Canadian journalists honoured at World Press Freedom Day luncheon

In 2012, there were 107 journalists killed, 193 imprisoned and 38 kidnapped. One of those 38 is Jim Foley. Missing since November 22, 2012, Foley was reporting on the conflict in Syria for the Boston based Global Post.

At the World Press Freedom Day Luncheon on Friday, Global Post founder and editor Charles Sennott gave a keynote speech about the challenges facing freedom of the press. “People are putting their lives on the line for ‘ground truth,’” said the editor, using a term he borrowed from satellite imaging to describe how reporters collect information on location. It was a somber reminder of the dangers many journalists face daily simply doing their jobs.

The luncheon also served to remind delegates about the triumphs of the past year and the challenges the industry as a whole continues to face. “We’re meeting at a moment where the fourth estate is transforming,” said Don Newman, who hosted the special luncheon event, pointing out that social media and citizen journalists are transforming how we get our news. Sennott was optimistic that this change also meant there are great opportunities ahead. “It’s great to be a young journalist today.”

Several journalists took home awards celebrating freedom of expression. The CCWPF Press Freedom Award was awarded to Stephen Maher of Postmedia News and Glen McGregor of The Ottawa Citizen for their work reporting the robocalls scandal during the 2011 federal election. “We really did come under attack [after the story came out],” said Maher. He discussed the reactions among readers and other media outlets and pointed out that, while it wasn’t close to the level of harassment endured by journalists in other countries, it was troubling to both him and McGregor. “It is something real and it is wise to acknowledge that.” The journalists’ dedication was apparent – McGregor was in fact covering the robocalls trial in Guelph, ON and wasn’t able to attend the luncheon.

During the special luncheon event, Jennifer Pagliaro from the Toronto Star and Katie May from the Lethbridge Herald were awarded the Edward Goff Penny Memorial Award for young journalists, honouring the diverse and challenging work both have done early in their careers.

Leslie Ricciardi, a Uruguayan political cartoonist, was awarded first prize in the 13th annual UNESCO International Editorial Cartoon Competition.

World Press Freedom day is certainly a time to reflect on why a healthy and thriving fourth estate is so important. Sennott wanted the delegates to take one thing away after lunch. “Think of all the missing and killed journalists today,” said Sennott, “and think of Jim Foley.”