Nieman News

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard will present the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism to current Nieman Fellow Fatima Tlisova on Thursday, May 7, 2009.

An an investigative journalist, researcher and expert on human rights issues in the North Caucasus region of Russia, Tlisova is being honored for courageous reporting in the face of severe intimidation and physical assaults. She has written extensively on abuses suffered during military operations in the area; torture and disappearances; corruption; Circassian nationalism; women’s rights; censorship; and the role of Islam in regional affairs. She also has led several training workshops for journalists in the North Caucuses and served as editor in chief of the North Caucasian bureau of the REGNUM News Agency for three years.

Tlisova has worked as a correspondent for a number of Russian newspapers such as Novaya Gazeta aswell as international media, including the Associated Press, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the BBC. In 2006, she was awarded the German Zeit-Stiftung Gerd Bucerius Award for her commitment to reporting on the conflict in Chechnya, one year after receiving the Rory Peck Freelancers Choice Award for continuous bravery, commitment to the story and efforts to help fellow journalists. She has won numerous other awards for her work, including an Amnesty International UK Media Award in 2008. During the 2007-2008 academic year, she was a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights.

The Nieman Class of 2009 chose Tlisova — their own classmate — for the award, noting that her work and example have set the highest standard for the journalism profession. In selecting her, they recognized Tlisova as “a brave reporter and sensitive spirit, a woman whose published work bears witness to the hidden truths of a violent place.” Several fellows stated that they believe her best work is yet to come. Although a number of Nieman Fellows have been given the Lyons Award in the past, Tlisova is the first to receive the honor as a current fellow.

Nieman Curator Bob Giles added “Fatima has faced great dangers on the job, including violent beatings and poisoning, yet she has never faltered in her pursuit of the facts. She has watched as friends and colleagues have been threatened and killed but she remains deeply committed to telling the stories of her homeland and countrymen, understanding how crucial her work is to the cause of justice. She is an inspiration to us all.”

2009 Nieman Fellow David Jackson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter from the Chicago Tribune, will present the award, which includes a cash prize of $1,000.

Martin Baron, editor of The Boston Globe since 2001, will deliver the evening’s keynote address. Under his leadership, the Globe has won four Pulitzer Prizes, including those for public service, explanatory journalism, national reporting and criticism. The Pulitzer Prize for Public Service was awarded in 2003 for a Globe Spotlight Team investigation into clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Baron previously held top editorial positions at The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Miami Herald.

The Nieman Class of 1964 established the Louis M. Lyons Award in honor of the Nieman Foundation curator who retired that year after leading the institution for a quarter of a century. The award honors displays of conscience and integrity by individuals, groups or institutions in communications.

Finalists for this year’s Lyons Award included:

  • Jesus Blancornelas, an investigative journalist who exposed political corruption and the power of drugs gangs in Mexico, particularly the Tijuana Cartel. The victim of several attempts on his life, Blancornelas died in 2006 from complications caused by stomach cancer.
  • Donna DeCesare, an award-winning photojournalist who has risked her life to cover human rights and justice issues. She is widely known for her groundbreaking photographic reports on the spread of Los Angeles gangs in Central America. Her photographs and testimonies from children who are former child soldiers, survivors of sexual abuse, or who live with the stigma of HIV helped UNICEF to develop protocols for photographing children at risk.
  • Jestina Mukoko, a former broadcast journalist with the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, who is now a human rights activist and the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project. Accused with nine other activists of planning to overthrow President Mugabe, Mukoko was abducted from her house in December 2008 and tortured for several days before she was arraigned. She was released on bail on March 2, 2009 but still faces criminal charges.

Established in 1938, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard administers the oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists in the world. The fellowships are awarded to journalists of accomplishment who come to Harvard University for a year of study, seminars and special events. More than 1,300 journalists from 88 countries have received Nieman Fellowships.

The Nieman Foundation also publishes the quarterly Nieman Reports, the nation’s oldest magazine devoted to a critical examination of the practice of journalism, and is home to the Nieman Journalism Lab, which identifies emerging business models and best practices in journalism in the digital media age. Additionally, the foundation runs both the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism and the Nieman Watchdog Project, which encourages reporters and editors to monitor and hold accountable those who exert power in all aspects of public life.

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