The 2009 Michener Award finalists talk about their award winning stories and the people who helped make them happen – Michener Awards Ceremony, May 27, 2010
Beginning with little more than a tip, Mr. Koring spent months piecing together the startling story of Mr. Abdelrazik. The Canadian citizen was accused of having terrorism connections, denied a passport and ended up sleeping on a cot in the lobby of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum despite being cleared of any wrongdoing by Canadian and Sudanese officials. To this day, Mr. Abdelrazik has never been charged with a crime. Subsequent court action led to last June’s (2009) ruling by Federal Court Judge Russel Zinn that the Canadian government violated Mr. Abdelrazik’s rights. He was ordered to be returned home from Khartoum within 15 days.
Son Excellence, Mesdames et Messieurs, bonsoir.
The Globe and Mail’s long-running and continuing coverage – more than two years now – of the bizarre and unconstitutional persecution of Abousufian Abdelrazik is both principled journalism of which we are justly proud and a Kafkaesque saga that should make all of us – all Canadians – rather ashamed.
Mr. Abdelrazik is black and a Muslim. But he is also just as much as Canadian as everyone in this room, as much a Canadian as the ministers who labelled him a national security risk or the CSIS agents who interrogated him a Sudanese prison. We don’t have different classes of citizenship. We don’t – any more – round up citizens by race of religion or suspected allegiance and herd them into camps or arbitrarily strip them of their rights.
Yet for more than six years successive governments thwarted Mr. Abdelrazik’s right to come home to his family and children. He was denied a passport and public promises of senior ministers were repeated broken. He was told falsely that nothing could be done, all because some foreign government somewhere deemed him an al-Qaeda operative and added him to a terrorist blacklist.
To this day, Mr. Abdelrazik has never been charged with anything. Yet Canada – our government still makes it a crime to employ him, has seized his assets and frozen his bank account. He remains an officially-designated pariah, denied even the right to know the identity of his anonymous accusers or what they accuse him of. The presumption of innocence – the cornerstone of our system of justice for centuries – has been replaced by the taint of suspicion and ministerial decree.
I am truly humbled that this work was nominated and very, very proud of The Globe and Mail. This wasn’t the sort of journalistic extravaganza that made one big splash or attracted initial popular attention. There were no circulation gains nor advertising revenues in pursuing what was a unpopular but principled probe into why the state was running roughshod over the rights of a citizen.
The Globe and Mail’s rather obscure motto comes from Junius, who wrote: “The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures.”
Junius exposed the abuses of unfettered government power and championed the rights and liberties of citizens. I believe we have lived up to his words. That Mr. Abdelrazik still arouses much suspicion and little sympathy makes it even more important that we exposed the government’s arbitrary measures.
If our investigation into Canada’s complicity in Mr. Abdelrazik’s arrest and torture aboard forced a probe into CSIS shadowy role, resulted in the re-affirmation of a citizen’s right to return to Canada, and raised questions about the notorious international UN blacklist, it is because The Globe and Mail deserves its reputation as a great news organization.
The integrity and leadership of Editor-in-chief John Stackhouse and Managing Editor David Walmsley are of the highest order. They were determined that we stick with this story and on their watch, The Globe continues to deserve its reputation for fearless public interest journalism even as traditional newspapering is being transformed in a digital era.
I also want to pay tribute to Foreign Editor Stephen Northfield, whose unwavering support was essential and who made sure the highest standards of journalism were met.
Much remains to be done before.we know why Mr. Abdelrazik was imprisoned abroad, why ministers thwarted his repatriation and whether he will ever be able to challenge his accusers.
I am proud of this work, proud of The Globe for its unstinting support, and delighted to present these stories to you.
Thank you, Merci.
Michener Awards Ceremony
May 27, 2010