Encouraging serious journalism


Daniel Pearl Award Winners

The following distinguished group of journalists have received the Pearl Award for courage and integrity in journalism. The world has come to know Daniel Pearl as the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in early 2002, just four months after 9/11. People around the world, along with his pregnant wife and family, prayed for his release. Since then, he has been remembered as a symbol of hope: a man who built bridges between diverse cultures undefined as a writer and a gifted musician. The Daniel Pearl Memorial Award is given for courage and integrity in journalism.

2015 Charlie Hebdo
2014 Khaled Abu Toameh
2013 Sandra Rodríguez Nieto
2012 The Pearl Family
2011 Richard Engel
2010 Anne Garrels
2009 Robyn Dixon
2008 Bob Woodruff
2007 Anna Politkovskaya
2006 Kevin Sites
2005 Jesus Blancornelas
2004 James Nachtwey and Michael Weisskopf
2003 Michael Kelly
2002 Daniel Pearl


No act of terrorism can stop freedom of speech. Giving the Daniel Pearl Award to Charlie Hebdo is a strong message to that effect.
The Los Angeles Press Club continues to uphold its tradition of excellence in the face of ever declining budgets and threats to freedom of speech. We grieve and stand united with the French people, and with the families of all victims of the Paris massacre. We are humbled by their sacrifice which has re-awakened the world to a deadly peril that must be confronted and eliminated.

The brave hearts of Charlie Hebdo have been protecting our freedoms for several decades -- alone, it is now our duty to protect their vision for generations to come -- together. The Daniel Pearl Award for Courage and Integrity in Journalism symbolizes this commitment,” said Judea and Ruth Pearl in a joint statement.


Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning Arab-Israeli journalist and TV producer who has covered Palestinian and Arab affairs for the past three decades. Abu Toameh studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and has worked for many media outlets, including BBC, VOICE OF AMERICA, WALL STREET JOURNAL and US NEWS & WORLD REPORT. He has also worked for THE JERUSALEM POST and currently serves as a Distinguished Fellow with the New York based Gatestone Institute think-tank.


Sandra Rodríguez Nieto has worked for El Diario de Juárez from 2003 to 2012 where she has courageously written about local government corruption and the failures in the judicial system. She has also written about immigration issues as well as the military deployment that turned
Juarez into one of the most dangerous cities on earth. She has focused on how a lack of education and jobs drives thousands of young people into the brutal world of crime and drugs. Her reporting has revealed the organizational structure of competing drug cartels and their ability to evade law enforcement. She continually reports on the composition of warring gangs fighting for control of Juárez and how the alleged leaders have been out of reach of the authorities. In 2010, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo presented her with the Reporteros Del Mundo award for her outstanding work covering a conflict zone. That same year, she made the Los Angeles Times’ Media Hero list for reporting in one of the most dangerous cities on earth. She is currently collaborating with SinEmbargo.mx, in Mexico City.


The Pearl Family. The world has been shocked by the senseless loss of Daniel Pearl, a journalist who dedicated his life to bringing joy and understanding to the world.

The Daniel Pearl Foundation has been formed by Danny’s family and friends to continue Danny’s mission and to address the root causes of this tragedy, in the spirit, style, and principles that shaped Danny’s work and character. These principles include uncompromised objectivity and integrity; insightful and unconventional perspective; tolerance and respect for people of all cultures; unshaken belief in the effectiveness of education and communication; and the love of music, humor, and friendship.


Richard Engel was named NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent in April 2008. His reports appear on all platforms of NBC News, including “NBC Nightly News,” “Today,” MSNBC, and msnbc.com. Engel, one of the few western journalists to cover the entire war in Iraq, joined NBC News in May 2003.

Engel has lived in the Middle East for more than twelve years and speaks and reads fluent Arabic, which he learned while living in the slums of Cairo after graduating from Stanford University in 1996 with a B.A. in international relations world.. Engel is the author of two books, “A Fist in the Hornet’s Nest” and “War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq,” chronicling his experiences covering the Iraq war. His brave and courageous broadcast has impacted viewers worldwide.


Robyn Dixon has covered riots in Kenya and escaped gunfire in Grozny. She was on an airplane that nearly crashed and once, while on a dark road in Afghanistan, she and her companions were shelled by Taliban mortars. What is almost as important as Dixon’s ability to survive these harrowing encounters, is her passion for telling stories–brave stories, sad stories, strange stories, human stories–that the world would otherwise not know. Dixon doesn’t know where her next assignment will be. Although she has certainly earned the right to a desk job in some safe locale, it doesn’t sound like she will take that option any time soon.


Bob Woodruff is not your typical war hero. He’s never fired a shot or killed anyone in battle. He was named co-anchor of ABC’s World News Tonight in December 2005, but once again left the safety of his anchor desk to stand shoulder to shoulder with fighting men in Iraq, believing there was no other way to present a truthful picture of the battlefield. On January 29, 2006, while reporting from the war zone, he was seriously wounded by a roadside IED that detonated twenty feet away. According to medical reports, he came within a millimeter of dying that day. Woodruff awoke from his coma and stunned doctors by speaking immediately. He immediately began embarking on the grueling odyssey back to health and a full-scale functioning as a journalist.


Anna Politkovskaya received the Pearl Award posthumously after she was found shot to death in the elevator of her Moscow apartment in late 2006. The Moscow bi-weekly Novaya Gazeta published her reports on the complicated relationship between Russia and Chechnya–a conflict over religion, natural resources and more than a century of brutality against the Chechen people. Investigators suspect that the killing will be linked to her work. She was about to file a story on torture in Chechnya.


Kevin Sites , at 43, has reported on, and been the subject of, more controversy than a typical war journalist experiences during an entire career. Sites was tapped by Yahoo! in September 2005 to launch his news journal “Hot Zone” where he plans in a single year to cover the roughly three-dozen armed conflicts identified globally by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Yahoo! describes the brand of journalism Sites is practicing as “a nexus of backpack journalism, narrative story-telling techniques, and the Internet. For millions of online users who have seen his work and images, both terrible and beautiful, the untraditional risk-taker is practicing journalism in its most unfettered form.


Jesus Blancornelas goes to work every day knowing that the people he’s been writing about for 25 years are trying desperately to kill him. Preferably in front of his three kids. Tijuana’s murderous drug cartels, the most high-profile target of Blancornelas’ investigative newsweekly Zeta, placed an $80,000 bounty on his head and forced him to adopt an armed entourage of no less than 13 bodyguards. In 1997, a 10-man, 180-bullet ambush killed bodyguard Luis Valero and Blancornelas survived after taking bullets to the neck, lung, liver, and intestines and losing four liters of blood and undergoing two emergency surgeries. He could have easily stepped down, but instead he founded Mexico’s Society of Journalists and continued his work. He said that he is not in the business to wage war, but that “news is news, and I am a journalist.”


James Nacktwey & Michael Weisskopf were jointly recognized in 2004. While riding in a roofless Humvee with Time photographer Jim Nachtwey and four soldiers, Weisskopf tried to throw away a grenade that someone had tossed into the vehicle. His bravery cost him his right hand, but by all accounts it saved the lives of everyone in the Humvee. He returned to work, and continues to share his observations from two reporting trips to Iraq.

Nachtwey, who was on assignment in Iraq to shoot Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” story on the American soldier, didn’t like the idea of being on Humvee patrol in Iraq. The shrapnel from the grenade explosion pierced his legs, groin, abdomen, left arm and hand, and parts of his face. Over 23 years, Nachtwey has documented war, poverty, and disease, and has thrust himself time and again to the front lines of the most dangerous situations in the world. By exposing injustices in distant lands, he wants to create awareness among the key decision-makers and the constituencies they serve.


Michael Thomas Kelly was an award-winning journalist who covered the war in Iraq for the Washington Post and Atlantic Monthly. He left the comfort of his dual editing and columnist jobs to volunteer to be embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq. He was killed on April 3, 2003, along with his driver, when their Humvee rolled over averting enemy fire and careened into a canal. The New Yorker explained of Kelly, “Kind and good-humored as Mike was in person, his columns were tough and provocative in approach–and were meant to be so. ..We mourn the passing of Mike Kelly: a large talent, a valued colleague, a respected competitor, a beloved friend.


Daniel Pearl, who worked as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, had reported from around the world including London, Paris, and finally Bombay, where he served as South Asia bureau chief. He was kidnapped on January 23, 2003 in Karachi, Pakistan, while reporting a story. He died at the hands of his captors. His death is mourned by relatives, friends, colleagues, readers, and millions around the world, and he is the first recipient of the Daniel Pearl award.


Art of Resistance: Charlie Hebdo's Antonio Fischetti and Judea Pearl on the War on Journalists

By Devra Maza

It’s the prize no one should have to win. When The Daniel Pearl Award was presented to the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, everyone who rose to applaud knew it came at a terrible cost. The Los Angeles Press Club created the award to honor “courage and integrity in journalism” after Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl’s brutal slaughter by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan in 2002. Now, Daniel’s eponymous prize, bestowed every year since by his parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl, honors reporters who file their revelatory stories under threat, sometimes under fire. Charlie Hebdo‘s Antonio Fischetti is among those lucky to be alive.

On January 7, 2014, the office of Charlie Hebdo was attacked by Islamic extremists who massacred 12 people, and, in later related attacks, killed a policewoman on the way to murdering four Jewish hostages in a Kosher grocery store. It represented a shocking assault on freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and specifically on freedom of speech about religion. Soon, “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) proudly graced the lips and Tweets of freedom writers everywhere, just as the French monthly Le Monde had declared “Je suis Daniel” after Pearl’s death. Charlie Brown, Charles M. Schulz’s hapless every-boy of iconic comic-strip fame, from whom Hebdo took its first name, never saw unity like this.

Representing the staff of Charlie Hebdo at the June 28th Southern California Journalism Awards gala, Fischetti accepted the award. The scientist-turned-journalist happened to be “in the area” for his article on the impact of global warming on ice in the tropical mountains of Bolivia. While his colleagues remained in Paris to produce their next edition (“Hebdo” means “Weekly”), Fischetti found himself surrounded by security as LAPD and FBI Anti-Terrorism Task Forces patrolled the Millennium Biltmore Hotel’s art deco lobby and Crystal Ballroom. (I never felt safer in a cocktail dress.) Even bomb-sniffing K-9s scoured the red carpet. Also for the first time, a memorial tribute in the awards program listed journalists killed during the past year. It took two pages.

“We weep for a world that must reckon with his death,” said Daniel’s parents in a statement after their son’s murder. Since then, they have done so much more thanweep. Judea Pearl, who is a Chancellor’s Professor of Computer Science at UCLA and winner of the prestigious Turing Award, heads The Daniel Pearl Foundation. His eloquent awards speech was simultaneously impassioned and poignant. But as Fischetti took the podium, it was clear before he’d even spoken a word that his presence itself was the blessing. Fischetti had missed work the day of the massacre to attend his only aunt’s funeral, an aunt whose DNA now lives on through him. In the week following the awards, I spoke with both Judea Pearl and Antonio Fischetti about the terrorists’ war on journalists, how free people can fight back, and the enduring gifts of Daniel’s living legacy:

Devra Maza: Each year, when The Daniel Pearl Award is given, we’re reminded that there is a bond of journalists forged under fire. Can you describe what it means for you to present and receive this award?

Judea Pearl: We have given this award for 14 years now in memory of our son, Danny, and when we come here, I feel like we do have another family of journalists in L.A. Usually we honor someone for their work, for their personal courage in the face of fear to speak against a policy of a corrupt or oppressive government, but the attack against Charlie Hebdo was an attack against journalism as an institution, against the very idea of free expression, so of course it made a connection to what we stand for.

Antonio Fischetti: For me it was very emotional to receive this prize because for all the world, and especially journalists, Daniel Pearl is a symbol for freedom of expression against terrorism. At Charlie Hebdo, we are also victims of this terrorism, so I wanted to be here to meet his parents; what they feel is what I and other survivors at Charlie Hebdo feel because our colleagues are not just our friends, but our family. So I think the pain in Daniel’s parents, I also have inside me.

Maza: As more journalists fall, others rise to pick up their pens and other media platforms. Like the freedom riders of old, they’re freedom writers, bringing news to the masses at their peril, because journalists aren’t just caught in the crossfire, they’re increasingly targeted.

Fischetti: I think it’s very true. Normally a journalist is only a writer or a photographer giving information, but now they are soldiers of democracy. AtCharlie Hebdo, making a cartoon is an act of resistance. If we stop, it would be an abdication, the terrorists will move forward and the world will lose democracy. The staff at Charlie Hebdofeels we have to fight this terrorism. Only last week there were several attacks with more than 60 dead, and last year there were more than 150 journalists killed. Most of them were in Islamic countries like Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. So for us to receive this prize is encouraging because we feel we are not alone. We have to stick together as a family of journalists to be stronger, or risk losing our democratic freedoms.

Pearl: The large police presence at the awards demonstrates that we must do more. The increase of fear in our society obviously proves the case that we didn’t handle it correctly from the start. People thought it is just one incident and we’re going to take care of it and we’re going to be united against terrorism and they proved that they’re incapable of that.

Maza: In this incendiary environment, where political commentary and artistic expression is hijacked as an excuse for violence, does it make you more mindful of what you publish, or conversely more determined to carry on? Should one even have to try to strike a balance?

Fischetti: Of course we know at Charlie Hebdo that what we print can be misused to incite people to storm the streets and burn embassies so, yes, we think a lot before publishing, but we didn’t change anything, because it is important to make this resistance which says we have the right to use humor to criticize anything, including all religions. We are sustained by a lot of people who agree that humor does not defame religion. It is the terrorists who are defaming Islam with their radicalism.

Maza: It’s why religious leaders need to stand up against the ideology of hate and say “this is a distortion, you cannot murder in Muhammad’s name,” to reach the disenfranchised before they become radicalized.

Pearl: But they do not stand up. I don’t think they can. They have more strings attached to them than you’d think. And that is why we have focused The Daniel Pearl Award on the most courageous journalists. Each of them can access hundreds of thousands of readers. This is our future, how we can reach moderate Muslims to try to have them listen less to their mullahs and imams and more to journalists. They’re more effective. We respect our religious leaders here, but we don’t have the same expectations for them, while we know there are journalists who fight against corruption and are sacrificing their lives in an effort to speak the genuine truth with no strings, no pressure from politicians, religions or donors.

Maza: Humor evolves differently in diverse cultures so that one country’s comedy is another’s blasphemy, but France has a longstanding tradition of satire. Explain how that works in the moral context of your magazine.

Fischetti: There are people who have said that Charlie Hebdo is Islamophobic, but we make fun of all religions. They’ve asked, for instance, why we make fun of Islam but not the Shoah (Holocaust), but it is not the same thing at all because the Shoah is not an idea, but a real fact that happened and there were real men and women who were killed. So we do not defame people just because they are Jews or Arabs because that would be racism. Also, in France, we have laws to respect the privacy of people, so our humor is on political and public situations, not personal ones. We satirize ideas, such as religion, but we don’t make fun of people because of their skin color or physique. That’s an important distinction. In other countries like the United States, for example, they don’t have this separation between public and private, so they say a lot of personal things about people we could not say.

Maza: Along with their attacks on journalists, terrorists also twist their words to use them as weapons. Judea, you and your wife, Ruth, reclaimed Daniel’s words as co-editors of your book I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl. How did that come about? 

Pearl: We asked 150 thinkers, some famous, some not, from both the left and the right, to get a panoramic view, to tell us what it means to them to say these words and this book is the result.

Maza: So it’s a panorama of pride. In fact, the book’s very existence is a triumph of free speech in that there are countries in which it could not be published, where the very words are still unsafe to say.

Pearl: That’s so true. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

Maza: The first cover of Charlie Hebdo published after the massacre was one of courageous defiance. It had a cartoon of a tearful Muhammad with the headline “Tout Est Pardonné” (“All Is Forgiven”). Even in the free world, people who thought the terrorists should not be forgiven and that the cartoonists should not need forgiving were asking, “Who is forgiven?”

Fischetti: That is a good question because it could be understood both ways and that is the reason why I think the cartoon is clever, because it is satire. It showed we go on making what we want in that it is a cartoon of Muhammad. That in itself is the resistance. We don’t know who has forgiven who, but the important point is that we go on doing our friends’ work, because if we didn’t do that, we would be working for nothing.

Maza: The Daniel Pearl Foundation “promotes mutual respect for the common humanity of diverse cultures” through journalism fellowships, forums, youth and other programs, including music, because being a musician was an important part of Daniel’s persona, wasn’t it?

Pearl: Yes, that’s correct. He really loved the violin and mandolin and wherever he went, he carried these instruments with him and made contact with the local cultural scene. It’s what enabled him to form connections in every place that he was stationed.

Maza: And you’ve harnessed his love of music with the annual Daniel Pearl World Music Days with its theme of “harmony for humanity.” It takes place in October, the month of Daniel’s birth, and musicians all over the planet can participate. I’ve seen Elton John’s tribute to Daniel in performance. It’s very moving.

Pearl: Elton John is a wonderful man. Every year he makes sure that he has at least one concert in October where he does adedication to Danny. Last year we had almost 2000 concerts around the world dedicate their event as part of World Music Days, so it’s a global symphony with thousands of orchestras. We are trying to give musicians and artists an opportunity to express what they feel about what’s going on in the world through music so whenever they stand in front of an audience and say, “I’m going to dedicate this song or sonata,” it’s painted in different colors. Instead of saying “Look how great I am,” they are telling the audience, “Look where we are and what values we cherish together.” It makes the atmosphere alive with different electrons, the audience becomes more attentive and even the music sounds better.

Maza: So you’re ennobling people while encouraging them through the arts and sciences to become activists, utilizing everything that Daniel loved, like words and music, just as Charlie Hebdo uses the art of illustration and satire as a conduit for commentary in its magazine.

Pearl: Everyone has their own mode of expression and we’re trying to leverage all of these modes into one thing: To say that we are together and we will not give up our values.

Get Involved: Read Judea Pearl’s Daniel Pearl Award speech. VisitThe Daniel Pearl Foundation. Read Charlie Hebdo. Watch Elton John’s dedication to Daniel Pearl. Participate in World Music Days. Purchase the book I am Jewish. Learn about the Los Angeles Press Club. For more on the author, follow Devra on Twitter @devramazaand visit DevraMaza.com.

Photo Credits: Judea Pearl at podium with Antonio Fischetti, Fischetti and Pearl handshake, Red carpet cop and K-9, Fischetti and Pearl stand together, courtesy of Inae Bloom; Pearl and Fischetti with plaque, courtesy of Kerstin Alm; Daniel Pearl, “I am Jewish” book cover, Daniel with violin, Daniel’s wife Mariane and son Adam Pearl, courtesy of The Daniel Pearl Foundation; .Hebdo office flowers, Lyon Rally, courtesy of AFP; Pearl close up with Fischetti, courtesy of Gary Leonard; Arc de Triomphe, courtesy of Dan Kitwood/Getty Images; Hebdo newsstand, courtesy of Reuters. Sir Elton John dedication to Daniel Pearl, courtesy of EltonJohn.com; Pencil power, courtesy of Charlie Hebdo.


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