17 January 2012

Campaigns and Advocacy

Columnist David Rohde is IPI’s 63rd World Pres Freedom Hero

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 17 Jan. 2012 - The International Press Institute (IPI) today named two-time Pulitzer Prize winning American author and foreign affairs columnist David Rohde as its 63rd World Press Freedom Hero.

The Vienna-based group will formally present the award - which recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to defending and promoting press freedom, especially, but not only, if it involved acts of resistance or bravery under harsh conditions - during a special ceremony at its 2012 World Congress, set for 23-26 June in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Rohde, 44, is a Reuters columnist who received his first Pulitzer Prize in 1996 for reports in the Christian Science Monitor exposing the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica. Bosnian Serb police arrested Rohde in 1995 at the site of a mass grave he had discovered, detained him for 10 days - initially in secret - and threatened him with espionage charges.

He was also part of a New York Times team that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in April 2009, the Pulitzer committee said, for the newspaper’s “masterful, groundbreaking coverage of America’s deepening military and political challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan”. The committee noted that Rohde and his colleagues frequently reported “under perilous conditions”, a statement given further weight when it was revealed months later that Rohde at the time of the award was again being held in captivity.

In November 2008, members of the Taliban kidnapped Rohde and two Afghan colleagues who were conducting research in Afghanistan for a book on the history of American involvement in the country. News of Rohde and one colleagues’ escape after more than seven months in captivity - the third man fled and returned home safely after he was abandoned by his guards five weeks later - led to a debate over the role of the New York Times and other media organisations in suppressing news of Rohde’s detention while it remained ongoing.

IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “We are delighted to announce David Rohde as our 2012 World Press Freedom Hero. In his career as a journalist, he has gone beyond the borders of his own country to bring light to some of the most important issues of our day. His work shows the broad reach and impact of good journalism, and is a shining example of what journalists can accomplish, even when working under dangerous and trying circumstances.”

Rohde told IPI: “This is a tremendous honor. IPI fiercely defends journalistic freedom worldwide. I’m lucky and honored to be recognized by such an extraordinary group.”


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