Courage in Journalism Comes to Campus

Images of journalists Zehra Dogan, Rosario Mosso Castro, Meridith Kohut, and Nima Elbagir

In this time of repeated attacks on the media, it was extremely inspiring and bracing to hear the stories of the four journalists who received the 2018 Courage in Journalism Awards from the International Women’s Media Foundation. Three of these remarkable journalists were hosted on campus this week by the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy and interviewed by Annenberg CCLP senior fellow Narda Zacchino.

Zehra Dogan, an artist as well as a journalist, founded JINHA, Turkey’s first women’s news agency, which was shut down by the government in 2016. Currently, she is being held in a Turkish jail on an accusation of terrorist propaganda because of a news report and a painting she made depicting the people she had seen while covering Northern Iraq during the ISIS presence. She was one of the first journalists to interview the Yezidi women liberated from ISIS slavery. Even in jail, she continues to paint and write the stories of women political prisoners.

Rosario Mosso Castro, the editor in chief of ZETA in Mexico, is an investigative journalist who specializes in organized crime and drug trafficking. She is completely dedicated to her work, despite the threats and risks she faces. Through an interpreter, she told students and others this week that “giving up is not something that we’ve thought about.” Moreover, she said, “We do feel fear – we just don’t let it stop us.”

Panel of guests at Annenberg

Meridith Kohut, a freelance photojournalist who works with The New York Times, is based in Venezuela, and has spent time in 30 other countries. She spent three years – and every day — documenting the economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, photographing people in breadlines, patients dying from medical shortages, and violent and dangerous clashes with the government. The toughest part, she said, was covering the slow deaths of starving children. “I am their storyteller,” she said.

Nima Elbagir, a senior international correspondent for CNN, focuses much of her reporting on Africa. Her reporting from Libya on African migrants sold at slave auctions resulted in UN sanctions against six men identified as traffickers. She has reported on the Ebola outbreak, and she was one of the first journalists to report from a northern Nigerian village where 250 schoolgirls were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram in 2014.

These women are putting their lives in jeopardy every day so that we can witness parts of our world we may never see. They brought humility, honesty, and even humor to our campus this week, and I can think of no better way to show our aspiring journalists the profound importance of their chosen path.

— Michael W. Quick, October 31, 2018