Media freedom focus of NZ Canon Awards

New Zealand’s most prestigious journalism awards, the Canon Media Awards, will recognise the sacrifices of journalists killed or injured doing their jobs by focusing on a theme of press freedom at the 2015 award ceremony.

The ceremony will be held in Auckland on May 22, marking the 175th anniversary of the first printing of a newspaper in New Zealand.

“Given the terrible assaults on journalists  and freedom of speech  in recent times, it’s only fitting that we pause to reflect on what it is to live in a free society,”  Newspaper Publishers’ Association editorial director Rick Neville said. “We should do everything we can to underline the importance of strong and free media to a democracy.”

Press freedom is still threatened or non-existent in many parts of the world. According to the Committee to Protect journalists, based in New York, the past three years have been the deadliest for journalists on the job since it began collecting death records in 1992 with 205 deaths.  Forty four per cent of these were targets for murder.

The figure does not include the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris last month, in which 11 journalists and cartoonists died. Sixty one journalists were killed in 2014 because of their work, 17 of them in Syria. Many others, such as Australian journalist Peter Greste who was released from an Egyptian prison this week, are imprisoned for doing their jobs. In 2014, there were 221 journalists jailed worldwide.

Mr Neville said the Canon Awards would be a celebration of storytelling in a free media.

The press has long been a part of New Zealand’s history, with its first newspaper, the New Zealand Gazette launched by Samuel Revans on the banks of the Hutt River on April 18, 1840.

NPA chairman Michael Muir said newspapers played a vital role New Zealand’s past and present.

“Newspapers were a cornerstone of European settlement of this country, setting up in every place possible, and being relied on to provide essential information to help people go about their often challenging lives,” Mr Muir said.

“Whether on newsprint or online, newspapers remain as relevant to their communities today as they did in 1840.”

As well as newspapers, websites, magazines and blogs are all in the running for this year’s awards which cover news and feature writing, photography and design, cartoons, columns and reviews. Thirty nine judges in four countries will decide the winning entries.

Last year’s winners included the Dominion Post for Newspaper of the Year (over 30,000 circulation) and controversial blog Whale Oil Beef Hooked as the inaugural Best Blog.

Entries close on Friday, February 13 – click here to enter.

For more news from The Newspaper Works, click here.

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