Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen
DHARAMSHALA September 14: Dhondup Wangchen, a self-taught Tibetan documentary filmmaker has been named as one of the winners of the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2012 International Press Freedom Awards, an annual recognition of courageous reporting.
The jailed Tibetan filmmaker is among four journalists recognised by the global press freedom group for “risking their lives and liberty to reveal abuses of power and human rights violations.”
The other awardees, include Mauri König (Gazeta do Povo, Brazil), Mae Azango (FrontPage Africa and New Narratives, Liberia), and and Azimjon Askarov (Ferghana News and Golos Svobody, Kyrgyzstan).
CPJ in a release announcing the winners said these journalists have faced “severe reprisals for their work, including assault, threats, and torture.”
“Askarov is serving a life sentence in connection with his coverage of official corruption, and Wangchen is serving a six-year prison term following his documentation of Tibetan life under Chinese rule,” CPJ said.
Dhondup Wangchen conceived and shot the film "Leaving Fear Behind" (Tib:Jigdrel) to portray life in Tibet in advance of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. He was arrested on March 26, 2008 for filming interviews with ordinary Tibetans on their views on the Beijing Olympics, the Dalai Lama and Chinese government’s policies in Tibet.
Shortly after his footage was smuggled overseas, Wangchen disappeared into Chinese detention.
Wangchen was sentenced to six years in prison for “subversion” on December 28, 2009 following a secret trial. In January 2010, he was denied appeal.
In prison Wangchen contracted Hepatitis B and has been reported in poor health.
Wangchen’s hard-hitting documentary has been screened in over 30 countries with his wife Lhamo Tso travelling internationally to campaign for her husband's release.
"We are inspired by these journalists who have paid a high price for their enduring dedication to the truth," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Two--Azimjon Askarov and Dhondup Wangchen--have actually been arrested and jailed for their critical reporting. We will not rest until they are free."
All of the winners will be honored at CPJ's annual awards dinner in New York City on November 20, 2012, an event that Dhondup Wangchen will surely miss.