BRAVE HEARTS: Monday’s night’s Courage in Journalism Awards Los Angeles installment (the New York event takes place October 27) drew a power crowd of a different sort than the Beverly Hills Hotel’s usual sort. Journalists Parisa Hafezi, Adela Navarro Bello, Chiranuch Premchaiporn and Kate Adie were honored for risking their lives to report the news, which humbled “Nightline” anchor Cynthia McFadden, the evening’s mistress of ceremonies.
“We are pampered and privileged here. Nobody’s trying to put us in prison for doing our jobs,” she said, referring to Premchaiporn standing trial for allowing negative comments about the Thai monarchy to be posted on her online newspaper Prachtai. But Premchaiporn and her fellow honorees were equally modest when asked about their jobs. “People think as reporters we have a kind of power which we don’t have. I’m just another pesky foreigner who turns up when people least need to see me,” said BBC’s Adie, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her 40 years of front lines war reporting. “I get frightened like everyone else in a war zone.” Hafezi, Reuters’ Iran bureau chief, said, “I do not regard myself as an extraordinary person and I am not a political activist. I’m just a journalist.”
“I think anyone who has to stand on this stage and speak in front of people should get a courage award,” joked Premchaiporn. But Navarro Bello, general director of Mexican newsmagazine Zeta, was frank about the danger some journalists face. “The stakes have never been higher,” she said of the risk of reporting on drug wars in her country, for which two of her colleagues have been murdered. “In Mexico, it is possible to kill a reporter and nothing will happen to you. Journalists have become deaf and mute and blind because they are convinced it is the only way they can survive.”
In her own twist on an acceptance speech, Navarro Bello said, “I’d like to give special thanks to those who made my life more difficult because it’s made me stronger.”