Lannan Foundation announced that it has awarded its 2006 Lifetime Achievement Prize for Cultural Freedom to the British journalist and author Robert Fisk. For the past three decades, Fisk has courageously reported on the politics, wars, and civil upheavals of the Middle East. He is one of the most highly decorated foreign correspondents in the world, holding 28 press awards, including the British International Journalist of the Year (seven times), European International Journalist of the Year, and the United Nations Press Award. He currently serves as Middle East correspondent for The Independent of London.
The Prize for Cultural Freedom was established to recognize people whose extraordinary and courageous work celebrates the human right to freedom of imagination, inquiry, and expression. As understood by the Foundation, cultural freedom is the right of individuals and communities to define and protect valued and diverse ways of life currently threatened by globalization.
Fisk will receive $350,000.
You may listen to Robert Fisk and his conversation with Amy Goodman from 2005 here.
According to Foundation president Patrick Lannan, “Robert Fisk stands out as one of the rare reporters on Middle East affairs who tells the story of war not from the comfort of his hotel room, but from the blood-stained ground where the story is taking place. His ability to get close to civilians and combatants alike—and tell their stories—enables his readers to come away with a nuanced understanding of the politics of today’s Middle East and the history behind the turmoil that grips the region.”
Based in Beirut, Fisk has been the Middle East correspondent for The Independent since 1988. Prior to that he covered the Middle East for The Times of London. Earlier he was the Ireland correspondent for The Times, covering that country from 1972 to 1975.
Fisk is the author of four books. His most recent, The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East (Knopf, 2005), is a stunning eyewitness account of the carnage of battle, and an analysis of the long history of invasion and colonization that he believes “has condemned the Middle East to war.”
Fisk traces events in the region from the Algerian Civil War to the Iranian Revolution, from the American hostage crisis in Beirut to the Iran-Iraq War, from the Russian invasion of Afghanistan to Israel’s invasions of Lebanon, from the first Gulf War to the ongoing war in Iraq. In 2005 the book was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for nonfiction. The paperback edition, published by Vintage Books at Random House, will be available in February 2007.
His other books include Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon (Oxford University Press, 1991), a history of the 1975-1990 Lebanon war; In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality, 1939-45 (Andre Deutsch, 1983); and The Point of No Return: The Strike Which Broke the British in Ulster (Andre Deutsch, 1975).
Fisk insists on the responsibility of journalists to challenge authority. He concurs with the Israeli journalist Amira Hass who asserts it is the job of journalists not to write the first pages of history but to monitor the centers of power. As he wrote in The Great War for Civilisation, “And I think, in the end, that is the best definition of journalism I have heard: to challenge authority—all authority—especially so when governments and politicians take us to war, when they have decided that they will kill and others will die.”
Fisk’s courage to venture outside the safety of his hotel room has left him open to attack countless times, including a notorious incident in Afghanistan when he was stoned by an angry mob.
Robert Fisk was born in Maidstone, Kent, England in 1946. He was educated at Lancaster University where he received a BA in English and Classics. He received his PhD in Politics from Trinity College, University of Dublin.