Celebrating the Bravery of Female Journalists

For 27 years, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), through its Courage in Journalism and Lifetime Achievement Awards, has recognized remarkable female journalists who have bravely confronted immense obstacles, faced treacherous environments or risked their personal safety searching for truth and for stories that may have otherwise remained untold.

The list of IWMF award winners currently includes more than 100 women working in journalism. This year’s Courage in Journalism Awards were presented to Mabel Cáceres, Stella Paul and Janine di Giovanni. Diane Rehm was the recipient of the 2016 IWMF Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ms. was in attendance at one of two ceremonies planned for this year’s winning women—here’s what they had to say about being honored for their work.

Mabel Cáceres

Combatting censorship in Peru, journalist Mabel Cáceres responded to the suspension of her local newscast by founding an investigative news magazine entitled El Búho (The Owl) in the city of Arequipa. Cáceres, as editor-in-chief of the independent publication, has faced roughly 16 lawsuits, alleging claims of libel and defamation. However, no court has upheld the charges. In addition to threats of litigation, Cáceres has endured an advertising boycott and threats to her life and her personal safety. Through her work, Cáceres has uncovered environmental regulation violations, government corruption and unlawful mining practices. Cáceres has also been honored by Reporters Without Borders as one of its 100 Information Heroes.

Stella Paul

As a freelance journalist working in India’s marginalized communities, Stella Paul confronts loneliness and braves dangerous environments, harsh conditions, harassment, and death threats to report on sexual violence, climate change, women’s rights and human trafficking. Paul’s life was threatened last year when a group of illegal miners staged an accident in an attempt to kill her.

“I cover stories of people who are extremely marginalized and vulnerable. These are people who have been sold, trafficked, abused, tortured, displaced and so on. I have to walk for hours, and sometimes for days, to reach those people. I sleep on their hard floor. I cannot eat or drink because there is no food, no water and no toilets, and in the middle of the night, I have to run to escape the security forces who come raiding the villages… And after all of that, a lot of people laugh at me because to them, these marginalized people and their stories are just not important. So tonight, I’m so grateful to IWMF for recognizing a frontline that most other people just don’t see…”

Janine di Giovanni

Janine di Giovanni began her career as a young freelance journalist reporting from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. For 25 years, di Giovanni has devoted her career to working with the local communities covering the devastating effects war poses for those living in conflict zones. Throughout her time as a journalist, di Giovanni has reported on numerous conflicts, and her work has focused on areas including Syria, Iraq, Rwanda, Palestine, Chechnya, Bosnia and Sierra Leone. She reports on issues such as war crimes, refugees, women’s rights, HIV/AIDS and child soldiers. Janine di Giovanni currently works as the Middle East Editor for Newsweek.

“Journalism, at its most noble, allows us to bring these people [victims of violent conflicts] out of isolation. The harsh truth for every victim denied basic human rights is that they are facing their destiny alone. But we can try to validate their lives and their suffering so that they don’t live and die in vain.

“Journalists, like me, we’re not just shot at anymore. We’re kidnapped. We’re hunted down, murdered. We’re beheaded—just for doing our job, and yet, I am not giving up. There’s no way.”

Diane Rehm

Without any prior journalistic training, Diane Rehm—this year’s recipient of IWMF’s Lifetime Achievement Award—began her career as a volunteer at WAMU 88.5, a public radio station based in Washington D.C.. Rehm started on a local program, “Kaleidoscope,” that primarily discussed issues important to women. Through her effort and her determination, Rehm raised the funds necessary to move the show to a national platform, and she progressed from working as a volunteer and to eventually hosting her own program.

As the host and the executive producer of the “The Diane Rehm Show,” Rehm has interviewed Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel Laureates, researchers, government officials, actors, artists and writers. Her interview with President Bill Clinton provided her with the distinction of being the first radio journalist to conduct an interview with a sitting president. Despite a diagnosis of spasmodic dysphonia, a disease affecting her speech, Rehm persevered in her career and continued to mentor young women interested in media, all while receiving accolades such as a Peabody Award and a National Humanities Medal. Rehm will conclude her career as the show’s host after the upcoming presidential election.

“At age 80, which I achieved a couple of months ago, and after 37 glorious years, I’ve enjoyed so much the opportunity of bringing to the air some of the most outstanding voices of our time, and now I’m ready to pass forward the microphone to another person, one I am sure will continue to do the important work of truth-telling in what I know are perilous times.

“Don’t ever let age or intimidation of any kind become a reason for giving up. Keep working. Keep delving, and keep putting your heart and your might in everything you do.”




Melissa Scholke is an Editorial Intern at Ms. and a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied English Literature and Communications Studies. When she’s not writing and discussing important feminist issues, she spends time reading and indulging her indie music obsession.