President Carter among Those Honored; Will Speak at Press Conference

(Washington, D.C.) – The 2007 Ridenhour Prizes will be awarded tomorrow, April 4, at 12:30 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The Ridenhour Prizes, sponsored by the Nation Institute and Fertel Foundation, seek to recognize and encourage those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society. The Government Accountability Project is a strategic partner for the awards. The prize-winners include:

  • President Jimmy Carter has been awarded The Ridenhour Courage Prize in recognition of his life-long defense of the public interest, his passion for social justice, and the courage he has displayed in speaking forthrightly on contentious and controversial subjects. President Carter will speak for 20 minutes and will address the issues raised in his recent book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. Following his remarks, President Carter will take questions from the media at a 2:15 p.m. press conference at the National Press Club.
  • Donald Vance, an American contractor turned FBI whistleblower in Iraq who was detained by American troops and held at the notorious Camp Cropper for over three months, has won The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. Vance was held without charge, denied counsel, kept in isolation, subjected to sleep deprivation, interrogated for hours and periodically denied food and water for long periods. Since being released by the U.S. military without explanation, Vance has bravely come forward to tell his story and call for accountability.
  • Washington Post journalist and editor Rajiv Chandrasekaran has been awarded The Ridenhour Book Prize honoring an outstanding work of social significance from the prior publishing year. Chandrasekaran’s book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone is an exemplary work of reportage that takes us behind the barricaded walls of Baghdad’s Green Zone. Chandrasekaran chronicles how the Coalition Provisional Authority’s bureaucratic arrogance and ineptitude led to their disastrous postwar planning and directly contributed to the chaos that we witness in Iraq today.

“It takes nerve and courage to speak out, even in a free country,” observed Nation Institute president Hamilton Fish. “People who articulate unpopular truths place their reputations and livelihoods at risk, and are often subjected to retaliation. By their acts of bravery, the Ridenhour Prize winners have strengthened our commitment to democracy.”

“The recipients recognized this year stepped forward at a time when dissent is out of fashion,” said Fertel Foundation founder Randy Fertel. “The model of integrity and fearless truth-telling that was the legacy of Ron Ridenhour is advanced by the distinguished work of this year’s prize winners.”

Presenters of the 2007 Ridenhour Prizes include Rabbi Leonard Beerman, a graduate of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, founding Rabbi of the Leo Baeck Temple in Los Angeles, past president of the Pacific Association of Reform Rabbis and board member of the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East; Ted Koppel, the longtime anchor of ABC’s Nightline and now Managing Editor of the Discovery Channel; and Rory Kennedy, an award-winning documentary producer whose latest project, The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, was aired recently on HBO.

Past recipients of the Ridenhour Prizes include former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, journalist Seymour Hersh, 9/11 widow and activist Kristen Breitweiser and whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg.

About the Ridenhour Prizes

The Ridenhour Prizes seek to recognize and encourage those who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice or illuminate a more just vision of society. The prizes memorialize the spirit of fearless truth-telling that one-time whistleblower and lifetime investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his extraordinary life and career. Each award carries a $10,000 stipend.

For more information go to the Ridenhour website.

About Ron Ridenhour

In 1969, Vietnam veteran Ron Ridenhour wrote a letter to Congress and the Pentagon describing the horrific events at My Lai – the infamous massacre of the Vietnam War – bringing the scandal to the attention of the American public and the world. Ridenhour later became a respected investigative journalist, winning the George Polk Award for Investigative Journalism in 1987 for a year-long investigation of a New Orleans tax scandal. He died suddenly in 1998 at the age of 52. At the time of his death, he was working on a piece for the London Review of Books, had co-produced a story on militias for NBC’s Dateline and had just delivered a series of lectures commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of My Lai.

About The Nation Institute

Founded in 1966, The Nation Institute has a commitment to the values of free speech and open discourse. The Institute places particular importance on strengthening the independent press in the face of America’s increasingly corporate-controlled flow of information, and through its programs the Institute promotes progressive values on a variety of media platforms. The Institute sponsors a number of projects including conferences, seminars, televised town hall-style meetings, web newsletters, book publishing, social justice awards, investigative reporting, film production, journalism fellowships and internships.

About The Fertel Foundation

Energized by a passion for weaving ideas and people together, the Fertel Foundation seeks to foster projects related to the arts and education. The Foundation, established in 2000 as a supporting organization of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, is especially interested in initiatives from which new communities and new insights may emerge, and those that challenge entrenched communities of power. It also devotes considerable funding to projects within its overall mission that help rebuild a better New Orleans – and create national models – in a post-Katrina world.