BEIRUT: Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat was made journalist of the year at the 2011 Le Monde Prize for Press Freedom for his creativity and defense of media freedom.
“This year we are honoring a courageous journalist who has been the victim of brutal repression by an obsolete government,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said.
At an awards ceremony in Paris Thursday, Reporters Without Borders and French newspaper Le Monde also announced Weekly Eleven News, a Burmese newspaper, as media of the year.
“I would have liked to have been with you ... to take part in this beautiful event,” read a statement by Farzat, who was unable to attend.
“I dedicate this award to the martyrs, to those who have been injured and to those who struggle for freedom. May thanks be given to all those who have turned the Arab Spring into a victory over darkness and repression.”
In a television interview Wednesday with U.S. network ABC, Barbara Walters asked Syrian President Bashar Assad about an attack on Farzat in August in which unknown assailants severely beat him, breaking his right arm and two fingers on his left hand, after he drew satirical cartoons comparing Assad with the late Moammar Gadhafi following his ouster.
The 60-year-old Syrian cartoonist rose to prominence in the 1980s with his satirical yet non-descript images of bureaucrats, big brother and other bullies. In 2000, during a brief period of relative media freedom in Syria, Farzat launched the first independent newspaper since the country’s ruling Baath party took power in 1963. The government shut the paper in 2003 following numerous critical articles of public officials.
Farzat again made headlines this year with the brutal attack on him this summer.
“Ali Farzat fully deserves this award. His cartoons target the abuses of a desperate regime with its back to the wall and encourage Syrians to demand their rights and to express themselves freely,” Julliard said of the Syrian artist.