Pakistani journalist wins international award

Washington, USA :  Umar Cheema, investigative journalist at The News, received the prestigious Knight International Journalism Award for his courage and commitment towards the profession, on Thursday night at the International Center for Journalists Awards Dinner in Washington.

In places like Pakistan, journalists are free to speak, write and publish-but at their own risk,  said Cheema, during his acceptance speech.

The ICFJ, a nonprofit organization dedicated to training journalists worldwide, held its annual dinner at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center and in addition to Cheema, recognized Roman Anin from Novaya Gazeta in Russia, and Richard Engel from NBC News in the United States.

In 2010, Cheema was kidnapped and brutally tortured for the stories he wrote. Instead of this letting this stop him, he continued to cover important issues.

Pakistan faces rampant corruption, but because of journalists and their hard work, this is being unveiled and shown to the public, Cheema said to a standing ovation.

He was referring to reports published by the Center of Investigative Reporting, an organization he created, that analyzed tax records of more than 400 politicians.

He discovered that almost 70 percent of legislators did not file income taxes in 2011.

After the story was published, the government created new laws that forced candidates in elections to submit their tax returns.

Rich tribute was paid to Cheema during the event, with Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times, hailing his  extraordinary courage.

Umar Cheema has set a new standard for courage and journalism in Pakistan,  added John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, during a video address.

Cheema is no stranger to international awards, and received the 2011 International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists and in 2008, won the 2008 Daniel Pearl Fellowship.

The award dinner was hosted by Wolf Blitzer from CNN, and was attended by almost 600 guests, according to ICFJ.

Additionally, ICFJ announced the creation of a center for excellence in journalism in Karachi, and a safety in journalism course, that would bring journalists from conflict countries, including Pakistan, and teach them how to cover conflict.

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