The News staffer gets prestigious world journalism award
NEW YORK: A senior investigative journalist of The News, Umar Cheema, has been selected for an international Free Speech Award granted each year to a journalist from round the world who would have braved against the threats in face of his professional duties.
Cheema was nominated for this Award in December 2010 along with twelve other journalists from round the world chosen for consideration of this honor by an international panel of lawyers, free speech advocates and journalists. This award is being granted by Tully Center for Free Speech situated in Syracuse University, a research university in New York state.
As he emerged as the winner, the award notification describes him in these words: “You stood out in this year’s pool of nominees because of your important work as an investigative journalist. You represent the struggle for free speech and journalism in Pakistan.” The award committee, notification goes on, has “found your work for freedom of speech very inspiring.”
As he arrives to receive this award, he will also deliver lectures to journalism classes of SI Newhouse School of Public Communications of Syracuse University that is ranked among the top ten journalism schools of the world.
Besides, Cheema has lecture invitation from other universities. Among them are Harvard University, Missouri University, and Florida University. Neiman Journalism Foundation of Harvard that offers the most prestigious journalism fellowship will host his lecture. Missouri University’s journalism school, the oldest in the world that is rated at the top, has invited Cheema for lectures to journalism classes and address to a grand gathering. Florida University has also arranged his talk.
Likewise, the editorial writers of The New York Times, will host a dinner in Cheema’s honor here where he will also have meetings with the professors of Columbia University’s school of journalism teaching investigative journalism and officials of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a media watch dog that has closely followed Cheema’s case.
Cheema was abducted and tortured presumably by the thugs of intelligence agencies on September 4, 2010. Notwithstanding serious threats to his life, he broke the silence, spoke up and very loudly.
A New York Times editorial, paying tribute to his courage, wrote: “Cheema has done all Pakistanis a favor by refusing to be intimidated.” A leading Canadian newspaper, Toronto Star admired his bravery in these words: “If the goal was to silence him, then Umar Cheema’s captors failed in their mission.” Other international publications like Guardian, Foreign Policy magazine, Wall Street Journal and media watchdogs gave his case an international prominence.
But at home front, the authorities have so far failed in nabbing the culprits. A Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed for the criminal investigation has shown zero performance. The judicial commission that conducted fact-finding expressed strong suspicions of the involvement of intelligence agencies, sending its report to the Interior Ministry that has constantly been sitting over it, denying Cheema its copy.
Senate’s Standing Committee on Human Rights also proceeded on it when directed the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and Intelligence Bureau hold internal inquiry to determine who had carried out this attack. As Cheema has constantly been facing harassment after the incident, chased a number of times with his phones being taped, the Senate’s body also directed the intelligence agencies to submit a report about the government officials resorting to such dirty tactics.
Source: The News