CNN's Amanpour receives 2019 Zenger Award

March 27, 2019

CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour, whose reporting on violence and human rights abuses in Iraq, Bosnia and Syria has earned her worldwide respect, received the 2019 Zenger Award for Press Freedom by the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


Hilde Lysiak, 12, and Christiane Amanpour

CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour, whose reporting on violence and human rights abuses in Iraq, Bosnia and Syria has earned her worldwide respect, received the 2019 Zenger Award for Press Freedom by the University of Arizona School of Journalism on Sept. 20.

More than 300 people attended a reception and lunch as the school honored Amanpour at the Marriott University Park Hotel, with UA President Robert C. Robbins giving her the award. Proceeds from the event went toward student reporting projects and travel.

Hilde Lysiak, a 12-year-old nationally recognized journalist whose fearless reporting has inspired a Scholastic book series and an upcoming Apple TV show, was given the inaugural Junior Zenger Award from JP Jones, dean of the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences.


UA School of Journalism Professor Mort Rosenblum, a former bureau chief and special correspondent for The Associated Press, introduced Amanpour. He met her in the 1991 Gulf War during her breakout international assignment for CNN. He also worked with her in the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.

"Since her insightful coverage of Desert Storm nearly three decades ago, Christiane has exemplified the gutsy, up-close reporting and thoughtful analysis that helps a wobbly world stay on course," Rosenblum said. "She shows how news is not about grand events but rather the real people behind them."

Started in 1954 by the UA journalism program, the John Peter and Catherine Anne Zenger Award honors those who have made extraordinary contributions to press freedom and the people’s right to know around the world. Past recipients include Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham, CBS anchor Walter Cronkite and broadcaster Bill Moyers. Recent winners were Washington Post reporter Dana Priest, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and CNN en Español journalist Carmen Aristegui.

“I’m proud to receive the Zenger award, named for a couple whose powerful partnership laid the foundation for press freedom in the nascent United States, a freedom that has been the envy of the world, and emulated with great sacrifice wherever possible," Amanpour said. "This redoubles my struggle for the freedom, safety and independence of the press, the most vital pillar of any democracy.”

Amanpour, known for her tough interviewing style, is CNN’s chief international anchor of the network’s global affairs program “Amanpour,” which is based in London. An expanded show, “Amanpour & Co.,” also airs on PBS in the United States.

In Sarajevo in the early 1990s, she exposed the brutality of the Bosnian War and genocide committed against Muslims. In 2004, she reported exclusively from the courtroom at the trial of Saddam Hussein, where the former dictator was sentenced to death for crimes against humanity. In 2014, Amanpour broke the news of a dossier that alleged to show the torture of prisoners by government forces in Syria. She also interviewed embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro about his country's violent demonstrations. 

Amanpour has won 11 Emmy awards, four Peabody awards, two George Polk awards, three duPont-Columbia awards and the Courage in Journalism Award. She has used her profile to raise awareness of global issues and journalists' rights and is a board member of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Centre for Public Integrity and the International Women's Media Foundation.

She began at CNN in 1983 as an entry-level assistant on the international desk in Atlanta after graduating summa cum laude from the University of Rhode Island with a B.A. in Journalism.

Lysiak, meanwhile, lives in Patagonia, Arizona, with her family, after starting her publication, Orange Street News, in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, when she was 8. She recently had an exclusive interview with former First Lady Michelle Obama, who told Lysiak there’s “zero chance” she will run for president.

After learning journalism from her dad, Matthew Lysiak, a former New York Daily News reporter, Hilde was the first to break the news of a grisly murder in her old hometown, and defended herself when some haters on the internet suggested that a 9-year-old girl shouldn’t be hanging around crime scenes.

In February, Hilde challenged a Patagonia marshal when he incorrectly told her she couldn't film him on a public street. She posted a video showing her being threatened with jail by the marshal after he stopped her on her bike and she had identified herself as a reporter earlier. Among the marshal’s replies was, “I don’t want to hear about this freedom-of-the-press stuff.”

After the incident received national attention, Patagonia officials apologized to Lysiak, and the marshal was disciplined. She tweeted, “I’m glad the town has ‘taken action’ but one note, I don't believe people should spread around the Marshal's personal information on the internet. My focus is on protecting our First Amendment Rights.”