Israeli journalist Amira Hass who has spent the last decade living in and reporting on the Palestinian Territories for the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, was today awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize for 2003 by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, on the recommendation of an international jury.
“Amira Hass has been showing outstanding professional commitment and independence, as well as personal courage, over the past decade. If peace is to be established between Israelis and Palestinians it will be thanks to people like Ms Hass who are able to look at the facts and understand them”, Mr Matsuura said.
The jury was chaired by Jamaica’s Oliver Clarke, Chairman of Gleaner Company Limited, who declared: “Over the past ten years, Amira Hass has shown exemplary courage and professionalism in working under pressure to deliver the truth.”
Ms Hass is the first and only Israeli journalist living in the Palestinian Territories. She moved to Gaza in December 1993 after the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian agreements and settled in Ramallah in the West Bank in 1997. Despite restrictions from both Israeli military authorities and from the Palestinian authorities, Ms Hass has been doggedly filing compassionate reports about the daily lives and hardships of the Palestinians. Her independent and critical reporting on the policies of both Israelis and Palestinians has exposed her to pressure from both sides.
The child of Holocaust survivors, Ms Hass was born in Jerusalem in 1956 and studied history in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. After working as a teacher, she started her journalistic career in 1989 as a staff editor at Ha’aretz and began writing about the Palestinian Territories in 1991, apparently undaunted by danger and criticism from both Israelis and Palestinians.
The $25,000 prize is awarded each year on the recommendation of an independent jury of media professionals from all over the world. It will be presented in Kingston (Jamaica) on May 3 at a ceremony organized by UNESCO to celebrate World Press Freedom Day.
The prize, created by UNESCO’s Executive Board in 1997, aims to honour the work of an individual, organization or institution defending or promoting freedom of expression anywhere in the world, especially if this puts the person’s life at risk.
The prize is named after Colombian journalist Guillermo Cano, who was murdered in 1987 for having criticized the activities of his country’s powerful drug barons. Candidates are put forward by Member States, regional and international organizations that promote freedom of expression.
The previous journalists who won the World Press Freedom Prize are: Geoffrey Nyarota (Zimbabwe), 2002; imprisoned journalist U Win Tin (Myanmar), 2001; Nizar Nayyouf (Syria), 2000; Jesus Blancornelas (Mexico), 1999; Christina Anyanwu (Nigeria), 1998; and Gao Yu (China), 1997.