Journalists Honoured for their Courage, Resolve

Burton Benjamin Memorial Award recipient Christiane Amanpour with IPFA honorees Malini Subramaniam, Óscar Martínez, and Can Dündar at the International Press Freedom Awards. Nov. 22, 2016, New York. Credit: CPJ/Barbara Nitke.

Burton Benjamin Memorial Award recipient Christiane Amanpour with IPFA honorees Malini Subramaniam, Óscar Martínez, and Can Dündar at the International Press Freedom Awards. Nov. 22, 2016, New York. Credit: CPJ/Barbara Nitke.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Nov 30 2016 (IPS)

Journalism has become one of the world’s most dangerous professions, making the courageous achievements of this year’s four International Press Freedom Award winners particularly meaningful.

The four winners from El Salvador, India, Turkey and Egypt were honoured for their courageous achievements by the Committee to Protect Journalists at the 26th International Press Freedom Awards on November 21.

“These awardees are truly remarkable journalists, all of whom have carried out their work with the knowledge that doing so puts them in real danger,” said CPJ’s Board Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe.

“It is heartening to see such resolve, and to know that even under the most threatening conditions, journalists will always find a way to do their job,” she continued.

Since 1992, CPJ found that 1220 journalists have been killed, the majority of whom were murdered with complete impunity. In 2015 alone, nearly 200 journalists were also imprisoned worldwide.

Can Dündar, one of the awardees and chief editor of Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet, was arrested in November 2015 and sentenced to 6 years in prison after publishing a report claiming Turkey’s intelligence service’s plans to send weapons to Syrian rebel groups.

“It is our right to write, and the people’s right to know. We are not only defending a profession, but we are defending the people’s right to be informed,” — Can Dündar.

Dündar, who was arrested on charges of disclosing state secrets, espionage and aiding a terrorist group, told IPS of the importance of press freedom.

“It is our right to write, and the people’s right to know. We are not only defending a profession, but we are defending the people’s right to be informed,” he said.

“This award is a kind of message from the world to us that they are aware of our struggle,” Dündar continued.

According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s Press Freedom Index, Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 countries. Since the election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2014, more than 1800 cases were opened against journalists and cartoonists for insulting the leader.

The country’s media crackdown has only deepened since the coup attempt in July as the Turkish government has allegedly used its state of emergency and anti-terror laws to shut down over 100 news agencies and imprison approximately 120 journalists.

Óscar Martínez, another awardee and investigative reporter from El Salvador, also highlighted the important role of media to IPS, stating: “Only in countries where the press can exercise its right to freely inform is it possible to illuminate those dark corners [of societies] that would otherwise stay in the dark.”

One such dark corner is the ongoing violence in El Salvador. The Central American nation is now the world’s most violent country that is not at war, with over 6,500 murders in 2015 alone. After reporting on extrajudicial killings by police, Martínez received death threats and was forced to temporarily flee the country.

Though CPJ’s award can help the press freedom cause, Martínez added that governments must ensure and provide real protection for journalists.

Malini Subramaniam similarly reports on abuses by police and security forces and extrajudicial killings, but in India’s “Red Corridor” where a five-decade long conflict between Maoists and the government has persisted.

Working in the Indian State of Chhattisgarh, first as a development worker then as a journalist, Subramaniam told IPS that she saw indigenous residents, known as adivasis, caught in the crossfire without essential services or a voice.

“These stories were not coming out…I realised that these stories need to be told,” Subramaniam told IPS, adding that the dangers of telling the story did not matter to her.

Due to her critical reports on human rights abuses, Subramaniam has had to cope with numerous instances of police interrogation and harassment, eventually forcing Subramaniam to leave the Bastar district of Chhattisgarh.

However, Subramaniam noted that she is just one of the journalists that faced such perils there. According to CPJ, at least four journalists are imprisoned in the Central Indian state, and other journalists including a BBC correspondent have been forced to flee the area for fear of reprisal.

“It’s not just about an individual, it is about the larger field,” Subramaniam told IPS.

“This award will sort of amplify the situation that is there in Bastar as far as reporting is concerned, what’s happening to the journalists that are there and as a message to the government of India to wake up,” she continued.

CPJ also honoured Mahmoud Abou Zeid, an Egyptian photojournalist who has been in prison since August 2013.

Zeid, who is also known as Shawkan, was arrested while covering clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. Among the charges he faces is weapons possession, illegal assembly and murder.

Egypt is the second largest jailer of journalists in the world, only second to China, CPJ found.

Attending the awards ceremony on behalf of Shawkan was his childhood friend Ahmed Abu Seif.

“I still sometimes want to wake up and for somebody to tell me that it is just a dream,” Seif told IPS, adding that it hurts him that Shawkan is not there himself to receive CPJ’s award.

“This award means a lot for recognising a journalist behind bars. It’s also a sign to tell the Egyptian government that…even if you don’t recognise him as a journalist, we do,” he continued.

The fight for press freedom is not limited to countries like Egypt and Turkey, but also continues to remain an issue in the United States.

Receiving the Burton Benjamin Memorial award was Christiane Amanpour who pointed to the perils American journalists face and may continue to face after President-elect Trump assumes office.

“I never in a million years thought I would be up here on stage appealing for the freedom and safety of American journalists at home,” she told attendees, pointing to a tweet by President-elect Trump that said “professional protesters” were “incited by the media.”

She particularly noted the issues U.S. media faced while reporting the presidential campaigns in balancing neutrality and truth, but said that this cannot continue.

“I learned long ago, covering the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia, never to equate victim with aggressor, never to create a false moral or factual equivalence, because then you are an accomplice to the most unspeakable crimes and consequences. I believe in being truthful, not neutral and I believe we must stop banalising the truth,” she said.

She added that the media can either contribute to a more functional system or to deepen the political dysfunction.

“This above all is an appeal to protect journalism itself…we have to stand up together–for divided we will all fall,” she concluded.

Envision Solar Receives Order from the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency to Supply 13 EV ARC(TM) Transportable Solar Powered EV Chargers

SAN DIEGO, CA—(Marketwired – November 29, 2016) – Envision Solar International, Inc., (OTCQB: EVSI) (“Envision Solar,” or the “Company”), the leading renewable energy, outdoor advertising, EV charging and energy security product company, announced today that the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency (FCRTA) has ordered 13 EV ARC™ units against the California State Contract awarded to Envision Solar in 2015 and renewed in 2016.

FCRTA will deploy the 13 EV ARC™ solar powered EV chargers as part of their ongoing innovative efforts to reduce harmful emissions in Fresno County. This deployment will be the first countywide deployment of solar powered EV charging and the first to target disadvantaged communities. FCRTA worked with the Department of Transportation and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to realize this groundbreaking pollution reduction program, which will allow local members of the community to “drive on sunshine.”

The EV ARC™ units will charge electric vehicles and also be equipped with emergency power panels, which can be used in the event of a blackout or brownout. First responders can depend on them as a highly reliable source of emergency power. FCRTA's deployment of EV ARC™ units will be the first countywide deployment of EV chargers, which also provide life–saving emergency power during disasters such as earthquakes, terrorist acts or other severe events.

“We are dedicated to helping the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District meet its air quality goals and to making the people of our community safer during emergencies,” said Moses Stites, FCRTA General Manager. “Transportable solar powered EV chargers that also provide emergency power deliver a highly compelling value proposition and allow us to do both.”

“This is one of the most innovative and meaningful deployments of EV ARC products yet,” said Desmond Wheatley, CEO of Envision Solar. “We are delighted that our products will not only help to clean the air and make fueling less economically burdensome for the hard working people of Fresno County, but also keep them safe during the times when they need electricity the most.”

Invented and manufactured in California, the EV ARC™ fits inside a parking space and does not reduce available parking in any way. The system's solar electrical generation is enhanced by the patented EnvisionTrak™ system, which causes the array to follow the sun, generating 18 to 25 percent more electricity than a fixed array. The energy is stored in the EV ARC™ product's energy storage for charging day or night. The EV ARC™ product requires no trenching, foundations or installation work of any kind and is deployed in minutes. EV ARC™ products are manufactured in the Company's San Diego facility by combat veterans, the disabled, minorities and other highly talented, mission–driven team members.

About Envision Solar International, Inc.

Envision Solar designs and manufactures unique, renewably energized, EV charging, Outdoor Advertising and Energy Security products including the patented EV ARC™ and the patented Solar Tree® products. Enhancements include EnvisionTrak™ patented solar tracking, SunCharge™ Column Integrated Electric Vehicle Charging Stations and ARC™ technology energy storage solutions.

Based in San Diego the company integrates the highest quality components into its Made in America products. Envision Solar is listed on the OTC Bulletin Board under the symbol [EVSI]. For more information, visit www.envisionsolar.com or call 866–746–0514.

About The Fresno County Rural Transit Agency

The Fresno County Rural Transit Agency is a Joint Powers Agency providing daily (M–F) general public transit services in rural Fresno County for both incorporated cities and unincorporated communities in the County. They serve 13 rural Cities with Intra–City service and provide Inter–City corridor general public transit service into Fresno on a daily basis (M–F). We have been serving the general public, disabled and senior residents of Fresno County since 1979.

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