The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) has named Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas and Burmese investigative reporter May Thingyan Hein as the 2007 Knight International Journalism Award winners.
They will be honored along with Founders Award recipient Tom Brokaw at the 10th annual ICFJ Awards Dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, on November 13. The dinner also will feature Keynote Speaker Bob Woodruff and Master of Ceremonies George Stephanopoulos.
Abbas is the first blogger to win the award. His blog, Misr Digital (Egyptian Awareness,) regularly breaks stories on subjects generally avoided by local media, such as protests, corruption, and police brutality. His vivid first-hand reports, videos and photographs have attracted thousands of readers and the attention of mainstream news outlets, which have begun to pick up his hard-hitting stories.
Abbas, 32, has been arrested, interrogated, and beaten, but remains undaunted. “The bloggers in Egypt are the last independent voice,” he recently wrote. “If we are silenced, no protests will be heard in Egypt … And so the choice to blog is not only serious, but necessary.”
Burma’s May Thingyan Hein, 33, stands out for her coverage of controversial topics such as corruption, HIV/AIDS and poverty. A freelance journalist for several publications, she specializes in investigative stories in a country where journalists must submit their reports in advance to officials. Her breaking coverage of the spread of the bird flu into Burma, for example, forced officials to acknowledge the epidemic.
“Wael Abbas and May Thingyan Hein are blazing the path in their countries with extremely bold coverage,” says ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “We want to honor them for exposing issues no one else will cover and encourage others to follow their example.”
The award, given by the Knight International Journalism Fellowships Program, recognizes individuals who have raised the standards of media excellence in their countries. Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Knight International Fellows lead high-impact projects that help news media make societies more accountable to their citizens.
Knight International Journalism Fellows, past and present, and other experts in the field nominated candidates for the award. A five-member jury then made the final selection. The jury included two former Knight Fellows — Roger Atwood of the Washington Office on Latin America and John Pancake of the Washington Post — as well as Patricia Weems Gaston of the Washington Post, Owen Ullmann of USA Today, and ICFJ President Barnathan.
The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. Since 1984, ICFJ has worked directly with more than 40,000 journalists from 176 countries. Aiming to raise the standards of journalism, ICFJ offers hands- on training workshops, seminars, fellowships and international exchanges to reporters and media managers around the globe. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism excellence worldwide and invests in the vitality of the communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers.