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IWMF Announces Winners of 35th Annual Courage in Journalism Awards

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IWMF Announces Winners of 35th Annual Courage in Journalism Awards

Women journalists from Ecuador, Myanmar, Palestine and  U.S. recognized for reporting under duress

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) today announced the winners of its 35th annual Courage in Journalism Awards, which honor remarkable bravery in the pursuit of reporting. The 2024 honorees are Lauren Chooljian, an American journalist with New Hampshire Public Radio (NHPR); Maha Hussaini, a Palestinian freelance journalist; and Mónica Velásquez Villacís, an Ecuadorian journalist with La Posta.

Burmese documentary filmmaker Shin Daewe received the 2024 Wallis Annenberg Justice for Women Journalists Award, which is given annually to a journalist who is unjustly jailed, detained or imprisoned. After her arrest for receiving filming equipment, Daewe was sentenced to life in prison in January – the most severe sentence given to a journalist since the junta regained power in February 2021.

In its 35th year, IWMF’s Courage Awards remind news media audiences worldwide of the sacrifices women journalists make, and the odds they face, simply to report the truth. As the principal award in journalism solely dedicated to women’s contributions in the field, the Courage Award stands as a pillar of thanks for the role diversity plays in upholding press freedom.

“During this global super election year, the IWMF sees case after case – and country after country – creep closer to an erosion, and perhaps demise, of democratic values, especially when it comes to a journalist’s right to report,” said IWMF Executive Director Elisa Lees Muñoz. “We need women’s voices in news media to keep the press free and we need to fiercely protect women like Lauren, Maha, Mónica and Shin to ensure that power is held to account and that equitable values survive.”

A senior reporter and producer for NHPR, Chooljian led a three-year investigative podcast, published in 2023, that uncovered sexual misconduct in the addiction treatment industry. The homes of Chooljian, her family and her editor were vandalized, and she, her team and some of her sources were sued for defamation. Hussaini, a multimedia journalist, faces daily threats to her life while covering the Israel-Hamas war from her homeland of Gaza. Despite displacement, and enduring a physically debilitating aerial assault, Hussaini continues to report, most often for Middle East Eye. In Ecuador, Velásquez Villacís dedicates her investigative work to drug trafficking and political corruption. Her reports have led to the removal and prosecution of government officials, and numerous legal procedures, which led to death threats and defamation from public leaders, driving Velásquez Villacís into temporary exile.

Shin Daewe, winner of the Justice for Women Journalists Award, is one of Myanmar’s pioneering women documentary filmmakers, covering political, environmental and social issues in her country. Following a prior detention in 1990, and year-long jailing in 1991, Daewe was sentenced to life in prison in 2024 for allegedly “funding and assisting terrorists,” and was charged behind closed doors by a military tribunal without access to legal representation.

The Courage in Journalism Awards are made possible by Bank of America, the awards’ National Presenting Sponsor for 18 consecutive years. The IWMF would like to thank Bank of America for its commitment to journalism, diversity in news media and the pursuit of press freedom.

The 2024 IWMF Courage in Journalism Award winners will be recognized during a private ceremony in Los Angeles on October 1st and a lunchtime gala in New York City on October 9th. For more information about sponsoring the Courage Awards during the IWMF’s 35th anniversary, please contact Sara Johnson ([email protected]).

About the 2024 Courage in Journalism Award Winners

Lauren Chooljian (United States) ­– Radio Journalist (NHPR)
X: @laurenchooljian

Lauren Chooljian is a senior reporter and producer at NHPR, the NPR affiliate in New Hampshire. She is part of NHPR’s DOCUMENT team, a narrative-driven, long-form reporting project. Chooljian is also the host of The 13th Step, a podcast about sexual misconduct in the addiction treatment industry, which was a finalist for the 2024 Pulitzer Prize in Audio Reporting and named one of the best podcasts of 2023 by The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Vogue.

Chooljian’s work has won numerous awards, including a duPont-Columbia Award, a National Edward R. Murrow Award, an RTDNA First Amendment Award and was recognized by the Third Coast International Audio Festival. She was also featured in The New York Times for co-hosting Stranglehold, an award-winning podcast about New Hampshire’s presidential primary.

Before joining NHPR in 2017, Chooljian spent nearly six years as a reporter, producer and part-time host for WBEZ in Chicago. She has appeared on NPR, PBS NewsHour, CNN, CSPAN, MSNBC, and in The Washington Post, among other outlets. She is a graduate of Saint Anselm College and received a master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Chooljian said to the IWMF: “Even though the last few years have tested me, I never thought about quitting journalism. I deeply believe in the power of stories and audio storytelling – to give people who are often ignored or undervalued a chance to be heard.”

Chooljian continued: “I deeply appreciate this recognition from the IWMF as it highlights how hard it can be today to be a journalist in the United States. There are many, many sources who took a big risk and told me their story. They believed that journalism could shine a light on the pervasive problem of sexual misconduct in addiction treatment and recovery settings. It was an honor to share their stories with the world.”

Read more of Chooljian’s story here.

Maha Hussaini (Palestine) – Freelance Journalist
X: @MahaGaza, Instagram: @mahahussaini

Maha Hussaini is a Palestinian journalist based in the Gaza Strip. She began her journalism career covering Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014, working as a war reporter and producer.

Hussaini has reported on hundreds of stories, focusing on human rights and humanitarian issues including armed conflicts, humanitarian crises, torture, enforced disappearances, field executions, and violence against women.

In 2020, Hussaini won the Martin Adler Prize awarded by the Rory Peck Trust for her work as a freelance journalist. She holds a master’s degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in English and French Literature from Al-Azhar University in Gaza.

Hussaini remarked to the IWMF: “I didn’t choose to be a journalist – I had to be a journalist. Since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza in October 2023, I have become increasingly aware that journalists are targets and I could be next. My work carries immense risk, not only for myself but for my family and those seeking refuge in the same shelter with me. This award comes at a crucial time, with hundreds of Palestinian colleagues and journalists killed during Israel’s war on Gaza. I am hopeful that this honor will shed further light not just on my work, but on the work of all Palestinian journalists who face death daily and grapple with unspeakable challenges in reporting.”

Read more about Hussaini’s story here.

Mónica Velásquez Villacís (Ecuador) ­– Print Journalist (La Posta)
X: @MoniVelasquezV, Instagram: @monivelasquezv

Monica Velásquez Villacís is an investigative journalist and presenter at La Posta, an influential digital media outlet in Ecuador.

Velásquez Villacís began her career in investigative journalism, which drove her work on multiple high-profile investigations involving political corruption and organized crime like the Odebrecht Case (a trans-national corruption network), the Ministry of Death (exploring the hospital crisis in Ecuador) and The Godfather (drug trafficking involving high-ranking government officials), among others. She has also reported internationally in Venezuela and in Ukraine.

Today, Velásquez Villacís continues her work with a special focus on recruitment of children by criminal organizations. For her work she’s received an Eppy Award, an honorable mention at the SIP/IAPA Awards, been a finalist at the Gabo Awards, and was cited as an honorable mention at both the ISYS/Colpin Awards and the King of Spain Awards.

Responding to the IWMF, Velásquez Villacís commented: “Receiving the IWMF Courage Award is an immense honor and a profound motivation to continue my work. I work in journalism because I believe in the power of truth, and I use it in favor of those most in need. Being a journalist – and a woman – requires not only professional excellence but extraordinary resistance. For me, this award is a testimony to the impact that journalism can have on society and a reminder of the need to persevere. We are paving the way for an entire generation who we hope will see journalism as a profession where women can, and do, take risks to get to the truth.”

Read more of Velásquez Villacís’ story here.

Shin Daewe (Myanmar) – Documentary Filmmaker

Cho Cho Hnin, known professionally as Shin Daewe, gained recognition as a poet and actively participated in the 1996 modern poetry movement at Rangoon University called New Century Defile. Her career diversified in 1997 when she joined AV media and in the 2000s, Daewe published a magazine and served as a reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), eventually transitioning to a freelance documentary filmmaker.

In 2009, she began working for Radio Free Asia (Burmese Service) and is also the director of Yangon Filmschool, based in Yangon, Myanmar. In 2013, Daewe’s work ‘Take Me Home’ about refugee camps in Kachinwon Best Documentary Award at Wathann Film Festival.

Her reporting often focuses on environmental issues and human-interest stories. Her most powerful work emerged after the military coup in 2021, when Daewe reported from some of the most dangerous areas of the country, documenting decimated villages the killing of hundreds of civilians, the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the broader struggles of the Burmese people.

Daewe’s family relayed to the IWMF: “Shin is driven by a deep desire to help others, contribute to society and promote freedom of expression. Her husband, Ko Oo, shared that Shin feels happy knowing she received the IWMF’s Justice for Women Journalists Award, among other honors.”

Read more of Daewe’s story here.

About the International Women’s Media Foundation
The IWMF is the only global organization built to serve the holistic needs of women and nonbinary journalists. We are a bold and inclusive organization that supports journalists where they are with awards, reporting opportunities, fellowships, grants, safety training and emergency aid. As one of the largest supporters of women-produced journalism, our transformative work strengthens equal opportunity and press freedom worldwide. Follow the IWMF on Twitter at @IWMF, on Facebook at @IWMFPage, on Instagram on @TheIWMF and on TikTok @theiwmf.

SOURCE The International Women’s Media Foundation



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