Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Courage That Goes to the Heart of a Free Press

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Courage That Goes to the Heart of a Free Press

Article excerpt

As tempting as it is to equate violence only with the Middle East right now, two women journalists visiting the United States from Colombia and Spain are a good reminder that the globe is full of hot spots.

Their stories are particularly compelling in light of recent events, as they are in the US this month to be honored for persevering in environments where they are targets of terrorist attacks.

Jineth Bedoya Lima and Carmen Gurruchaga Basurto - along with Amal Abbas, a journalist in Sudan - are the winners of the 2001 "Courage in Journalism Awards" from the Washington-based International Women's Media Foundation.

All three share the same sentiment - that despite being beaten, bombed, or jailed, they will continue exposing corruption in the government and the activities of terrorist groups.

"In Colombia, there are millions of stories to tell. Colombians are living in violence," says Ms. Bedoya, who through an interpreter explains that in the first week of October, the attorney general's wife was murdered, 60 people were kidnapped, and four villages were blown up.

Bedoya, who is in her late 20s, reports on the ongoing civil war at a time when few people want to cover it. Dozens of journalists have been killed in the country in the past decade, and in recent years, many reporters have chosen to leave. That she has stayed and continues to work is surprising even to those who perpetrate the violence.

Last year, she was kidnapped, beaten, and raped - reportedly by a paramilitary group unhappy about a story she wrote on the flow of guns into a prison.

She now takes some precautions, such as bodyguards and an armored car, but refuses to allow her phone to be tapped - wanting to preserve what little freedom she has left.

For her, the importance of staying lies not only in the truths she can tell, but also in a desire to give voice to the people who are caught in the war - from those who are jailed to the soldiers on the front lines.

"After everything those kidnappers did to me, journalism gives me the strength [to continue], not only as a professional, but also as a woman. …

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