The International Press Freedom Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown extraordinary and sustained achievement in the cause of press freedom. This year, freelancer journalist Neha Dixit, from India has won this prestigious award. She started her career with Tehelka magazine, and recently Dixit has been covering human rights stories. She was also a part of the special investigation team at India Today newsmagazine.  She has covered beats such as politics, gender and social justice in print, TV, and online media for more than a decade. For her outstanding reporting on extrajudicial killings and arrests of journalists in India, she was selected for this award.

In a democratic country like India, it becomes necessary for these types of journalists to unveil the truth in the true spirit of democracy. With increasing attacks on journalists, today India ranks at 140 out of 180 countries, in World Press Freedom. Neha has also faced online and offline harassment continuously.

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Her work

Neha spent months investigating and reporting stories about important problems, like extrajudicial killings by the police. She also reported on illegal detention of citizens which was motivated by political interests. “On January 2019, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a notice to the Indian government to express its concern about the detentions,” the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), said about Dixit.

In her stories on extrajudicial killings and illegal detention in Utter Pradesh and Haryana, she met family members of the 14 men killed in police ‘encounters’. She reported how these encounters were suspicious and politically motivated. She has also reported about 16 extra-judicial killings by the police on the suspicion of smuggling cows in Haryana. All these reports were published in The Wire. After her fearless reporting against the government, she faced legal and physical threats, as well as online harassment. It was allegedly done by the right-wing nationalist groups and police.

International recognition

Her work has already been published in international outlets like The New York TimesAl-JazeeraCaravan, and The Wire. She has already received international awards including the European Commission’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize in 2011, the Kurt Schork Award in International Journalism in 2014. She also received Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Journalist in 2016.

In 2016, she got international attention after her story for Outlook magazine. In the article, she accused members of a right-wing nationalist group of trafficking more than 31 girls in Assam. These girls were taken to other parts of India in order to inculcate them with a nationalist ideology. She faced criminal defamation charge after this but reportedly, CPJ supported her. In 2018 she also did a story on the “damage to the health of poor Indians. How they were being used as guinea pigs by pharmaceutical companies in illegal drug trials.”

Read Also: On human trafficking in India: Journalist Neha Dixit in ‘First Hand’

Other recipients of the International Press Freedom Award 2019

Other awardees who bagged these prestigious awards are — Patrícia Campos Mello from Brazil, Lucía Pineda Ubau and Miguel Mora from Nicaragua and Maxence Melo Mubyazi from Tanzania. The editor of Pakistani daily Dawn, Zaffar Abbas won Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award.

Divya Tripathi is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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