Committee to Protect Journalists: International Press Freedom Award 1999
- The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) presented its 1999 International Press Freedom Awards to five journalists—from Colombia, Cuba, Kosovo and Pakistan—for their courage and independence in reporting the news.
- The honorees, who have been beaten, jailed, or had their lives threatened because of their work, received the awards at a formal dinner ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on Tuesday, November 23rd.
- Jugnu Mohsin and Najam Sethi are one amongst five of the winners of the Ninth Annual International Press Freedom Awards.
- Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin, the husband and wife team that runs The Friday Times are journalistic heroes in Pakistan. Mohsin, the publisher, and her husband Sethi, the chief editor of the weekly paper, fought to assert freedom of the press in the face of the recently-deposed Sharif government’s increasingly brutal efforts to control the media. In May 1999, Sethi was dragged from his bedroom in the middle of the night by government agents who beat him, gagged him and then held him without charge for nearly a month.
- During her husband’s imprisonment, Jugnu Mohsin courageously refused to succumb to official intimidation. She continued to put out The Friday Timeswhile waging a campaign to learn Sethi’s whereabouts and win his release.
- The Friday Timesis an equal opportunity offender that has locked horns with all of Pakistan’s leaders since its inception ten years ago. The paper repeatedly angered former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto by calling on them to answer corruption charges.
- Sethi’s arrest galvanized the public and the local independent press, who saw the Sharif government’s actions as a crude attempt to stifle political dissent in Pakistan.
Amnesty International’s Designation of Mr. Sethi as ‘Prisoner of Conscience’
- In early 1999, Sethi gave an interview to a team for the British Broadcasting Corporation television show Correspondent, which was planning to report on corruption in the Nawaz Sharif government.
- At the beginning of May, he was warned by contacts that his co-operation with the team was being interpreted by the Nawaz Sharif government as an attempt to destabilize it and that officials were planning Sethi’s arrest.
- On 8 May, he was taken from his home by personnel of Punjab Police.
- According to Sethi’s wife Mohsin, at least eight armed officers broke into the house, assaulting the family’s security guards; when asked to produce a warrant, one of them threatened simply to shoot Sethi on the spot. Mohsin was tied up and left locked in another room.
- Sethi was then held for almost a month without charge. He was kept incommunicado at a detention center in Lahore.
- Amnesty International stated its belief that his arrest was connected with his investigations into government corruption, and designated him a prisoner of conscience
- Amnesty International: Pakistan: Prisoner of Conscience/Fear Of Torture, 02 June 1999,
- Document Issued By Amnesty International Welcoming Release Of Najam Sethi
- Najam Sethi, former Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Times, Pakistan, was presented the ‘2009 Golden Pen of Freedom’, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, during the opening ceremony of the 62nd World Newspaper Congress and 16th World Editors’ Forum (WEF).
- Presenting the award, Xavier Vidal-Folch, President, WEF, said Mr. Sethi had managed to anger both the extremists and the government authorities, merely by doing his job, and “this is at the heart of why WAN-IFRA is honouring him today with its Golden Pen of Freedom award—for carrying out his role as an independent journalist, for reporting and investigating all sides equally, and for being a voice of moderation, despite the continuous threats and constant danger he faces”.
- “In presenting the Golden Pen to Mr. Sethi today, we in the international media community express our solidarity with all independent Pakistani journalists, who despite difficult conditions, remain among the most outspoken in South Asia”.
- He was awarded the Hilal-e-Pakistan, Pakistan’s highest civil award, in 2010.