Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism

The Nieman Class of 1964 created the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism as a tribute to the Nieman Foundation curator who retired that year. The award honors displays of conscience and integrity in communications by individuals, groups or institutions. Each class of Nieman Fellows decides whether to present the award to a deserving individual or news organization.

Due to a shift in the timing of the annual recognition ceremony from the spring to the fall, two Lyons Award ceremonies were held in 2009.

May 2009

The Class of 2009 selected one of their own, Fatima Tlisova, for the award. Tlisova, an independent journalist from the North Caucasus, was the first Nieman Fellow to be chosen for the award by her own class. She was honored on May 7 for courageous reporting in the face of severe intimidation and physical assaults. Her classmates recognized her as “a brave reporter and sensitive spirit, a woman whose published work bears witness to the hidden truths of a violent place.”

Martin Baron, editor of The Boston Globe, presented the evening’s remarks.

November 2009

The Class of 2010 chose to present two Lyons Awards in recognition of the many risks journalists working in conflict zones face on the job. The two recipients were honored on November 17, 2009.
  • Sri Lankan Editor Lasantha Wickrematunge

For daring to stand up, at the cost of his life, for freedom of the press and human rights

Wickrematunge was brutally attacked killed in January 2009 after years of working tirelessly to uncover government corruption and expose the atrocities committed during his country’s protracted civil war. In 1994, he founded The Sunday Leader and remained its editor in chief until his death. His murder had a chilling affect on Sri Lankan journalists, who were already working under perilous conditions and constant threats.

Wickrematunge and his presses had been attacked so many times that he drafted an editorial predicting his own murder. That editorial was discovered and published three days after he was killed. In the piece, he wrote: “There is a calling yet above high office, fame, lucre and security. It is the call to conscience.”

  • The Journalists of Afghanistan

For their bravery in delivering the news from one of the most dangerous reporting environments in the world

Like Wickrematunge, the journalists of Afghanistan operate in an extremely dangerous work environment. Many of these reporters work with the foreign media at great personal risk, providing vital support, services and guidance. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented the death of six Afghan media workers inside Afghanistan during the last three years alone.

The Nieman Class of 2010 praised the journalists’ dedication stating: “Their work is crucial to our understanding of events in Afghanistan, but their importance is rarely recognized…The Lyons Award has never before gone to an Afghan journalist. Today, we correct this record and state our admiration for the conscience and integrity of our colleagues in Afghanistan.”

2010 Nieman Fellow and BBC correspondent James Reynolds presented the Lyons Award to New York Times journalist Abdul Waheed Wafa, who accepted the honor on behalf of all Afghan journalists. The $1,000 award, supplemented by additional donations from the Nieman Fellows, was sent to the Frontline Fixers Fund, which provides direct financial support to the families of Afghan journalists killed on the job.

The day before the award was presented to Wafa, Nieman Fellows arranged to have a Web conference with a group of Afghan journalists in Kabul who spoke about their work and the many dangers they face. Clips from that discussion were shown during the award ceremony and the Afghan journalists hope to continue the dialogue with the Nieman Fellows over the course of the year.

Alex Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, delivered the evening’s keynote address. A 1982 Nieman Fellow, Jones is a member of the Nieman Advisory Board.

Learn more about the Lyons Award winners »