This week I attended the 2012 Courage in Journalism Awards at the Beverly Hills Hotel, presented by the International Women’s Media Foundation.
Hosted by Aisha Tyler, with presenters Annette Benning, Olivia Munn, Chelsea Handler, and Maria Shriver, it was an evening to celebrate the women around the world who put their lives in danger in order for their stories to be told.
Asmaa al-Ghoul, Khadija Ismayilova, and lifetime achievement winner Zubeida Mustafa at the IWMF Courage In Journalism Awards: Photo by Vince Bucci
Honoree Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist from Azerbaijan (a country I was admittedly unfamiliar with, just south of Russia), became the victim of blackmail when she refused to stop reporting on Radio Free Europe about the honor killings still prevalent in her area of the world. Hidden cameras in her apartment recorded intimate bedroom footage of Ismayilova with her boyfriend, and were released to the public, putting her in great danger.
Asmaa al-Ghoul, a blogger and freelance journalist for the Al-Ayyam newspaper in Palestine, has been beaten and threatened for her coverage of events in Palestine and Egypt. Hamas security forces have tried to force her silence and the secular views she expresses keep her in harms way. She spoke to the room with grace and poise.
One of the award recipients, Reeyot Alemu, is currently serving time in an Ethiopian prison, accused of being a terrorist and threat. While imprisoned, Alemu has repeatedly refused to offer information or testify against any of her fellow journalists. For her stance, she has been the victim of further torture. She is two years into a five year sentence, and has recently fallen very ill.
As a lifestyle blogger, nothing makes you feel more petty and inconsequential than sitting in the same room as women younger than you who are making a difference in history. My eyes teared when Ismayilova and al-Ghoul took the stage and spoke from the heart, and my cheeks were wet when a letter was read from Alemu, written from prison.
Recognition from the International Women’s Media Foundation not only celebrates these women’s courage, it potentially gives them and others like them protection in the future. When these stories become international news items, it has a great impact on the progress they’re trying to make.
This posh ballroom in Beverly Hills, with wine and champagne served, celebrities in couture, my own designer handbag at my side, was an entirely different world from the daily lives of the women honorees. I felt this difference, tangibly and in my soul, and left the event with conviction and inspiration.
Photo by Vince Bucci
Laura Tremaine is a Hollywood Housewife. No, really.
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