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Glasnost Defense Foundation president awarded second annual Dana Bullen Press Freedom Advocacy Prize

(WPFC/IFEX) - 4 December 2009 - The World Press Freedom Committee's second annual Press Freedom Advocacy Award was given today to Alexei Simonov, President of the Glasnost Defense Foundation of Moscow.

Simonov has headed the Russian group since its creation in 1991 as Russia's first independent press freedom defense organization.

The initial purpose was to keep then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to his word to grant public openness, or glasnost, to the country's society. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the GDF has been at the forefront of an uphill battle under Mr. Simonov's leadership of actions and programs to defend and promote freedom of the Russian media.

"We are especially proud to give the second annual award for press freedom advocacy . . . to Alexei Simonov in recognition of all his often frustrating but determined work to keep the promise of press freedom alive in Russia," said Ronald Koven, European Representative of the World Press Freedom Committee.

In a video acceptance speech to WPFC's annual Global Communications Issues Lecture at a luncheon at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Simonov called participants to stand for a moment of silence for the more than 200 journalists killed in Russia since 1993. He said they included three Americans who "gave their lives for freedom of expression in my country."

He noted that "if we were to devote a minute of silence to the memory of each of those victims, we would stand in silence for three and a half hours" and that there have been proper investigations in only 8 percent of the cases.

While he painted a dim picture of the current press freedom situation in Russia, Simonov said, "We have no right to lose hope." He called upon outside supporters of press freedom in Russia not to give in to loss of hope.

WPFC's Press Freedom Advocacy Award was inaugurated last year in honor of the late Dana Bullen, the group's first Executive Director. The first Award went to Leonard Sussman, senior researcher and former director of Freedom House. It carries an honorarium of $1,000.

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