By Chettria Patrakar
The May 3 announcement of the Courage in Journalism award was a resounding joy for resident Southasian cheerleader, CP.
Whilst readers could be forgiven for wondering if CP was finally recognized for an outstanding contribution to droll polemics, truth be told, squaring up to deadlines is as courageous as yours truly gets.
Rather, the thrill came from being witness to Afghan journalist Najiba Ayubi (along with Nour Kelze of Syria and Bopha Phorn of Cambodia) receiving recognition for her tireless contribution to Afghanistan’s media development.
As Managing Director of the Killid Group (a multiplatform public media service formed in 2002), Ayubi has been a leading voice in fighting government censorship and advancing the cause of a free and viable media within Afghanistan. Conscious of the additional pressure to self-censor, Ayubi has steadfastly refused to dilute her own critical reporting, as well as that of the many young journalists she leads at the Killid Group. Through co-founding the Afghan Independent Media Consortium and the Freedom of Expression Initiative, Ayubi has been instrumental in reaching out to independent Afghan journalists. Importantly, these projects have been guided by the stern but vital maxim ‘Afghan ownership over Afghanistan’s process.’
As a result of these activities, Ayubi has faced significant acts of intimidation, harassment and public ridicule.
Though international awards are easy to deride (yes, the ceremony will be held in the glitzy ballrooms of LA and New York and may well be attended by the Bono/Jolie/Geldof triumvirate), the Courage in Journalism award is a special one. Presented by the International Women’s Media Foundation, for 22 years the award has drawn attention to intrepid female voices within the media, emphasizing their critical importance in a male dominated profession. As such, Najiba Ayubi is indeed, a fitting recipient.
Whilst Ayubi is not the first Southasian to win the award (six others have been privy to the honour), given the long list of spirited female voices in the region, she certainly won’t be the last. This fact, in itself, is reason to celebrate.