Journalist Melissa Martin wins Press Freedom Prize for compelling dispatches from Ukraine amid air raids and bombings

By May 2, 2024 No Comments

The Globe and Mail’s Robyn Doolittle wins Career Achievement Award, Canadian editorial cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon wins International Editorial Cartoon Competition

World Press Freedom Canada (WPFC) is pleased to announce that Winnipeg’s Melissa Martin is the 2024 winner of our Press Freedom Prize, while Robyn Doolittle of The Globe and Mail is awarded our Career Achievement Award.

Martin took a leave from the Winnipeg Free Press in 2023 to spend a year in Ukraine, chronicling the impact of war on civilians on her Substack platform. Between frequent air raids and bombings, Martin produced vivid and compelling dispatches on the resiliency of the people living amid fear and loss.

Martin worked under the constant threat to her own safety to provide factual and vivid articles on the desperate situation with the war in Ukraine, which has been subject to so much disinformation online.

Doolittle has for many years been one of Canada’s most tenacious and impactful investigative reporters, at The Globe and Mail and previously at The Toronto Star. In 2022-23, she teamed with other Globe journalists on Secret Canada. She previously shredded the veil of secrecy around the police handling of sexual assault complaints in Unfounded, and investigated gender inequalities in the workforce in Power Gap.

Judges considered nominations from across Canada for the annual press freedom award, the career achievement prize in honour of committee co-founder Spencer Moore, and our new student journalism prize.

“Congratulations to the winners of this year’s awards. We are proud to recognize the journalists, including students and editorial cartoonists, who continue to pursue important stories in the face of secrecy and threats to their safety,” says WPFC president Heather Bakken.

“According to the world press freedom index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, the environment for journalism is ‘bad’ in seven out of 10 countries and journalism is under threat from the fake content industry,” says Bakken. “While many independent news organizations across western democracies struggle to survive with smaller budgets and fewer journalists, AI-generated social media campaigns are bombarding the information ecosystem with misinformation, disinformation and deep-fake videos that are designed to affect the electorate. Press freedom is more important now than ever.”

Certificates of Merit awarded

In addition to the top prize winners, WPFC is awarding three Certificates of Merit.

Toronto Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh is recognized for her diligent reporting on the extent to which Ontario’s economy relies on exploited, at times illegally trafficked workers in her Work Forced series. Frédérik-Xavier Duhamel of The Globe and Mail’s Montreal bureau is also recognized for his reporting on Quebec’s prison system including an article based on documents he was ordered to relinquish but defied the order.

The committee has also awarded a local journalism certificate of merit to Keith Corcoran, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin, a community weekly in Bridgewater, N.S., for his dogged and ultimately successful pursuit of search warrant records in the Nova Scotia courts.

Student Achievement Award

The inaugural WPFC Student Achievement Award goes to Charles Séguin and Naomie Duckett-Zamor from the student paper at L’Université du Québec à Montréal for articles on lack of democracy at the student associations. The journalists faced threats and the theft of newspapers designed to thwart their coverage but carried on.

Certificates of merit for Student Achievement are also awarded to Faith Greco for an investigative report on alleged hazing within Carleton University’s Greek letter organizations, and Evan Robins for covering the Trent’s student association, consistently reporting in the face of opposition and harassment from directors and executives of the institution in question.

Freedom of Information citation: The Globe and Mail

The committee is also awarding a Freedom of Information citation to The Globe and Mail and its team of Tom Cardoso, Robyn Doolittle, Carys Mills, Mahima Singh and Ming Wong for its multi-year Secret Canada project, which exposed Canada’s dysfunctional access to information systems and also created a website to help journalists and other citizens access government information.

Efficient and timely access to information is critical to a free and independent press, and helps journalists inform citizens and hold governments to account.

Canadian cartoonist MacKinnon wins International Editorial Cartoon Contest

Canadian cartoonist Bruce MacKinnon won the International Editorial Cartoon Contest for his cartoon based on the theme of Artificial Intelligence: Yes or No?

Brazil’s Dalcio Machado won second place and Serbia’s Jugoslav Vlahovic placed third.

AI can help journalists gather information, but deep fakes and voice simulators capable of generating credible audio segments can cast doubt on the authenticity of content and put democracy at risk.

WPFC is an Ottawa-based volunteer committee that champions press freedom at home and abroad. The awards will be presented at our annual luncheon event at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on May 2, featuring keynote speaker Margaret Sullivan, columnist for The Guardian US. The luncheon theme, to mark the United Nations’ World Press Freedom Day, is Free Press, Fair Elections and Democracy.