The Hugh M. Hefner Foundation announced Thursday it will honor eight individuals with First Amendment Awards next month, including CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez in connection with his on-camera arrest while covering the George Floyd protests in Minnesota, and the filmmakers behind the documentary “Immigrant Nation.”
Hosted annually, the First Amendment Awards “recognize individuals who have taken outstanding action to protect and enhance First Amendment rights.” This year, the foundation, along with its honorees and supporters, will gather virtually on Oct. 19.
“In these times of social justice protest and political polarization, more than ever, Americans have a civic interest in exercising their First Amendment rights with passion and vigor,” said Christie Hefner, founder and chairman of the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Awards.
“Free speech, a free press, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion are the cornerstone values of our democracy. But those who exercise these rights increasingly find themselves under threat,” she said. “However, these attacks also reaffirm why it’s critical to recognize and honor some of these brave defenders. I’m proud that each year the Hugh M. Hefner Foundation recognizes everyday Americans who refuse to be censored, and who fight to ensure that threats against the First Amendment do not go unchallenged.”
The daughter of the late Playboy founder Hugh Hefner established the awards in 1979 to honor her father’s lifelong commitment to defending the First Amendment. The foundation has recognized more than 150 free speech advocates.
The 2020 honorees, by category, are:
— Law: David E. McCraw, deputy general counsel of the New York Times and author of “Truth in Our Times: Inside the Fight for Press Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts,” who has led the newspaper’s fight for freedom of information since 2002. The foundation says that “from Chelsea Manning’s leaks to Trump’s tax returns, McCraw is central to the paper’s ability to fulfill the public’s right to know.”
— Book Publishing: Andrea Dennis and Erik Nielson, for their book “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America,” which the foundation calls “a groundbreaking expose about the alarming use of rap lyrics as criminal evidence to convict and incarcerate young men of color.”
— Journalism: Jimenez “for representing the power of consummate professionalism” during his on-camera arrest in Minnesota.
— Arts & Entertainment: Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz “for their successful battle to overcome the U.S. government’s attempts at censoring their film, `Immigration Nation,’ and delaying its release until after the November presidential election.”
— Education: Michael Frazier, a student at the University of Kentucky, LGBTQ and First Amendment rights activist, for working to eliminate free speech zones on campus and successfully leading the effort to draft and enact the bipartisan Kentucky Campus Free Speech Protection Act.
— Lifetime Achievement: Ira Glasser, former executive director of the ACLU, “for his fierce defense of freedom of speech and expression during his 23-year tenure” at the helm of the civil rights organization. The foundation says he “is widely recognized as building the robust infrastructure that is today’s ACLU. By the time Ira retired, the ACLU had a $30 million endowment, offices in every state, and was more powerful than ever. Additionally, he saw earlier than most the disproportionate racial consequences of the war on drugs.”
After a public call for nominations issued by the foundation, the awardees were selected by two independent judges: attorney Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. and Kyle Pope, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review.
Boutrous received the 2019 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in the Law category for his work on behalf of CNN and Jim Acosta in connection with the restoration of the correspondent’s White House press credentials, which were suspended by the White House.
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