Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism
Mohammed Nabbous reports from Libya March 18 2011.
Nieman Fellows in the class of 2012 selected Mohammed “Mo” Nabbous, founder of Libya Alhurra TV, as their choice for the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. Nabbous, who was killed in March 2011, was chosen as a representative of all those who courageously worked to disseminate news during the Arab Spring and in doing so, helped further the cause of a free press.
An Internet technology specialist, Nabbous founded and ran Libya Alhurra TV, a widely viewed live online video channel, and transmitted the first images and sounds of the civil unrest in Libya to the outside world in February 2011. Using his technical and social media expertise, he was able to bypass government blocks on the Internet and, via satellite, streamed live raw footage and commentary from cameras set up around the city of Benghazi in the critical few days before any independent media were present.
Nabbous was shot and killed on March 19, 2011 while reporting on attempts by government forces to fight anti-Gadhafi rebels and attack civilians in Benghazi. His death was announced on the live stream by his wife, who was pregnant with their first child.
Recognizing Partners in Coverage
“At great danger to himself and with tremendous courage, Nabbous demonstrated the power of journalism in a country that hadn’t known a free press in decades. He became the eyes and ears for the world, paying the ultimate price. And for that we honor him,” the Nieman Fellows said.
The 2012 Nieman Fellows reached their decision after serious thought on the role of citizen journalists in the fast evolving media landscape. They believe that honoring Nabbous is in keeping with Louis Lyons’s legacy and is recognition of the vital and historic contributions that Nabbous, and many others like him, are providing to journalism.
Nabbous's wife Samra Naas traveled to Cambridge with her young daughter Maya to accept the award on behalf of her late husband.
Dorothy Parvaz, an Al Jazeera journalist and 2009 Nieman Fellow, spoke at the award ceremony and praised the efforts of all those who worked at great risk to provide information during the Arab Spring. After entering Damascus to cover uprisings there in April 2011, Parvaz was detained and held in one of Syria's secret prisons for three days before being sent to Iran, where she was born. She then spent 16 days being interrogated on spying charges in Evin Prison before she was released. The Nieman Foundation, Dorothy's Nieman classmates and many other concerned journalists worldwide had called for her release.
Soon after the Lyons Award dinner, Parvaz returned to Doha, where she is based, and heard from members of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) about the future of journalism in Libya.
Abdulfeedah Ghogha, vice chairman of the NTC, told Parvaz that there would be no crackdowns on journalists and credited the "brave young men and women of Libya" for their work in reporting what was happening at a time when foreign press was not allowed in the country and the state media served as a government mouthpiece.
A Spotlight on Excellence
The Nieman class of 1964 established the Louis M. Lyons Award in honor of the Nieman Foundation curator who retired that year after leading the institution for a quarter of a century. Lyons was a forceful advocate for freedom of the press. While he was curator of the Nieman Foundation, he broke new ground by diversifying the class of fellows to include women, minorities, and international fellows. The award honors displays of conscience and integrity by individuals, groups or institutions in communications and is decided each year by the members of the Nieman class.