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Reporters Committee announces 2021 Freedom of the Press Award honorees

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RCFP to present awards virtually to Applewhite, Boutrous, Brown, Clooney, Mayer, and Moscoso on September 28.
Images of Scott Applewhite, Ted Boutrous, Julie K. Brown, Amal Clooney, Jane Mayer, Laura Moscoso, Tony Mauro and Saundra Torry.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is pleased to announce that registration is open for the 2021 Freedom of the Press Awards and 50th anniversary celebration.

Each year, the Reporters Committee recognizes the accomplishments of leaders in the news media and legal fields whose work embodies the values of the First Amendment through its prestigious Freedom of the Press Awards. The 2021 recipients are:

  • J. Scott Applewhite, senior photojournalist at The Associated Press
  • Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., media law attorney and partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
  • Julie K. Brown, investigative journalist for The Miami Herald
  • Amal Clooney, co-founder and president, Clooney Foundation for Justice
  • Jane Mayer, staff writer and chief Washington correspondent for The New Yorker

The Reporters Committee also gives an annual Rising Star Award to honor young leaders who are forwarding the cause of press freedom. This year’s Rising Star Award will go to Laura Moscoso.

“From doing investigative reporting that held the powerful accountable, to providing stellar legal support for journalists under fire, this year’s honorees truly embody our First Amendment at work,” said Stephen J. Adler, chair of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “We’re thrilled to honor these press freedom champions.”

The 2021 Freedom of the Press Awards and Reporters Committee 50th anniversary celebration, hosted by Kristen Welker, co-anchor of “Weekend TODAY” and NBC News Chief White House Correspondent, and presented by Microsoft, will be held virtually on Sept. 28, 2021. Jane Boon and Norman Pearlstine, and the Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation are the Anniversary Champions; Amanda Bennett and Donald E. Graham, The Murray Fromson family, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and Hearst are this year’s Legacy Champions.

The event is co-chaired by Amanda Bennett; Donald E. Graham, Chairman, Graham Holdings; Norman Pearlstine; Brad Smith, President, Microsoft; and Steven R. Swartz, President & CEO, Hearst.

Applewhite, a longtime RCFP Steering Committee member, is a two-time Pulitzer-Prize winning photojournalist whose 40-year career with the Associated Press has taken him from the halls of Congress and the White House to presidential campaigns and foreign wars. The jarring images he captured from inside House chambers as rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 helped tell the story of one of the most historic moments in our nation’s recent history.

In recent years, Boutrous has represented and won cases for journalists Jim Acosta and Brian Karem as they faced White House access issues. He also represents media organizations, reporters, and others in a wide array of First Amendment, access, subpoena, defamation, freedom of information, prior restraint, newsgathering and copyright matters. In 2013, he was named one of the “100 Most Influential Lawyers in America,” by The National Law Journal.

Brown is an award-winning investigative journalist who has uncovered injustice in the criminal justice system — including breaking the stories about abusive conditions in Florida’s prisons — and exposed Jeffrey Epstein’s sex trafficking.

Clooney helped secure the release of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were wrongfully imprisoned for 511 days in Myanmar, and is currently representing Maria Ressa, journalist and CEO of Rappler. In addition to her work as a human rights activist and lawyer, Clooney serves as the United Kingdom’s Special Envoy for Media Freedom.

Throughout her career as a reporter for The New Yorker, Mayer has written four best-selling books that tackle issues of money, corruption and power in politics, and is best known for her accountability journalism and her ability to expose the underpinnings of powerful institutions. She has been a longtime Steering Committee member of the Reporters Committee.

Moscoso is a data journalist at the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism (el Centro de Periodismo Investigativo). She reported on the discrepancy between the death toll figures released by the government and the actual number of deaths caused by Hurricane María in 2017, among other investigations.

“Each of our Award winners has risen to take on the challenges of protecting the First Amendment in their own unique ways and with extraordinary success,” said Bruce D. Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee. “None is shying away from the threats of the day, and they set an example for us all.”

This year, the Reporters Committee is presenting the Fred Graham Distinguished Service Award to Tony Mauro, contributor at ALM Media Properties, LLC, and Saundra Torry, retired member of USA Today’s Editorial Board. This award acknowledges their outstanding commitment to the Reporters Committee over the years.

In addition to presenting these awards, the Reporters Committee is celebrating 50 years of protecting First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists.

“The Reporters Committee was founded to counter government threats to freedom of the press. Over the last five decades, this organization has continually evolved to meet journalists’ growing need for legal assistance,” said Brown. “We’re thrilled to celebrate this milestone in our history and look forward to the next chapter in our work.”

For information about sponsorships and event registration, please visit rcfp.org/50. Past Freedom of the Press Award winners are listed here