International Press Freedom Awards

Mauri König Award Acceptance Speech



Mauri König, Brazil
Gazeto do Povo

Acceptance Speech
CPJ International Press Freedom Award 2012
November 20, 2012
Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue, New York City

A translation of the speech is below

Today I feel that I am the most privileged of journalists. First, to be alive and have escaped situations that really could have ended badly; second, because the newspaper where I work, Gazeta do Povo, understands the necessity of the journalism I do;  and thirdly, for receiving this prize from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a recognition that stems not from a particular report, but rather from a lifetime of covering isues of public interest.

Many journalists have paid with their lives for believing that journalism is a tool for improving our reality, revealing injustices, denouncing corrupt governments, and exposing arbitrary police. In their memory, I share this award with those who seek to excercise journalism as an instrument of change, even if this implies some risk.

A journalism student once asked me if I was not afraid to do this kind of investigative work. I replied that my indignation is greater than my fear. Indignation is what best defines the motivation of those who do this kind of journalism. It was this sentiment that motivated the journalist Tim Lopes, kidnapped and killed in 2002 by drug dealers while  investigating the sexual exploitation of adolescents in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. It is Brazil's most emblematic case, but not the only one.

With 21 journalsits killed in the line of duty since 1992, Brazil occupies the 11th spot in CPJ's ranking of countries where journalists are killed. Nonetheless, this year the Brazilian government allied itself with India and Pakistan to prevent the adoption of a United Nations action plan that aimed to reduce the killings of journalists and combat impunity. Under pressure, the government backtracked. And the organization to which I belong, the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists, was invited to collaborate and offer suggestions to be presented to the United Nations.

We now hope that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who in times of political activism was imprisoned and tortured for fighting for democracy and the right to free speech, is committed to the adoption of this plan. It is not to defend ourselves, as some might think, but rather the defense of freedom of expression as one of the pillars of democracy. This award from CPJ helps call attention to a problem that many are reluctant to admit, in Brazil and in other countries.

Independent journalism and the right to information cannot continue to exist in the crossfire of legal threats, physical agression, and the curtailing of freedom in an atmosphere of impunity and corruption without limits. We cannot allow journalists like Dhondup Wangchen and Azimjon Askarov, who could not be present for this tribute, continue to be imprisoned for fighting against arbitrary governmenta in pursuit of a more just society.

Thanks once again to CPJ for this award and distinction.

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