October 22, Irrawaddy Burmese journalist wins major press award – Lalit K. Jha
A Burmese journalist who works for The Associated Press has received the prestigious Journalism and Courage Award for 2008 from the International Women's Media Foundation.
Having worked as a reporter for nearly two decades in Burma, which is considered to be a graveyard for the free press, Aye Aye Win, has said that only a free press can be a guarantee to a free society.
"I have pledged to work as a journalist in my own country, Myanmar [Burma], to serve the people and country with a firm belief that a free and independent press is vital to a free society," she said. The award was accepted by John Daniszewski, the international managing editor of AP.
Praising Aye Aye Win's courage, Daniszewski said: "The AP's correspondent in Burma, now called Myanmar, is a humble, hard-working and largely unknown hero, who for nearly two decades has been speaking the truth about her country in the face of intimidation and bullying."
The award presentation ceremony was held at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday and attended by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other honored guests.
"Aye Aye Win knows the risks she is taking. Both her father and her husband have been imprisoned by the Burmese generals, and she has often been threatened by arrests. But that has not stopped her," said Daniszewski in his remarks.
Daniszewski said Aye Aye Win represents the best tradition of journalism—that of telling the truth and helping to keep people informed and enlightened.
In her acceptance speech, which was read by Daniszewski, Aye Aye Win said Burma, a country ruled by the military for more than four decades, is overwhelmed by a host of problems that affect the ability of journalists to practice their profession free of fear, intimidation and unforeseen dangers.
"Journalism in Myanmar is a risky business," she said.
She said the military government rarely arrest journalists specifically for their work but rather detains and prosecutes them under a slew of criminal laws ranging from the Official Secrecy Act to defamation and high treason. Her father, a journalist for more than 60 years, has been in imprisoned three times, she said.
"Anyone in my country, particularly journalists, can at any time be arrested, interrogated and charged without any sound reason,” she said. “A knock on the gate at midnight unnerves and traumatizes our lives."