Journalists Janine di Giovanni, Mabel Cáceres and Stella Paul cover conflict zones on a daily basis, putting themselves in dangerous situations with the chance of being threatened, but the 2016 International Women’s Media Foundation Courage Award winners will not be silenced.
Di Giovanni, Middle East Editor of Newsweek and Contributing Editor of Vanity Fair, Cáceres, Editor-In-Chief, El Búho Magazine, Peru, and Paul, Freelance Journalist, India — all of whom are winners of the 2016 Courage in Journalism Awards from the IWMF, recognizing journalists for their remarkable bravery in the pursuit of their profession — spoke at TheWrap’s Power Women Breakfast in Los Angeles on Friday.
Cáceres said: “When women try to get into a public office or try to run for government, they always put you in this place, and you are always the object of… they make fun of you and they put you in this position where they put your picture on Facebook where you are not wearing clothes or they make fun of you, they call you names. I feel that I can’t keep quiet. I just have to keep going and say something. Even though women don’t get attacked physically like they used to, I still can’t keep quiet.”
Di Giovanni agreed: “I feel very committed, I feel that I have a responsibility … If wars end, then I’ll stop. At the moment, I feel that the people I want to write about are the people that don’t have the ability to sit here and tell you about their lives.”
Paul said she covers topics like sex trafficking and gender violence in India because she feels she identifies with the women affected by the military in her province.
“I actually am one of those women, at least that’s how I see myself,” she said during the panel. “What I do and why I cover the issues have a lot to do with where I come from — I grew up in a mud hut without electricity … When you grow up in a place where you grow up watching soldiers roaming around your streets, the Indian army in my province has special powers that they are legally authorized to get into houses and drag anyone out and detain or torture anyone. They don’t need a warrant, that is what is called a special power. You can’t go out after evening because you are scared that you are molested or you can be tortured by an army person.
“Those are certain things that get implanted in your head — curfew, black out, lock out, and poverty and fraud and food that you have to stand in a queue for … So now, when I decided to be a journalist, I didn’t have to make a conscious effort. I didn’t have to make an effort of who and what I want to report. These are the people I identify with.”
Diane Rehm, who since 1979 has hosted “The Diane Rehm Show,” which airs on WAMU 88.5 FM in Washington, D.C., said she was honored to be on stage with these courageous journalists at TheWrap’s event.
“These women have been in the midst of the battle, and I have been in the sanctity of my studio in Washington, and I feel totally humbled in their presence,” she said.
The radio host, who says she won’t be retiring but rather stepping away from the microphone after this year’s election, said she will fight for the Death With Dignity Act, an end-of-life option where terminally ill people can legally request medication to end their life. Her desire to do so stemmed from a very personal experience when her husband died two and a half years ago.
“I was married for 54 years until my husband died two and a half years ago of Parkinson’s Disease, and he suffered in a way at the end that no one should have to suffer,” she said. “He finally chose, because Death With Dignity was not available in Maryland, he chose to starve himself for 10 days while I was by his side. I don’t think anyone should have to that suffer that way.”
Watch the video above.