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Women Journalists from Bangladesh, Iran and Germany Honored for Courage

By Barbara Schoetzau, VOA, New York

The non-profit International Women's Media Foundation is honoring female journalists from Bangladesh, Germany and Iran who have put their lives at risk to report on war, corruption, politics and human rights.

Every year the International Women's Media Foundation honors three women journalists with its "Courage in Journalism" awards.

The chairman of the awards committee, U.S. broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff, says the work of the honorees makes them champions of a free press.

"These courage awards come at a time when we know press freedom is at stake in so many parts of the world," she said. "Journalists are vulnerable not just in war zones, but also in countries where dictators and where corrupt forces in society operate and we know that that takes so many forms."

Shahia Sherkat

Shahla Sherkat was honored for her work as the editorial director of Teheran-based women's magazine Zanaan, which means women in Farsi. The Iranian government has repeatedly threatened to close the monthly publication since Ms. Sherkat founded it in 1991 because of its coverage of women's rights. She has been fined, sentenced to prison and harassed.

Ms. Sherkat likened journalism in developing countries to walking a tight rope.

"You have to be careful where you are putting your feet otherwise you will fall," she said. "Journalism is a fine art in these countries. You have to know where, when, and how to say things in order to be accepted."

A second winner, Sumi Khan, has tangled with business and government officials since the start of her career as a crime reporter in Bangladesh. She has been threatened and beaten in her efforts to expose corruption and threats to minority groups. In April she was attacked, beaten and stabbed.

The media foundation calls Bangladesh one of the world's most dangerous nations for journalists. Since 2000, nine journalists have been killed in Bangladesh. Ms. Khan dedicated her award to them.

"I am often confronted with the question: 'Are you afraid?' No, I am not," she said. "They are afraid. I believe my pen is mightier than all their weapons."

German photojournalist Anja Niedringhaus won for presenting the lives and faces of ordinary people in wars from the Balkans to Iraq.

The Media Foundation also gave a lifetime achievement award to Molly Ivins, a nationally syndicated political columnist in the United States.

... Payvand News - 10/26/05 ... --

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