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Media group: ‘Difficult decision’ to revoke award from pro-Hamas writer with ‘undeniable courage’

After a “Washington Free Beacon” report, the International Women’s Media Foundation said that Maha Hussaini’s statements “contradict the values of our organization.”

Suzanne Malveaux speaks at the International Women's Media Foundation Celebrates 2024 Anja Niedringhaus Courage In Photojournalism Awards at Bronx Documentary Center on April 04, 2024 in New York City. Photo by Bonnie Biess/Getty Images for International Women's Media Foundation.
Suzanne Malveaux speaks at the International Women's Media Foundation Celebrates 2024 Anja Niedringhaus Courage In Photojournalism Awards at Bronx Documentary Center on April 04, 2024 in New York City. Photo by Bonnie Biess/Getty Images for International Women's Media Foundation.

The International Women’s Media Foundation announced the winners of its 35th Annual Courage in Journalism Awards on June 10, an event that honors “remarkable bravery in the pursuit of reporting,” and is backed by Bank of America.

One of the 2024 winners, per an archived version of the page, was “Maha Hussaini, a Palestinian freelance journalist” and “multimedia journalist,” who “faces daily threats to her life while covering the Israel-Hamas war from her homeland of Gaza. Despite displacement, and enduring a physically debilitating aerial assault, Hussaini continues to report, most often for Middle East Eye.”

On June 18, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Hussaini had “approvingly posted antisemitic cartoons that were drawn by the first- and second-place winners of Iran’s 2006 International Holocaust Cartoon Contest” and wrote “glory to the martyrs” after Palestinian terrorists killed two Israeli border officers in 2017.

In 2021, Hussaini wrote of “our resistance” bombing “the occupation again,” per the Free Beacon, which reported that Suzanne Malveaux, the foundation’s board chair, is a former romantic partner of White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The foundation’s board includes MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, CBS News’s Norah O’Donnell, ABC News’s Kerry Smith and Bank of America’s Jessica Oppenheim, the publication added.

Hussaini also wrote that “whether we like it or not, Hamas constitutes [sic] a large part of the Palestinian society” and “condemning it doesn’t only mean opposing a political party but criminalizing people’s choice to resist oppression,” per the Free Beacon.

“I have no regrets about any posts or reasons that led to the rescinding of this award, and I will not stop expressing my views,” she wrote on social media. “Before being a journalist, I am a Palestinian living under military occupation, a strangling blockade and genocide in Gaza.”

“I regret to say that the very organization that recognized these perilous conditions and awarded me the prize succumbed to pressure and chose to act contrary to courage,” she added. “They rescinded the award in a decision that would put my life at risk.”

‘Undeniable courage’

In its first post on June 10, the International Women’s Media Foundation quoted Hussaini, who said, “I didn’t choose to be a journalist—I had to be a journalist. Since the beginning of Israel’s war on Gaza in October 2023, I have become increasingly aware that journalists are targets, and I could be next.”

“My work carries immense risk, not only for myself but for my family and those seeking refuge in the same shelter with me,” she said. “This award comes at a crucial time, with hundreds of Palestinian colleagues and journalists killed during Israel’s war on Gaza. I am hopeful that this honor will shed further light not just on my work, but on the work of all Palestinian journalists who face death daily and grapple with unspeakable challenges in reporting.”

Another archived page on the International Women’s Media Foundation site notes that “her reporting about the survivors of Israeli field executions has been used as evidence of Israeli genocide in South Africa’s case before the International Court of Justice.”

Both pages now return 404 errors on the foundation’s website.

On June 20, the foundation wrote that “within the last 24 hours, the IWMF learned of comments made by Maha Hussaini in past years that contradict the values of our organization.”

“As a result, we have rescinded the Courage in Journalism Award that was previously given to her,” it stated, according to an archived version of that page. “Both the Courage Awards and the IWMF’s mission are based on integrity and opposition to intolerance. We do not, and will not, condone or support views or statements that do not adhere to those principles.”

The following day, the foundation updated that page again, this time praising Hussaini even as it said it didn’t support her prior comments.

“The IWMF recognizes the undeniable courage of Maha Hussaini and the importance of her work in Gaza under dire circumstances. However, we recently learned of comments she made on digital and social platforms that starkly contradict the values of our organization,” the live page now reads.

“As a result, we made the difficult decision to rescind her Courage in Journalism Award,” it added. “The Courage Awards reflect the IWMF’s mission and principles, including opposition to intolerance. We do not, and will not, condone or support views or statements that do not adhere to those principles.”

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