The International Womens Media Foundation has honoured veteran Zimbabwe
journalist Peta Thornycroft for her courageous reporting, writes Torby
Muturikwa.


Thornycroft, Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho, Ethiopia’s Serkalem Fasil, and six Iraqi women journalists from the McClatchy News Baghdad bureau, were all recognized by the IWMF for their dedication to their profession and their personal bravery.
 
Announcing the 200 awards, IWMF executive director Jane Ransom said her organisation has been recognising brave and dedicated women journalists for 18 years. Previously, they have included CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Namibia’s  Gwen Lister, the late Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya and the Christian Science Monitor’s Jill Carroll.

“The award itself is to honor and celebrate women who have exhibited exceptional bravery in the line of their reporting duties in bringing the truth to people,” Ransom said.

“Many of the awardees have told us that they’ve gotten a lot of visibility in their own countries as a result of receiving the award, which they feel makes it harder for their governments to attack them, just because it can’t be done quietly when you’re a well-known person,” Ransom said.  “We’re letting them know that people in the United States are watching what’s going on here.”

Along with Thornycroft’s many years of intrepid reporting from Zimbabwe, her dedication to training younger journalists in Southern Africa, including women, earned her the IWMF’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Receiving the award, Thornycroft said: "Reporting the news from Zimbabwe is a dangerous endeavour, causing a constant state of sadness."

She said despite the constant risk to her personal safety as one of the country’s few remaining independent women journalists, and her despair at the results of the government’s policies and human rights abuses, she pushes herself to continue because “it’s a story that has to be told”.

Thornycroft said that in order to deal with the threats she faces from the authorities, “I make a plan every day.” She described disguising herself while travelling through the country to do her job and risking severe consequences such as imprisonment if she is discovered.

The veteran journalist has spent decades covering the country’s decline under President Robert Mugabe, even renouncing her British citizenship after the government outlawed the presence of foreign journalists so she could continue documenting human rights abuses under the oppressive regime. 

“I don'’t think I make any difference. I’m sorry about that,” she said. “I’m constantly hacking on about the appalling way people are treated, the appalling abuses in the police cells … [but] the government seems to be completely impervious to the suffering that they have to be able to see. … They are just wasting away this clever, talented nation.”

“I just carry on because it’s there and it’s a story that has to be told,” she said.  “I don’t really know any other kind of life.”