Fearless Zimbabwean media and human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has been named this year’s winner of the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.
The lifetime achievement award is in recognition of her continued courageous fight for a free press in one of the most repressive countries in the world.
She has had numerous run-ins with the authorities: in 2003, she was choked and assaulted by the police. Last year she was severely tortured and assaulted by the police for leading a lawyers’ protest after their colleagues were arrested while representing the opposition MDC
Mtetwa has won numerous acquittals for local and foreign journalists arrested under Zimbabwe’s repressive media laws.
In April, she represented the Johannesburg based Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times journalist Barry Bearak, who faced criminal charges after being arrested for practicing journalism without a license in Zimbabwe.
CPJ Board Chairman Paul Steiger says: “Mtetwa’s courageous efforts on behalf of journalists in Zimbabwe demonstrate her unflinching commitment. She is richly deserving of the Burton Benjamin Award, given for lifetime achievement in the cause of press freedom,”
In 2003, Mtetwa obtained a court order to prevent the deportation of Guardian correspondent and US citizen Andrew Meldrum.
In 2005, Mtetwa received the International Press Freedom Award from the New York-based CPJ, thereby becoming the first person to be honored with both CPJ awards.
And in 2003 the UK based Liberty organization named her Human Rights Lawyer of the Year.
The Burton Benjamin Memorial Award is named in honor of the late CBS News senior producer and former CPJ chairman who died in 1988.
The other recipients of the 18th edition of the Press Freedom Awards include journalists Bilal Hussein of Iraq, Danish Karokhel and Farida Nekzad of Afghanistan, Andrew Mwenda of Uganda, and Hector Maseda Gutirrez of Cuba
According to CJP these courageous journalists have all risked imprisonment, harassment, and their lives to report the news and stand up for press freedom in their countries.
“These are the front-line reporters who risk their lives and their liberty to bring the news not only to the people of their own countries but to a global audience,” says Steiger.
Read more about the awards.