The EU's Lorenzo Natali prize honours journalists who further the cause of human rights and democracy. With 1 500 journalists put forward from 165 countries, this year's prize broke all records for nominations.
On 3 May, Louis Michel, EU development commissioner, congratulated the 15 finalists from five regions of the world – Africa, Asia‑Pacific, Europe, Latin America/Caribbean and the Arab world/Iran/Israel. "Principled and skilled journalists are vital to the defence of democracy and human rights", he said. "Without democracy, without freedom of press, development cannot be sustainable".
A free press and access to information are part of the fundamental rights actively promoted by the EU both within its borders and beyond, especially through its democracy and human rights programme.
Also on 3 May, the EU joined UNESCO in celebrating world press freedom day. This year's event focused on the safety of journalists operating in conflict areas and a call to clamp down on crimes against journalists. Many still suffer intimidation, threats and censorship, or routinely risk their lives in the course of their work. Illustrating this danger, the world press freedom prize was awarded posthumously to Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian journalist murdered on 7 October last.
Awarding the Lorenzo Natali prize, Mr Michel also took the opportunity to make a renewed call for the release of Alan Johnston, the BBC's Gaza correspondent who has been held hostage since 12 March.