SEAPA chairman to receive Democracy Award

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has named Nation Media Group assistant group editor and SEAPA Chairman Kavi Chongkittavorn as one of four recipients for this year’s Democracy Award.

The annual NED award this year gives special emphasis on press freedom, and on its awards night on September 18, it will formally recognize the works of, alongside Kavi, two other individuals and a press freedom organization that have pushed the cause of independent media and free expression throughout the world.

“A free press is a critical ingredient for any democracy,” said National Endowment for Democracy Chairman Vin Weber. “In countries with little or limited press freedom, independent journalists and activists committed to providing citizens with honest news and information often find themselves in the vanguard of the struggle for democracy, sometimes with their lives on the line. This year’s Democracy Award calls attention to the courage of those journalists who risk so much.”

The four recipients of the 2007 Democracy Award are:
— Hisham Kassem, one of Egypt’s most prominent publishers and democracy activists, he was until recently the publisher of Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s first independent daily paper.  He was also Vice President of the opposition Hizb Al-Ghad Party.

— Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) — Venezuela is a press freedom monitoring group established in 2002 during a period of growing concern about the state of press freedom of expression in Venezuela.  It has become an authoritative voice on freedom of expression issues in Venezuela, and is a point of reference for journalists, academics and human rights defenders.  Ewald Scharfenberg, director of IPYS-Venezuela, will accept the award on the organization’s behalf.
— Anna Politkovskaya, the courageous reporter for the Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta who was murdered at her apartment building on October 7, 2006, will be honored posthumously. Throughout her distinguished career as a Russian journalist, Anna was an outspoken advocate for human rights and an end to the devastating war in Chechnya. Politkovskaya’s award will be accepted by fellow Novaya Gazeta reporter Elena Milashina.

— Kavi Chongkittavorn is a tireless campaigner for press freedom throughout Southeast Asia, and worldwide.  A journalist for more than 20 years, he is the assistant group editor of Nation Media Group, publisher of The Nation, Krungthep Turakij and Kom Chat Luek in Thailand. A former chairman of the Thai Journalists Association (TJA), Kavi in 1998 worked with Indonesia’s Alliance for Independent Journalists (AJI) and Insititute for the Study of the Free Flow of Information (ISAI), and the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) to form the Bangkok-based Southeast Asian Press Alliance. Kavi has since been chairman of SEAPA, which remains the only regional organization with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia.

The four awardees will be feted in Washington D.C. on September 18, at a reception that will be preceded by a panel discussion addressing the topic “Defending Free Media in Difficult Environments.” The National Endowment for Democracy is a private, nonprofit, bipartisan grant-making organization created in 1983 to strengthen democratic institutions around the world. It is active in more than 90 countries, supporting grassroots, democratic initiatives. It now houses the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), which is devoted to strengthening the field of media assistance. More information about NED and the Democracy Award can be found at http://www.ned.org.

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