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Cameroonian Reporter Wins Courage in Journalism Award


A Cameroonian journalist's unflinching reporting on human rights and corruption in her country has won her international recognition with the 2009 Courage in Journalism Award.

Agnes Tailé's courageous reporting in her home country of Cameroon has won her a prestigious award from the International Women's Media Foundation.

Tailé began her journalism career straight out of high school and now works for Canal 2 International as a TV and radio reporter. She says though her efforts are recognized in Cameroon, the international award is special.

Tailé says she is full of emotion and very proud to win the award because it is a recognition of her work. International recognition is very important, she says, and gives you courage to continue your work. It is a great honor, she said.

The Courage in Journalism Award is given every year to heroic women journalists. Past winners include CNN's Christiane Amanpour and the Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya who reported the horrors of the Chechnya war and was assassinated in 2006. It is the only international prize to recognize the bravery of female journalists.

Kathleen Curry is deputy director of the International Women's Media Foundation. She says the organization created the award in 1990 to recognize female journalists around the world who risk their lives to report the truth.

Curry says Cameroon's Tailé exemplifies the characteristics of many past winners.

"She works in a country where journalists are under attack, because they are trying to report on government corruption in very difficult cirumstances. She has shown courage several times. When she worked for her radio station, Sweet FM, she brought to light a lot of the corruption that was going on and she provided a forum for her listeners to talk about this corruption," Curry said.

Over the course of her career, Tailé has regularly reported on government corruption, press freedom and human rights issues in Cameroon. Her persistent reporting has often put her life in danger. In 2006, weeks after anonymous threats told her to stop reporting, she was abducted by hooded men, beaten severely and left for dead in a ravine.

Curry finds Taile's tenacity in the face of such intimidation admirable.

"She recovered and after that she didn't shirk. She found another job, her old job was closed and taken away from her. She found another job and continues to report the news. So I think she exemplifies the qualities of the women that we honor - people who pursue the news, who pursue truth, who are dogged in their pursuit and who do not scare easily," said Curry.

Press freedom in Cameroon is considered to be moving slowly in the right direction despite numerous reporting taboos. The press freedom watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, says Cameroon is wavering between repression and liberalization of its media. Cameroon still ranks in the bottom third of its press freedom index.

Tailé says progress is slow.

Tailé says though the press is not like the U.S. or France or elsewhere, press freedom in Cameroon is evolving little by little. Even so, she says, it is a very controlled environment in which to work.

Tailé believes it is essential for journalists to continue to search out the truth. She says freedom does not come easily and if journalists don't fight for information, no one else will.

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