Human Rights Journalists Highlight Anniversary Celebration in New York
The torch has been passed. Eighty years after the Spanish Civil War inspired volunteers from 52 countries to challenge the spread of international fascism, no American veterans of that struggle are alive to bear witness, but their spirit and commitment to social justice, human rights, and anti-fascism lives on in the work of current anti-fascists around the world.
On May 7, the ALBA/Puffin Award for Human Right Activism—a cash tribute of $100,000—honored two courageous journalists, Lydia Cacho (acceptance speech) and Jeremy Scahill (acceptance speech), for their dedication to exposing corruption, violence, and the abuse of power which are routinely ignored by mainstream media. They do this work under life-threatening conditions of danger and risk.
The day’s events (photos and video), held at the Japan Society’s auditorium in Manhattan, not only honored the serious work of these journalists but revealed an emotional intensity as each described how they viewed their own activities as a continuation of the legacy of an earlier generation of the men and women who volunteered in Spain.
Lydia Cacho, an award-winning independent journalist who flew from Mexico to receive her award, specializes in women’s and children’s rights and has been kidnapped, tortured, raped, jailed, and threatened by government officials for her work. Despite these horrors, she continues to write about illegal sex trafficking of children, feminicide, and the abuse of human rights in her country. She has previously been awarded prizes by Amnesty International and other organizations supporting freedom of expression.
Jeremy Scahill, an investigative reporter for The Intercept and widely known for his books Dirty Wars and Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, has reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and other embattled countries, revealing patterns of violence and illegal activities that threaten human rights. In his acceptance speech, Scahill acknowledged the role of Lincoln veteran Clarence Kailin as well as his own father who introduced him to the left-Catholic values of Dorothy Day as role models for his anti-fascism.
His latest work, The Assassination Complex, indicts the Obama administration for conducting a secret foreign policy based on drone warfare. “All Americans,” he told a reporter recently, “should be outraged at the idea that when we’re killing large numbers of people in Muslim countries around the world without knowing who they are, that we somehow are not going to pay a price later.”
The ALBA-Puffin Awards were presented by ALBA Board Member Kate Doyle, recipient of the 2012 honor, and by Neal Rosenstein of the Puffin Foundation.
“This award recognizes and encourages individuals whose work has a positive impact on the advancement of human rights,” said Perry Rosenstein, president of the Puffin Foundation which provides funding for these prizes. “Jeremy Scahill and Lydia Cacho have courageously used their investigative journalism to expose reactionary forces and the information they wish to conceal.”
The day’s ceremonies were capped by an extraordinary musical performance by the San Francisco soprano Velina Brown and the musicians of Barbez, along with a slideshow of volunteers of the Lincoln Brigade who are buried in Spain.
(Video by Pablo Guerrero)