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Women Journalists Receive Awards for 'Courage' - 2001-10-17


The International Women's Media Foundation presented its annual awards today, Tuesday, for courage in journalism. The recognition went to three women who have risked their lives in pursuit of the story. The International Women's Media Foundation calls the three winners an inspiration. The group says their courage has taken on special significance since the September 11th terror attacks in the United States.

One of the winners, Jineth Bedoya Lima, is a 27-year old reporter from the El Espectador newspaper, based in Bogota, Colombia. She covers the conflict between the Colombian government and paramilitary groups. Last year, she was waiting for an interview when she was kidnapped, drugged, beaten and raped. "I was overwhelmed by the presence of death and my life plunged into a nightmare that has not yet subsided," she said. "The terrorist who wanted to put an end to my dreams failed because even though I am burdened by a profound pain, I have the firm conviction that I will persevere."

Ms. Lima barely survived. A taxi driver found her lying in a garbage dump with her hands tied. But she returned to work two weeks later, and continues reporting, with the protection of a bodyguard.

Like Ms. Lima, Carmen Gurruchaga of Spain was recognized for her perseverance under threat. For more than 20 years, she has covered Basque separatists for the El Mundo newspaper. She is on the terrorist group, ETA's hit list, and her house was bombed while she and her two children were inside.

Although Ms. Gurruchaga was forced to leave her native Basque home for Madrid, she says the threats will not stop her. "This attack changed my life dramatically and drastically because now I'm always accompanied by two bodyguards," she says. "I live in a house with 24-hour protection. When I go to a hotel and a restaurant, I cannot reserve under my own name. I can not go freely to San Sebastian to visit my family. Still they won't stop me. I will continue my fight for freedom of speech."

Amal Abbas, the editor-in-chief of the independent Al-Rai Al-Akher newspaper in Sudan, was not in New York to receive her award. The only top woman editor in the Sudan, she has been imprisoned, harassed, and fined for her work.

In a statement read by Washington-based newswoman, Maureen Bunyon, Ms. Abbas' said that "many times we've faced difficulties. So many times we've been forced to break down. I was summoned to the internal security office several times," she said. "I have been to prison. The only reason for all this suffering is because we wrote about corruption in Khartoum."

The International Women's Media Foundation gave its annual lifetime achievement award to 77-year old Colleen "Koky" Dishon, formerly of the Chicago Tribune. She is credited with innovative feature reporting and editing. Ms. Dishon started reporting over 60 years ago, and was the first woman on the newspaper's masthead.