Daisy Bates is one of the twentieth century’s most important civil rights activists and journalists. Raised by adoptive parents, Daisy Bates learned when she was eight that her mother had been raped and murdered by three white men, and that her father had fled, afraid to prosecute the suspects. With her adoptive parents’ loving care, she was able to get a fantastic education and began writing with her husband with the Arkansas State Press. During that time of her life, Daisy witnessed and reported on several horrific accounts of violent discrimination and murder on blacks. The newspaper gained a reputation as the people’s independent voice, one which strove to improve the social and economic situation for blacks. Daisy’s real heroics emerged, however, when the U.S. Supreme Court declared in 1954 that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Out of seventeen children that were eligible to enter Central High School, the first to attempt integration, nine children were placed under Daisy Bates’ custody. On the way to their first day of school, the “Little Rock Nine” were harassed by such a large mob that the National Guard was needed to escort them into the school. Daisy Bates was their brave and strong mentor, caring and keeping in close contact with each of them. Because of Daisy Bates and her children, the entire world saw how committed black youth and their parents were to attaining their full citizenship rights.
Franklin, V.P. “Daisy Bates.” Epic Lives: One Hundred Black Woman Who Made a Difference. Ed. Jessica Carney Smith. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1993. pp 26-32.
Hrant Dink (1954-2007) was a prominent member of the Armenian minority in Turkey, best known for publicly advocating Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and supporting human/minority rights in Turkey. The long-standing tension between the native Turks and Armenians stemmed from events such as the Armenian Genocide during WWI. Dink criticized the Turkish government for refusing to officially acknowledge the genocide as a “systematic killing” of the Armenian population, which it still refuses to do today.Hrant Dink was a founder of the Agos weekly, the only newpaper in Turkey published in both Turkish and Armenian. He and his co-founders aimed to open channels of communication to the larger society for Armenians. Thanks to Agos, Armenians were able to take greater participation in Turkey’s political and cultural scene, as the newspaper increased awareness in the Turkish community about the issues they faced.Dink long endured death threats from Turkish nationalists for his writings about Armenian identity and the Armenian Genocide, yet he continued his work. In January of 2007, he was shot in the head three times as he left the Agos offices. Dink’s death triggered widespread reaction. Tens of thousands of people marched in Istanbul following the assassination, chanting “We are all Armenian, we are all Hrant Dink.” The major political parties, government officials, and NGOs in Turkey condemned the murder, and the murder also garnered international attention from other governments and world organizations. Dink’s death itself spread awareness about the Turkish-Armenian tension, a conflict that had not received substantial international attention.
Bendern, Paul De, and Thomas Grove. “Hrant Dink.” Armeniapedia.org. Web. 26 Nov. 2008.
Contributed by Janelle Tiulentino
A writer and painter, Vann Nath is one of seven survivors of a secret Khmer Rouge prison in Cambodia known as Tuol Sleng. At Tuol Sleng, more than 14,000 people were tortured and executed during the late 1970s.His life was spared in the prison because he was put to work painting portraits of the Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot. Vann Nath escaped after the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia. When the prison was converted to a genocide museum, he returned to it to paint the scenes he had witnessed. In the mid-1990s, Vann Nath wrote a memoir, A Cambodian Prison Portrait, which is the only written account by a survivor of Tuol Sleng.Vann Nath has continued to write and paint about his experiences, despite government efforts to limit information about this chapter of Cambodia’s history. Vann Nath will likely be a key witness in the forthcoming tribunal established by the UN and Cambodia to try Khmer Rouge leaders for their crimes during the Pol Pot regime.Vann Nath’s book and paintings provide a rare glimpse into one of the Khmer Rouge’s most brutal institutions. Today, Vann Nath is still working as a painter in Cambodia. He’s working to build a retirement centre in Battambang where people who survived the Khmer Rouge regime can spend their last days in peace.
“Biography of Vann Nath.” Vann Nath. Web. 27 Mar. 2008.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t have hope. I do hope that there will be a change for the better, that at some stage we will enjoy a free press in Zimbabwe,” said Beatrice Mtetwa upon being named an honoree of the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2005. Mtetwa, a human rights lawyer, took up cases defending journalists facing charges by the Mugabe government, even if it meant putting herself at risk. At the time, Zimbabwe –where Mtetwa was working– had the largest number of exiled journalists. Believing that journalists should have the right to go out and report the news, Mtetwa took it upon herself to make sure that this right was preserved. In early 2005, Mtetwa proved her dedication by successfully defending two British journalists who were accused of working without accreditation. In the following years, she went on to defend high-profile journalists, such as Mercedes Sayagues from South Africa’s Mail and Guardian, Andrew Meldrum from London’s The Guardian, and Angus Shaw from The Associated Press.As a result of her efforts, Mtetwa has faced repeated reprisals. In 2003, she was taken to a police station, where she was beaten and choked during her three hour stay. Similarly, in 2007, she was beaten by the police with rubber clubs. Despite all of this, Mtetwa continues doing her work, realizing the significant role she plays in the world of journalism in Zimbabwe. Her work has not gone unappreciated; many of the journalists refer to Mtetwa as their “best friend” because she is willing to give up everything for them.
Contributed by Cheri Dijamco and Sayeh Fattahi
Amira Hass is an Israeli journalist and author who is mostly known for her columns in the Israeli daily newspaper, Ha’aretz. Her articles are unique in that she lives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and reports on events from the Palestinian perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hass began her career at Ha’aretz in 1989 as a staff editor and began to report from the Palestinian Territories in 1991. She is currently the only Jewish Israeli journalist who lives full-time among the Palestinians, in Gaza from 1993 and in Ramallah from 1997.Despite writing for an Israeli newspaper, Hass frequently reports events or voices her opinions which are contrary to the official Israeli or Palestinian positions. Due to this, she has often been the target of verbal attacks and has encountered opposition for both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.In June 2001, the Jerusalem District Court ordered Ha´aretz and Hass to pay 250,000 shekels (about $80,000), claiming Hass had slandered the Jewish community of Hebron. Haas had reported on an incident in which Israeli Border Police killed a wanted Palestinian terrorist, Shabber Hassouna al-Husseini. She reported that Jews from Hebron kicked, spit on and danced around the dead body. During the years of the Al-Aqsa Intifada Hass also published several very critical articles about the chaos and disorder caused by militias associated with the Fatah party of Yasser Arafat and the bloody war between Palestinian factions in Nablus.Even though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has divided many people within these regions, Amira Hass displays courage by attempting to be as truthful as possible in her journalistic endeavors.
“Amira Hass | From Occupied Palestine.” Home | From Occupied Palestine. Web. 28 Mar. 2008.
Anna Politkovskaya (1958-2006) was a Russian journalist, known best for her stance against the Chechen conflict and Putin administration. Throughout her tragically brief life, Politkovskaya championed human rights and fought to raise awareness of the many atrocities that were being committed under the Putin regime. Politkovskaya utilized journalism, as a tool to initiate social awareness and activism.Although she was a well-established journalist who wrote about a variety of political and social issues, Politkovskaya is most celebrated for her reporting from Chechnya for Russia’s liberal newspaper, Novaya gazeta. Throughout the war in Chechnya, Politkovskaya wrote critical pieces on the new pro-Kremlin regime, condemning the Russian army leadership and the Russian government. Her work chronicled the alleged rights abuses and violations committed by Russian military forces, Chechen rebels and the Russian-back administration. Her work to uphold human rights standards earned Politkovskaya many awards, each of which she used to incite more global awareness and concern about the causes she supported.Celebrated in the West, Politkovskaya soon was commissioned to write Putin’s Russia, a broader critique on the Russian regime and the civil liberties that were affected by the Soviet-style dictatorship. However, the critical and polarizing nature of Politkovskaya’s work was met with much resistance from many supporters of the Putin administration. On October 7,2006, Politkovskaya was shot dead in an elevator of her apartment building. Politkovskaya risked and ultimately sacrificed her own life in order to uphold the human rights and morals she believed in. Her courageous life demonstrated the power of information and journalism in the maintenance of global human rights.
“Politkovskaya, Anna.” The Economist. 12 October 2006. <http://www.economist.com/node/8023316>
A pioneer of solo journalism, Kevin Sites is one of the world’s most respected war correspondents. Sites started his career by producing and reporting television network news at ABC, NBC and CNN. Yearning for more meaningful assignments, he left those positions to be the first correspondent for Yahoo! News. In his new mission, Sites spent a year traveling to all twenty of the major war zones in the world in 2005 for Yahoo! News. More remarkably, he did this all alone.Sites helped the development the idea of a modern correspondent by traveling as a “SoJo”, or a solo journalist. For Sites, this meant working completely alone, traveling and reporting without a crew. Sites went to nearly every region of the world with merely a backpack of portable digital technology, in order to write, film and transmit multimedia reports. Traveling without a crew put Sites in a high-risk position as he had on one else to depend on in the dangerous war zones. Despite this, Sites continued to travel alone, believing that a crew would slow him down and prevent him from reporting as well.While Sites has faced harsh criticism and even threats for his reports, he continues to do what he believes is right: he thinks that people should have the right to know what the realities of war are. For this reason, he does not censor his videos. He has complete control over what is shown in the video, which is not the case with a film crew.On the other hand, the world of journalism recognizes the risks that Sites has taken in his career. Sites has been presented with numerous awards, such as a National Headliner Award for Independent Online Journalism, and the Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism. Furthermore, Sites was named one of the “biggest, brightest and most influential people on the web today” by Forbes magazine.
Contributed by: Cheri Dijamco and Sayeh Fattahi
Jésus Blancornelas, founder of ABC de Tijuana and Zeta, practiced investigative journalism in Tijuana, Baja California throughout his life.Born in San Luis Potosí, Blancornelas worked there as a reporter until he moved to Tijuana at the age of 24. While Blancornelas did enjoy working as a reporter in his hometown, he longed for a greater impact in the world. He wanted to work for political justice and consequently decided to move to Tijuana. There, he and his colleagues brought attention to corruption among local politicians and the burgeoning power of drug gangs. Many of his reports underlined the frequent connections between these two groups, specifically local politicans and the Tijuana Cartel.Pursuing such a career put Blancornelas in danger multiple times. The gangs he reported on attempted to kill him numerous times, and on November 27th, 1997, one attempt left him critically injured and his bodyguard dead. Despite all these dangers, Blancornelas continued to live and report in Tijuana, putting justice ahead of his own well being.In 1999, Blancornelas was aptly rewarded for his courageous work by being awared the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize.
Contributed by Sayeh Fattahi