There was a noticeable absence at the 2017 Courage in Journalism Awards on Wednesday afternoon at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. Most of the recipients of the honors from the International Women’s Media Foundation were present to accept their awards, but Hadeel al-Yamani, a journalist for Al Jazeera Arabic in Yemen, was not there. She was not granted a visa to enter the United States, due to the current travel ban put in place by President Donald Trump.
“Would someone explain to me — and I will get to the bottom of this — why Hadeel, who stood and braved the war zone and all the intimidation and dangers without missing a beat, without losing any of her tenacity, her courage, her passion for telling the story of her countrymen, the women and the people suffering there … exactly what threat does she pose to the borders of the United States of America?” asked NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. “If we cannot give a visa to Hadeel al-Yamani to come to this country and accept the award that she so incredibly deserves, what do we stand for? What is the First Amendment? What is the freedom of our country?”
The tone of the event rang with the political pulse of what’s happening in the country right now, in regards to the treatment of women — from the Harvey Weinstein allegations to the #MeToo campaign on social media, which allows women who have been sexually assaulted or harassed to speak out.
Mitchell accepted the lifetime achievement award for her trailblazing work as the foreign-affairs correspondent for NBC News and as the host of MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports. She ended her remarks by saying, “Hashtag Me Too.”
Following her award, the journalist sat with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow to discuss her career, sexism and the workplace discrimination she faced coming up as a reporter.
“You are the person who made me a feminist at work because you made me realize that I couldn’t do it alone and that the women around me had figured out how to do it in the business that we operate in and that we were not going to be able to get to the finish line without each other,” Maddow told Mitchell. “And you made room for me in a way that no one else has, and I can never repay you for that.”
The recipients for the Courage in Journalism Awards also included NPR Middle East correspondent Deborah Amos and Saniya Toiken, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Kazakhstan. Michele Norris received the inaugural Gwen Ifill Award, named for the late PBS NewsHour broadcaster. Lisa Caputo, executive vp marketing and communications for The Travelers Companies, Inc., was recognized as the IWMF Leadership Honoree.
Norah O’Donnell of CBS News and Cynthia McFadden of NBC News co-hosted the event. “Women represent at least half the world’s population, and so it’s imperative that the news media include their clear, strong voices — asking tough questions and pushing for the truth,” O’Donnell said.
She added, “Now, more than perhaps ever before, I think we all appreciate just how important thoughtful and tenacious journalists are in helping to keep citizens informed, bringing truth to power and in giving voice to those who might otherwise be marginalized.”