Your Majesties, the King and Queen of Spain;


Fellow editors and journalists;

Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon.

We live in dangerous times. Times of war and pestilence, of conflict and change.

In times like these, it is all the more crucial that we meet, promote open exchanges, forge bonds, foster understanding, and celebrate credible journalism.  Each of these is vital to our future, our societies, and our democracies.

So, after two consecutive years of announcing our Golden Pen of Freedom award virtually, it is a great pleasure to be able to deliver this speech in person and to present this award with all of you present here today. Thank you all for joining us in Zaragoza.

As we reconnect and rebuild the relationships and personal ties that bind us so concretely, allow me to take this opportunity to acknowledge our 2020 and 2021 laureates, whose achievements may not have received the ceremony and celebration we intended to give them, but whose commitment to the cause of press freedom continues to inspire and motivate us : Jineth Bedoya Lima of Colombia, and Jimmy Lai and the Apple Daily newsroom in Hong Kong.

Our 2022 laureates are no less deserving of your applause, and I am delighted to have them with us here today. More on them in just a moment.

Firstly, and precisely because it has been so long since we last gathered in celebration of our Golden Pen, I’d like to say a few words regarding the role of the award and the resonance it holds.

The Golden Pen of Freedom recognises the outstanding actions, in writing or deed, of an individual, a group, or an institution in the cause of press freedom.

Since 1961, the Golden Pen has been turning the spotlight of public attention on repressive governments, and the journalists who fight them, the world over.

Behind the names of the laureates lie stories of extraordinary personal courage and self-sacrifice. In the past decade alone, WAN-IFRA has honoured, through the awarding of the Pen, some of the key personalities to have defined our profession and who, in no small way, have shaped the world in which we live.

10 years ago this month, we came together in Kiev, Ukraine, to award Anabel Hernández of Mexico, for her work denouncing organized crime. Appallingly, every year since has delivered a tragic tally of journalists murdered in Mexico, with total impunity. And the fate that has since befallen our host nation that year is simply gut wrenching and devastating.

To all our Ukrainian colleagues – some of whom are with us here today – we salute your bravery, and we stand shoulder to shoulder with your determined resistance against Russian aggression, which cannot be allowed to prevail.

A year later, in 2013, we acknowledged the changing face of Myanmar, with the award to Dr Than Htut Aung, whose son, Min Thaw, is also with us here today. The moment for rejoicing in hard-won democratic gains may have been tragically brief, but the taste of press freedom lingers, and we look forward to the day we can celebrate with you once again.

In recognition of the unprecedented rise in the number of journalists killed in their quest to bring us the news, in 2015 we spoke out loud and clear to demand action on media safety by commemorating Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty.

Indeed, the last time we met in person for Congress, we honoured the life of Jamal Khashoggi, brutally murdered by Saudi authorities for his outspoken criticism of the Kingdom. His family, and the world, still waits for justice.

And, as I’m sure you are all aware, our 2016 and 2018 laureates, Dimitry Muratov and Maria Ressa, were jointly awarded the most prestigious honour of them all – last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. It highlighted their immense personal sacrifices, but also the plight of a profession that is targeted, daily, all over the world.

Each of our laureates, stretching back to the very first Pen, embodies a set of values that underpin our industry.

Increasingly challenged, these values are defended worldwide by journalists, editors, and news publishers who recognise the importance of free media – and the essential role that press freedom plays in safeguarding the well-being, and proper functioning, of our societies and democracies.

These are the values that underpin WAN-IFRA and signify the continued importance of upholding,  and showing our solidarity with, those on the front lines, wherever they may be.

Today’s laureates exemplify this tenfold.

This year, we recognise a news organisation that stands as a beacon of independence and as a bulwark against authoritarianism; a paper of record that demonstrates its values daily, across its pages, through its support to young journalists, and in its promotion of local news. A media house that faces down dozens upon dozens of lawsuits from government and its allies, and counters regular efforts to undermine its integrity; one that has established a foundation to ensure a future whereby its work reaches far beyond its circulation.

Your majesties, ladies, and gentlemen, I am delighted to announce the 2022 Golden Pen of Freedom is awarded to Gazeta Wyborcza and the Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation of Poland.

Gazeta Wyborcza is fiercely – and rightly – proud of its 33-year record of upholding the interests of society. First published on 8 May 1989, under the motto, “There is no freedom without Solidarity,” it initially faced heavy censorship, but became a critical player in convincing the public to reject the country’s communist leadership. It also became the first legal publication that was outside of government control.

By the early 2000s, Wyborcza had become one of Poland’s best-selling newspapers, and has since consolidated its position as a journal of record that keeps a constant vigilance over Polish democracy. Today, as one of the country’s few remaining independent news titles, Wyborcza – no stranger to resistance – finds itself under constant attack from a government that wishes to bring free media under its heel.

A systematic effort by the ruling Law and Justice party to capture public service media has led them and their allies to turn their attentions to private media. An onslaught of legal and financial pressures has been brought to bear, targeting Gazeta Wyborcza in particular.

Aside from the daily struggle to deliver independent journalism and reliable coverage, Wyborcza has chosen to go above and beyond through the establishment of a foundation – the Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation. Its work empowers women journalists and draws young people into the profession, denounces neo-fascist organisations, fights disinformation, polarisation, xenophobia, and supports local and regional media to produce investigative journalism.

As the Foundation proudly states, “Freedom of expression, democracy, tolerance, human rights and equality… these are parts of Gazeta Wyborcza’s DNA.”

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February of this year, the Foundation has become an international focal point for support and emergency assistance to Ukrainian colleagues, stepping up to become a lifeline to ensure independent media continues during the chaos of war.

Coordinating offers of support from around the world, distributing financial assistance, openly partnering with NGOs and media organisations, and planning for the eventual rebuilding of a devastated Ukrainian industry – this has become the day-to-day focus for the Foundation and its team.

The Foundation and the paper even facilitated the delivery of 48 tonnes of newsprint – sourced thanks to WAN-IFRA’s Norwegian member association MBL and paper manufacturer Norske Skog; paid for through donations to our ‘We the Media’ fund from you, our members; and delivered to WAN-IFRA’s Ukrainian association to keep the presses rolling. Without Wyborcza, none of this would have been possible.

This has been an immense effort, one that the entire Wyborcza family can be proud of – that we can all be proud of.  It shows, indisputably, that by working together, we have the best chance to effect positive change.

But all of this has required leadership, purpose, and courage: Gazeta Wyborcza and the Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation are showing us the way, providing just that. Showing there is indeed, “no freedom without solidarity.”

Your majesties, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our Golden Pen winners today. Please join me in welcoming on-stage Piotr Stasiński, representing the editorial teams at Gazeta Wyborcza, and Joanna Krawczyk, President of the Board of the Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation.

Thank you.

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