Reporters Without Borders honored Thursday (18) the China Press Freedom Award Zhang Zhanand Palestinian Magdoleen Hassouna and the International Project Pegasus, a multinational press consortium investigating illegal espionage.
The three prizes, awarded annually by an international non-governmental organization based in Paris, recognize the value, independence and impact of various journalistic works that have contributed to the defense or promotion of press freedom in the world.
In this 29th edition of the award, Reporters Without Borders honored, in the value category, the work of Zhang Zhan, a lawyer and journalist who covered the Covid-19 pandemic in the Chinese city of Wuhan in February 2020.
Zan, who was arrested in May 2020, posted pictures of streets, hospitals and injured families on social media, becoming one of the main independent sources of information on the health situation in the region.
Journalist Zhang Zhan in Wuhan, before he was arrested by Chinese police, in this 2020 photo – Photo: Melanie Wang via The Associated Press
Her detention was kept secret for several months and in December last year she was sentenced to four years in prison for disturbing public order.
The journalist began a hunger strike to protest the decision, and according to her family, her health has deteriorated in recent weeks.
A mirror of the situation in the press today
In the Independence category, Reporters Without Borders chose Palestinian journalist Majdoleen Hassouna, who is frequently harassed by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities for her critical publications.
She has been detained in Israel since August 2019, when she was traveling from the West Bank with her fiancé and was told that she was being banned from leaving the Strip for security reasons.
The third award recognizing the impact of journalistic work went to Pegasus International Project, a consortium of more than 80 journalists from 17 media outlets in 11 countries, supported by Amnesty International.
The name of the project is inspired by the “Pegasus” surveillance software program, which is owned by the Israeli technology company NSO Group, and is used to help countries and their security agencies in the fight against terrorism.
The software has been sold to various governments since 2011 and, researchers from the Project Pegasus consortium revealed, is also used by at least 11 governments — authoritarian or democratic — to spy on journalists, human rights activists and opposition figures. Countries include Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan and Hungary.
In 2017, DW revealed that the Mexican government at the time was using the software to spy on journalists.
“This is, unfortunately, a summary of the situation in the press today. The RSF award winners embody the finest qualities of journalism. They deserve not only our admiration, but our full support,” the statement said in a statement. Reporters Without Borders Secretary General, Christophe Deloire.
The jury for this edition was chaired by Reporters Without Borders president, Pierre Hassky, and important international correspondents, such as the French Raphael Baki, the Indian Rana Ayyub, the Syrian lawyer Mazen Darwish, and the Pakistani editor Hamid Mir.
“Devoted food specialist. General alcohol fanatic. Amateur explorer. Infuriatingly humble social media scholar. Analyst.”