Media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and journalists from the now-shuttered Apple Daily Hong Kong were yesterday awarded the World Association of News Publishers' (Wan-Ifra) highest honour for their sacrifices in the cause of press freedom.
Lai, 72, is in jail for his role in organising and participating in pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019.
Apple Daily, the popular Chinese-language newspaper he founded, was forced to close in June after the authorities froze its assets and arrested its senior executives under the city's national security law.
At the time of its closure, the tabloid known for its pro-democratic stance and criticism of Hong Kong and mainland Chinese leaders had about 600 employees.
Mr Sebastien Lai, when accepting the award on behalf of his imprisoned father and the Apple Daily Hong Kong staff, referred to journalism as "a check against the powerful, and the voice of the people in times of strife".
"With Apple Daily closing in Hong Kong, and a crackdown against journalism across the region, there will be fewer people shining light in these dark corners," he said.
World Editors Forum president Warren Fernandez, in announcing the award virtually at the World News Media Congress, said that the Golden Pen honour highlights "the fears and challenges of journalists in Hong Kong, the region and the world in the face of heightening curbs on their ability to do their jobs credibly and independently".
Wan-Ifra media freedom board chair Victoria Svanberg said: "Jimmy Lai has paid a heavy price for his belief in democracy... The spirit that Apple Daily embodies must be allowed to live on."
Editors from around the world joined in a video statement expressing solidarity with Lai, one of the highest-profile figures in Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp, and his Apple Daily colleagues.
Previous winners of the Golden Pen award have included Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who is the chief executive of the Rappler news portal, and Russian investigative journalist Dmitry Muratov, who is the chief editor of Novaya Gazeta.
Ms Ressa and Mr Muratov were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this year.