Journalists from Russia, Ethiopia, Iran and Venezuela were honoured this week by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) for their work at "the forefront of the battle for press freedom".

The CPJ gave its annual International Press Freedom Awards to Dawit Kebede of Ethiopia's Awramba Times, Nadira Isayeva of Russia's Chernovik, Laureano Marquez of Tal Cual in Venezuela and Mohammad Davari from the Saham News. They received their prizes at a ceremony on Tuesday night in New York.

Iranian journalist Davari was not at the event as he is currently imprisoned in Iran for reporting on alleged rape, torture and abuse at a now-closed detention centre, according to the CPJ.

Fellow award winner Isayeva spoke about her motivation to write despite facing a possible eight years in prison for her work: "What frightens me more [than imprisonment] is the possibility that some day in the future, a reader of my newspaper might say to me: 'When people were kidnapped, tortured, and executed without trial, you were silent.'"

Ethiopian journalist Kebede launched the Awramba Times in 2008, an Amharic-language newspaper, having previously been jailed for reporting on election violence in the country in 2005 and only being released under a presidential pardon two years later. In Venezuela, journalist and author Marquez has faced calls for criminal prosecution after columns addressing the President Hugo Chavez.

"These journalists embody the struggle to report the news without fear of reprisal. Their work defies censorship," Joel Simon, CPJ Executive Director, says of the winners on the CPJ website.

"Their courage is a shield for many journalists asking questions and exposing uncomfortable truths, even at personal risk."

A special award was also given to Aryeh Neier, president of the Open Society Institute, to recognise a lifetime's work dedicated to the advance of press freedom.

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