2005 - Cheng Yizhong, China
Chinese journalist Cheng Yizhong was named as the laureate of the 2005 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, on the recommendation of an independent jury of media professionals from all over the world.
Kavi Chongkittavorn executive editor of the Bangkok English-language daily The Nation, who chairs the jury, declared: “Mr Cheng represents Chinese journalism at its best; he speaks out for the weak and checks the strong. His courageous outspokenness has contributed to raising public awareness in China.”
As editor of Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis Daily) Mr Cheng, 40, broke new ground in Chinese journalism. His editorial independence and professional know-how helped turn his paper into one of the most successful dailies in the country, publishing articles revealing the SARS epidemic and a case of death in a Canton police station.
Imprisoned for five months with two of his Nanfang Dushi Bao colleagues, Yu Huafeng and Li Minying, Mr Cheng was released in August 2004. While no formal charges were laid against him, he has been barred from resuming his professional activities.
Expressing his gratitude for the Prize, Mr Cheng said: “I feel very relieved and comforted, but I also feel sad. All we have done is act according to our conscience. Unfortunately we have had to pay a price for following our conscience.”