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International Journalists Honored with Press Freedom Awards

The director of Somalia's largest media company (HornAfrik) was killed on the streets of Mogadishu by three masked gunmen while talking to several reporters last February

News Reporters from Somalia, Tunisia, Azerbaijani, Sri Lanka cited for upholding press freedoms in their countries

Some 34 journalists died this year while doing their jobs. And the independent press organization Committee To Protect Journalists says another 30 correspondents have gone missing. In New York next Tuesday, (November 24th) members of the media from around the world will gather to honor and pay tribute to several international journalists.

In Sri Lanka, journalists scuffle with police while protesting the killing of a newspaper editor in Colombo in Janurary. Some human rights groups accuse the Sri Lankan government and its allies of being behind the death.

The director of Somalia's largest media company (HornAfrik) was killed on the streets of Mogadishu by three masked gunmen while talking to several reporters last February. His former boss was killed two years earlier. The cases illustrate the risks international journalists face everyday.

Twenty-seven year old Somali journalist Mustafa Haji Abdinur knows first hand what it's like to work in one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. "If you get intimidation, it is everyday. And you get some people who call you and tell you what you are doing is not good and that is a risk," he said. "Even though, I know I am taking risk and it is very dangerous to be a journalist in Somalia, I am still devoted, and I need to be a journalist."

Abdinur is one of several reporters and editors the Committee to Protect Journalists is honoring with an International Press Freedom Award.

"What we are trying to shine a light on these abuses and try to expose the repressive practices of these governments," Executive Director Joel Simon said. "And by doing so provide both an emotional lift but also real support for these journalists working under very difficult conditions."

Another reporter being honored for her work is Naziha Rejiba from Tunisia. Rejiba is the editor of an online news journal (Kalima) that the Tunisian government is blocking. She explains how the Tunisian government has made it difficult for her to do her job.

"If I need to receive or obtain certain certificates or licenses from the government that is very difficult. It is very hard to reach the sources of information. There are a lot of obstacles using technological tools such as the Internet and the telephone," Rejiba said. "And we do try as journalists to constantly circumvent these obstacles to find ways to still do our job. If we didn't no voices would be heard out of Tunisia."

Two other journalists who won Press Freedom Awards this year (JS Tissainayagam) from Sri Lanka and Azerbaijan (Eynulla Fatullayev) are both serving lengthy prison sentences on terrorism charges in their countries. The Committee to Protect Journalists says the violence and intimidation against reporters forces many of them to quit their jobs or flee their homelands.

Mustafa Haji Abdinur says with the escalating violence in Somalia, many local and foreign journalists are leaving. "If I become one of the journalist that leaves the country then that means there would only be a few journalist left in the country now. If the few left the country that would mean there would be no news from Somalia. So in order to avoid this I preferred to remain in my country and to keep doing what I am doing," Abdinur said.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says by honoring these reporters and editors, it encourages and inspires other members of the media to keep doing their jobs despite fears of violence.