Media Foundation Honors Women Journalists from Iraq, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Mexico


An Ethiopian publisher who gave birth to a son while imprisoned, a group of Iraqi women reporters who risk their lives to cover the war, a Mexican journalist who receives threats to her life, and a VOA contributor from Zimbabwe are the recipients of this year's "Courage in Journalism" awards. From VOA's New York Bureau, Mona Ghuneim reports.

The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) says this year's winners are working at a time when press freedom is under threat in many places. The group, which honors international female journalists each year with the awards, says the 2007 recipients are under constant duress and literally risk their lives in order to report the facts.

The group Tuesday honored Ethiopian journalist and former publisher of three weekly newspapers, Serkalem Fasil. Fasil was arrested in 2005, after publishing articles critical of the government. She was pregnant at the time and gave birth to her son prematurely in jail, then cared for him while still imprisoned. She was released in April of this year and says she will "continue to do the right thing." Fasil was not in New York to receive her award, but she spoke through a translator in a video shown at the ceremony.

"I was detained for a year and six months," she said. "Prison will not deter me from writing. I will continue to write. I will not soften the issues or self-censor either. I will report the facts."

In July, the Ethiopian government appealed Fasil's acquittal and brought charges against her again. Currently, she is waiting for the case to be heard in court.

The IWMF honored six Iraqi women who work in the Baghdad bureau of the McClatchy newspapers chain. Sahar Issa accepted the award for the group.

"Our voices have carried, through war, through death and sorrow, through sleepless nights and fear-driven days, in an effort to reflect the picture of our country as we see it, and of our people as only we can truly know them," she said.

Issa says that an average of one reporter and one media assistant is killed every week in Iraq.

Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho says she is not working in a war-torn country like Iraq but she has been detained, arrested and endured death threats because of her work. The correspondent for the Women's Communication and Information (CIMAC) agency reports on domestic violence, organized crime and political corruption in Mexico. She was honored for her journalism and human rights work in her country.

The IWMF's Lifetime Achievement Award went to a journalist from Zimbabwe who contributes to the Voice of America and also writes for British, South African and US news organizations. Peta Thornycroft reports on human rights abuses and government repression despite the difficulties journalists face in Zimbabwe. She has been detained and arrested and even gave up her British citizenship when foreign media were expelled from the country so that she could remain in Zimbabwe and report. She says she works in a "heartbroken country."

"Zimbabwe has withdrawn from the world," she said. "Its life, its energy, its resilience is eaten away. There is no war in Zimbabwe, except Mugabe's war against his people."

Thornycroft thanked the IWMF for the award and for its work in strengthening the role of women in the international press. The group believes that no media is truly free unless women share an equal voice.

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