Canadian Journalist Kathy Gannon Wins Tully Free Speech Award
Few people are willing to sell all of their belongings and move more than halfway across the world to write about countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Even fewer are willing to return to those places after surviving getting shot six times at close range and losing one of their close friends and coworkers. But this is exactly what Kathy Gannon did, this year’s recipient of the Tully Free Speech Award.
Gannon is a senior correspondent for the Associated Press for Pakistan and Afghanistan. She has been covering the region for nearly 30 years—longer than most of us have been alive. She was there during the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan, during the takeover of the government by the Taliban in, and at the time of the assassination of Pakistan’s prime minister Benazir Bhutto (the first democratically elected female leader of a Muslim country) in 2007. She was there on 9/11, and was the only Western journalist who was allowed access to the Taliban in the weeks after the U.S. invasion of the country. Gannon has witnessed things most of us have only read about—that is, when we take the time to do even that.
But Gannon did not receive the Tully Award for playing witness to events in a turbulent region of the world. It is her passion for telling the story of these peoples, and for her commitment to free speech, a commitment that remained unshaken, even after her near fatal attack while on assignment nearly two years ago.
In April of 2014, Gannon and her and co-worker, AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus, were covering the upcoming Afghan presidential election. After finishing their interviews, Gannon and Niedringhaus decided to wait for everyone else in the car, as it had started to rain. While sitting in the car, an Afghani policeman walked up and opened fire into the backseat. Gannon was shot six times. Although, remarkably, she survived, her friend Niedringhaus did not.
A little over a year after her attack Gannon is back at work in Pakistan. And, despite everything that has happened, she plans on returning to Afghanistan. She refuses to let someone else decide when she is done telling her stories.
So it didn't really come as any surprise that Gannon received this year’s Tully Award during the ceremony on Monday. The Tully Award is a prestigious award that is granted to an exceptional person who has “shown courage in facing a free speech threat.” Kathleen Carroll, senior vice president and executive editor for the AP, who introduced Gannon at the ceremony said she was the embodiment of everything the Tully award stood for. And we could not agree more.
Congratulations Gannon. We can’t wait to hear what stories you'll tell next.