National Press Club Honors Rezaian, Tice, Ismayilova With Press Freedom Awards

Jul 30, 2015, 20:52 ET from National Press Club

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Press Club honored three jailed journalists with one of its top prizes – the John Aubuchon Award for Press Freedom – at a capacity dinner event in its historic ballroom last night.

The winners were: Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post who is wrongfully detained in Iran; Austin Tice who is believed to be held in Syria; and Khadija Ismayilova who is wrongfully detained in Azerbaijan.  

Rezaian, who has been in Evin Prison in Tehran for more than a year, was represented by his brother Ali who spoke movingly about his mixed emotions accepting the award for Jason, saying that while he is proud of his professional accomplishment, he is sad that after more than a year he is not able to accept the award himself and to receive congratulations from his colleagues and friends. Ali's moving tribute to his brother received a standing ovation from the crowd. 

Also speaking for Jason was Mary Beth Sheridan, Deputy Foreign Editor for the Post. Sheridan talked about "the other Jason, not the prisoner but the journalist" who produced hundreds of bylined pieces for the Post during his a career in Iran. Sheridan walked the crowd through some of Jason's best work, giving the room an acute sense of what has been lost through Jason's unjust detention. The room shook with sustained applause and Sheridan received a standing ovation.

The Club also honored two other Press Freedom Winners: Austin Tice, a freelance reporter who has been missing in Syria since 2012 and Khadija Ismayilova, a reporter for Radio Free Europe who has been jailed in Azerbaijan because of her reporting which is critical of the President. The Editor in Chief of Radio Free Europe Nenad Pejic accepted the award for Khadija and made an impassioned and eloquent plea for her release. Both parents of Austin Tice were in attendance at the dinner and were recognized and received an ovation. They appeared together in a powerful film viewed by the audience. Lindsey Hamilton, a long time friend of Mr. Tice, spoke on his behalf and accepted the award.

Early in the program John Hughes, President of the National Press Club, said he had hoped that at least one of these journalists would have been released by now and that the Club broke with tradition by naming the winners early in the year to bring attention to their case. Hughes said that the National Press Club will not stop fighting for the freedom of their award winners until they are able to once again do their jobs.

This was the 42nd annual National Press Club Journalism Awards Dinner. At the end of the evening President Hughes broke with tradition by inviting the entire crowd up to the Club's historic bar as his guests where the evening continued in a less formal manner but with great spirit.     

Contact: Bill McCarren, 202-662-7534 or wmccarren@press.org for the National Press Club

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SOURCE National Press Club