UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize Seeks Nominations

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The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize has decided that candidates can represent all media, including  digital media from 2017, even as the Executive Board extended the prize for another six years at its 200th session.

The UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is the leading prize in the UN system recognising heroism in journalism.
Created in 1997, it is dedicated to annually honour a person, organisation or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the defence and/or the promotion of press freedom, especially in the face of danger.

To give more weight to the Prize, the previously fixed award of 25,000 USD will now be the minimum, based on the contributions received.

The Prize was established and named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in 1986. Each Laureate has shown dedication to freedom of expression and information, and in some cases, the Prize itself has made significant impact on these fundamental freedoms with some of the awarded journalists being freed from prison shortly after receiving the prize.

It also affords winners the international recognition they deserve. Candidates can be submitted by member states and organisations working in the field of journalism and freedom of expression.

The murder of Guillermo Cano is significant in terms of unpunished crimes against journalists. He was a victim of drug trafficking mafias which he fearlessly denounced and about whose harmful effects on Colombian society he cautioned while working as the editor of the daily El Espectador.

On  December 17, 1986, two hired killers waited for him by the newspaper’s exit and fired the eight shots that killed him. The building itself was destroyed in a bomb attack three years later. The magistrates in charge of the investigation became the object of threats and bribes with some being murdered for rejecting such bribes.

The 30th anniversary of his assassination was commemorated with an event on the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity in Colombia, on 2 November 2016.

The life of Guillermo Cano, his courage, his compromise with independent journalism and the tenacity with which he fought for his country are an example for the rest of the world to follow. His fate exemplifies the price paid by journalists the world over in exercising their profession; journalists are imprisoned and ill-treated every day and the fact that these crimes, for the most part, go unpunished is even more alarming.

The prize is usually awarded on the recommendation of an independent jury of 12 news professionals from names submitted by UNESCO member states, regional and international non-governmental organisations working for press freedom.

The Executive Board in its 200th session however reduced the number of jury members from 12 to 6 with each one representing one region. In case of an equal vote, the President has a deciding vote about the winning candidate.

Every year, the prize is marked by a ceremony on World Press Freedom Day, which will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2017.

It is in the pursuit of ending such attacks, and other threats against freedom of expression, that the prize will continue to award media or individuals who have shown particular commitment to freedom of expression and information, especially in difficult circumstances.

Submissions for the 2017 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize are open until February 15, 2017. Candidates should be submitted by filling out the form in English or French. For more information, please visit the web page  or contact  Flavie Romer at: f.romer@unesco.org