The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today announced the recipients of this year’s Freedom of the Press Awards, which recognize the accomplishments of leaders in the news media and legal fields whose work embodies the values of the First Amendment.
The honorees for 2022 are:
- Wendi C. Thomas, founding editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism;
- Sahan Journal, led by Founding Publisher and CEO Mukhtar M. Ibrahim;
- Kevin T. Baine, senior counsel at Williams & Connolly LLP;
- Azmat Khan, contributing writer, The New York Times Magazine; and
- Judy Woodruff, anchor and managing editor of the PBS NewsHour.
“This year’s honorees are exceptional leaders in their fields, and their impressive bodies of work represent the best of our free press and those who defend it,” said Stephen J. Adler, chair of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “We’re thrilled to recognize their dedication to standing up for the newsgathering rights of journalists and producing investigative and accountability reporting to inform communities across the country.”
The 2022 Freedom of the Press Awards will be held on October 11, 2022, at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York City. The awards dinner is co-chaired by Chairman and Publisher of The New York Times A.G. Sulzberger and CEO of the Americas and U.S. Senior Partner at Brunswick Group Nikhil Deogun.
“The dedication, tenacity and perseverance of this year’s Freedom of the Press Award winners are what make them stand out as leaders in journalism and media law,” said Bruce D. Brown, executive director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “From their courageous reporting that challenges the status quo and better informs communities, to their decades-long dedication to bringing people the news they need and protecting journalists’ legal rights, each of our honorees embodies the First Amendment in their own way. We’re so proud to celebrate them and their accomplishments.”
The Reporters Committee will introduce several new award designations during this year’s Freedom of the Press Awards celebration.
Thomas will be recognized with the Freedom of the Press Local Champion Award, which honors a journalist, attorney or organization whose work has had a significant impact locally. She is the founding editor and publisher of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, an award-winning nonprofit newsroom in Memphis focused on poverty, power and public policy. A 2016 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, Thomas has worked for The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, The Charlotte Observer, The Tennessean and The Indianapolis Star. As part of ProPublica’s 2019 Local Reporting Network, she investigated the rapacious debt collection practices of a nonprofit hospital, which led the hospital to raise the pay of its lowest-paid workers to $15 an hour and erase nearly $12 million in hospital debt for more than 5,300 defendants. Her honors include the 2020 Selden Ring Award, the 2019 National Association of Black Journalists’ Best Practices Award and being named the 2018 Journalism and Women Symposium’s Journalist of the Year.
Sahan Journal will be recognized with the Reporters Committee’s fourth Rising Star Award, which honors an up and coming journalist, media lawyer or organization that has already made great strides in defending freedom of the press or who has conquered significant roadblocks in the course of telling an important story. The nonprofit online news organization is dedicated to covering Minnesota immigrants and communities of color, and to chronicling how these communities are changing and redefining what it means to be a Minnesotan. Mukhtar M. Ibrahim, the founding publisher and CEO, is among the first trained journalists of Somali background in Minnesota and in the country. Before launching Sahan Journal, he worked as a staff writer for The Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio News. In 2021, he was recognized as the Institute for Nonprofit News “Emerging Leader.”
Baine and Woodruff will each be recognized with the Freedom of the Press Career Achievement Award, which honors an individual with a long history of upholding the value of freedom of the press throughout their career.
As one of the nation’s leading First Amendment attorneys, Baine has defended freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion in state and federal courts throughout the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court. In his more than four decades at Williams & Connolly, he has represented The Washington Post and other major news organizations and entertainment companies, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox, HBO, Sony Pictures and others in a variety of cases involving First Amendment issues. Baine has been recognized repeatedly by Chambers USA as one of two “Star Individuals (Nationwide) in First Amendment Litigation.”
Woodruff’s career as an award-winning broadcast journalist has spanned more than four decades at NBC, CNN and PBS. She served as White House correspondent for NBC News from 1977 to 1982, followed by one year as chief Washington correspondent for NBC’s Today Show. She first joined PBS in 1983 as chief Washington correspondent, and later anchored PBS’ award-winning documentary series, “Frontline with Judy Woodruff.” After moving to CNN in 1993, she served for 12 years as an anchor and senior correspondent, before returning to the NewsHour in 2007. In 2013, she and the late Gwen Ifill were named the first two women to co-anchor a national news broadcast. She is also a founding co-chair of the International Women’s Media Foundation and has served as a longtime Steering Committee member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Khan will be recognized with the Freedom of the Press Catalyst Award, which honors a journalist or organization whose reporting has had a significant impact. Her investigations for The New York Times Magazine, the PBS series FRONTLINE, and BuzzFeed’s investigations team have exposed major myths of war, prompting widespread policy impact from Washington to Kabul, and winning nearly a dozen awards. Most recently, her groundbreaking investigation examining civilian deaths resulting from U.S. airstrikes in the Middle East since 2014 for The New York Times, “The Civilian Casualty Files,” received the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. Khan is the Patti Cadby Birch Assistant Professor at Columbia Journalism School, where she is also the inaugural Director of the Simon and June Li Center for Global Journalism, and co-founder of The Gumshoe Group. She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Pulitzer Center and the Board of Governors of the Overseas Press Club of America.
For information about sponsorships and ticket purchases, please visit rcfp.org/awards2022. Past Freedom of the Press Award winners are listed here.