United States Agency for Global Media

RFE/RL’s “Desperate Honeymoon” documentary wins Silver at New York Festivals Awards

RFE/RL’s video documentary “Desperate Honeymoon” won the Silver World Medal at the New York Festivals International Television and Film Awards in the Magazine Format/Information Program category. The Magazine Format is a subsection of the Documentary/Information Program categories all of which apply to submissions which explore a specific topic or point of view in-depth or that deal with issues of interest and importance and may be either individual programs or series. “Desperate Honeymoon” follows a newlywed Syrian couple as they flee their war-torn country and make the fraught journey to Europe in pursuit of a new life. It personalizes a story often told in terms of numbers and statistics, portraying the individual choices made by two migrants in their own words. The documentary also won a Bronze medal in a second category in the same year’s competition.

VOA WWII documentary wins silver at New York Festivals

Journey 1945: China’s Path to Victory, the vivid tale of two Chinese veterans of the first American Volunteer Group organized by the U.S. Government to aid China’s Nationalist Government against Japan during WWII, won a silver medal at this year’s New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards. The documentary was recognized as a History & Society entry in the Documentary/Information Program category. The 60-minute Voice of America documentary, produced by VOA Mandarin’s Daphne Dung-Ning Fan, weaves the moving stories of former “Flying Tigers” Patrick Chen and Robert Lee with archival footage and expert analysis of China’s struggle against Japan’s invasion.

UNESCO lauds Ismayilova amid mounting pressure for journalist’s freedom

On World Press Freedom Day, imprisoned Azerbaijani investigative reporter and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova was named the 2016 recipient of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, as journalists and activists around the world invoked the day’s message to call for her release. An independent international jury of media professionals recommended Ismayilova in recognition of her outstanding contribution to press freedom in difficult circumstances. The journalist’s mother, Elmira Ismayilova, traveled from Baku to accept the award at a ceremony in Helsinki, Finland on May 3, reciting a defiant speech written by her daughter from her prison cell. “Humanity suffers when journalists are silenced,” wrote Ismayilova, referring to the unsolved 2005 murder of her colleague, Azeri editor Elmar Huseynov, and the assassination in 1986 of Columbian editor Guillermo Cano, the prize’s namesake. She said the award was not a cause for celebration but a call to action and summoned those gathered at the ceremony “not to laud my work, or my courage, but to dedicate yourself to the work each one of you can do on behalf of press freedom and justice.” Presiding over the ceremony, President of Finland Sauli Niinisto declared, “I deeply regret that Ismayilova is not with us today but is imprisoned… I hope that our event in Helsinki will be a turning point. I hope that it will bring about a more positive global development for a right to free expression and press freedom.” CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who was recently named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, told an audience during the day’s proceedings that today marked Khadija’s 516th day in prison, and personally called on the Azerbaijani government to free her. Broadcasting Board of Governors CEO and Director John Lansing joined in calling for Ismayilova’s immediate release in a statement released today. RFE/RL editor in chief Nenad Pejic welcomed the prize, calling it “powerful recognition of Khadija’s work and her undeniable right to freedom.” “Khadija Ismayilova highly deserves the Prize and I am happy to see that her courage and professionalism are recognized,” said Ljiljana Zurovac, President of the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2016 Jury. The prize comes amidst a growing global campaign for the journalist’s release. A bill introduced last December by U.S. Representative Christopher Smith imposing visa and financial sanctions on Azeri officials for human rights abuses recently gained its fourth co-sponsor in Congress. An international coalition of NGOs is planning rallies in 40 cities on May 27, Ismayilova’s 40th birthday, to call for her release. Ismayilova’s courage and wrongful imprisonment have been the subject of considerable international attention and tribute, including the PEN American Center’s 2015 Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, the National Press Club’s 2015 John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award, and the 2012 International Women’s Media Foundation’s “Courage in Journalism” award. Ismayilova was detained by Azerbaijani state agents on December 5, 2014, and sentenced to 7.5 years in prison in September 2015 on charges widely viewed as retaliation for her award-winning investigative reporting linking members of President Ilham Aliyev’s family to corruption.