PROMINENT Zimbabwean lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has won an international award for defending journalists and media rights in the country.
Mtetwa scooped the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award sponsored by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and will receive it on November 25 in New York, the United States.
Mtetwa, a 2005 recipient of CPJâ€™s International Press Freedom Award and a winner of a number of human rights awards, will be honoured alongside five journalists from Iraq, Afghanistan, Uganda and Cuba at the 2008 International Press Freedom Awards.
The Burton Benjamin Memorial Award is named in honour of the late CBS News senior producer and former CPJ chairman who died in 1988.
Mtetwa will receive the award for lifetime achievement in recognition of her continued efforts to ensure a free press in Zimbabwe, which has repressive media laws.
CPJ board chairman Paul Steiger said: “Mtetwaâ€™s courageous efforts on behalf of journalists in Zimbabwe demonstrate her unflinching commitment. She is richly deserving of the Burton Benjamin Award, given for lifetime achievement in the cause of press freedom.”
Mtetwa has been a tireless defender of press freedom in Zimbabwe and has successfully defended a number of journalists arrested under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).
In April, she defended the Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times correspondent, Barry Bearak, who faced criminal charges in Zimbabwe.
Mtetwa won the release from jail of Bearak who faced charges of “practising journalism without a licence”.
Bearak, who is based in South Africa, will travel to New York to present her with the award.
She has also won cases for the British Guardian newspaperâ€™s former Harare correspondent Andrew Meldrum when he was tried for publishing falsehoods.
Mtetwa also represented journalists from the Daily News, Zimbabweâ€™s only independent daily newspaper, until the government shut it down.
Bilal Hussein of Iraq a photographer for The Associated Press, Danish Karokhel and Farida Nekzad both of Pajhwok Afghan News, Afghanistanâ€™s leading independent news agency, Andrew Mwenda founder and managing editor of Ugandaâ€™s news magazine The Independent, and HÃ©ctor Maseda GutiÃ©rrez of Cuba are the five journalists who will receive awards alongside Mtetwa. â€” Staff Writer.