CPJ board honors Hong Kong’s Jimmy Lai with Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award

Hong Kong media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai pauses next to a copy of Apple Daily’s July 1, 2020, edition during an interview in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020. (AP/Vincent Yu)

New York, June 21, 2021– The Committee to Protect Journalists today said it will honor Jimmy Lai, the imprisoned founder of Hong Kong’s Next Digital media company and Apple Daily newspaper, with the 2021 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award. The award is presented annually by CPJ’s board of directors to recognize extraordinary and sustained commitment to press freedom.

“Jimmy Lai is not just a champion of a free press, he is a press freedom warrior. He fights for the right of his Apple News organization to publish freely, even as China and its backers in Hong Kong use every tool to quash them,” said Kathleen Carroll, chair of CPJ’s board. “The CPJ board is pleased to honor Jimmy Lai with the 2021 Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award. And we look forward to the day when we can present that award to him in person.”

Lai — who will be honored at CPJ’s 2021 International Press Freedom Awards on November 18, 2021– has become a powerful symbol of the struggle to maintain press freedom in Hong Kong as China’s Communist Party exerts ever greater control over the territory. In prison, denied bail, the outspoken critic of the Chinese government and advocate for democracy faces charges that could keep him in jail for the rest of his life. Last week, police raided Apple Daily’s headquarters and arrested five executives.

After the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Lai launched Next magazine as part of his Next Media group, now known as Next Digital. As a result of Lai’s critical commentary, China began to force branches of his retail clothing businesses on the mainland to close. He launched Apple Daily in 1995, introducing tabloid-style journalism to Hong Kong and later Taiwan, and has openly supported the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

Originally the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, the award was renamed in 2017 to honor Gwen Ifill, the veteran journalist and former CPJ board member who died in late 2016. More information about this year’s event and CPJ’s awardees is at ipfa.cpj.org.

More information on the gala is available by calling Buckley Hall Events at (914) 579-1000 or CPJ’s development office at (212) 300-9021, or emailing CPJipfa@buckleyhallevents.com.

Note to Editors:

CPJ experts and CPJ International Press Freedom Award winners are available for interviews on request, prior to the awards dinner on November 18, 2021. For information on media partnerships for the awards, please contact press@cpj.org.

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