Each year, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression bestows two International Press Freedom Awards in recognition of the courage of journalists who work tirelessly – often risking their lives – so that the news media remain free.
On December 5, 2012 at the 2012 CJFE Gala: A Night to Honour Courageous Reporting, Rami Jarrah, founder of Hivos partner the Activist News Association, was honoured with one of the International Press Freedom Awards.
When the early-2011 Arab Spring protests in Tunisia and Egypt inspired similar demonstrations in Syria, Rami Jarrah, a trained journalist, started to film the protests he participated in. Arrested at the Damascus protest on March 25, 2011, Jarrah was subjected to intimidation, starvation and torture over three days at the hands of Syrian intelligence officers. After his release, he began providing protest footage and speaking to international media under the pseudonym Alexander Page.
Jarrah’s reports circulated widely through his Alexander Page moniker, but his identity was eventually leaked to Air Force Intelligence and he was forced to flee to Cairo with his family.
Jarrah and his family continue to reside in Cairo, where he has co-founded the independent citizen press group and Hivos partner ANA New Media Association. Under Jarrah’s guidance, ANA supports a network of journalists in Syria, and is aiming to provide them with training and equipment.
ANA provides honest accounts of citizens on the front lines of Syria’s civil war, and major international news outlets have turned to it for the striking raw footage gathered by its members. With help from Hivos, ANA is moving towards greater self-sufficiency, and is launching a radio station, ANA Radio, from Cairo.
Jarrah’s mission – to ensure that the voices of Syrians are heard around the world – embodies not only the spirit of CJFE’s International Press Freedom Award, but also that of the Alternative & Independent Media area of Hivos’ Expression & Engagement programme. Hivos believes that the free exchange of information, space for expression and opportunities for active citizen participation are essential conditions for the development of a democratic society. Shifting the balance of power anywhere requires strong social actors and informed citizens. Stimulating high-quality journalism and independent news reporting by media organisations such as ANA New Media Association is a key focal area of our media policy.