Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima has been awarded the prestigious Golden Pen of Freedom award by the World Association of News Publishers.
In a statement congratulating Ms. Bedoya Lima, Warren Fernandez, president of the World Editors Forum, commended her “tireless work in promoting and protecting the rights of women, and her courage in confronting and overcoming her own personal tragedy with a level of dignity and determination that serves as inspiration to peers the world over.”
Ms. Bedoya Lima, a deputy editor for Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper, has reported for more than two decades on armed conflict in her country, as well as drug trafficking and women’s rights issues – the latter of which earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2016.
Her work has come at a personal cost to her safety.
In 2000, while on assignment at La Modelo prison in Bogota, investigating alleged arms sales between paramilitaries and state officials, Ms. Bedoya Lima was kidnapped and then tortured and sexually assaulted by three paramilitaries – an attack that one of them told her was “a message to the press in Colombia.”
Three years later, she was kidnapped once again by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and held for five days.
In the years since, she has become an advocate against impunity and for the rights of women affected by Colombia’s political violence.
Last year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights confirmed in a landmark decision that the Colombian state was responsible for the acts committed against Ms. Bedoya Lima.
“At a time when journalists, women and minorities are under such great threat of violence, oppression and discrimination, in so many places around the world, the courage and conviction of Jineth Bedoya Lima is a shining inspiration,” Mr. Fernandez said. “We would do well to remember her resounding words: ‘I will not be silenced; I choose to survive, to keep doing journalism.' ”
Ms. Bedoya Lima has previously received numerous awards, including the International Press Freedom Award sponsored by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the Courage in Journalism Award by the International Women’s Media Foundation.
Earlier this year she was announced as the 2020 recipient of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, and in August, 2019, she won the Press Freedom Grand Prize from the Inter American Press Association.
The 2020 Golden Pen award – which was first awarded in 1961 and recognizes those who have made an outstanding contribution to the defence and promotion of press freedom – was presented in a virtual ceremony Wednesday afternoon, owing to COVID-19 restrictions. Previous Golden Pen recipients include Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Jamal Khashoggi (posthumously) of Saudi Arabia.
In a statement accepting this year’s award, Ms. Bedoya Lima wrote that she hopes the recognition will raise awareness about the dangers faced by Colombian journalists.
“We can’t stop telling these stories. This award recognizes that work. It’s a big support for journalists, to show that their work can change the reality of entire communities,” she said.
“The reality that we are facing today forces us to work with determination and greater commitment to our audiences, and that is one of the greatest challenges accepting this award entails. It is not only the honour of receiving it, but it is also the obligation to live up to what it represents. It is a legacy.”
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