Iryna Khalip, Agnes Taile
Stan Honda/IWMF
IWMF Award winners Iryna Khalip (L), Agnes Taile
(2nd R) pose with Amira Hass (R) and Liza Gross (2nd L) at the 2009 IWMF Award ceremony.

Women of Honor: Writers Who Won’t Be Silenced

October 28, 2010
by Shannon Firth
Each year scores of journalists and other writers are threatened, arrested, abused and even murdered for sharing true stories about human rights atrocities through news articles, essays, books and poems. Meet five dissident writers whose lives and struggles will enlighten and inspire.

Agnes Taile

In November 2006, Agnes Taile was a reporter for Sweet FM radio in Douala, Cameroon. She was abducted by three men who dragged her from her home, severely beat her and left her to die. Taile dragged herself out of a ditch on her elbows and returned home. After months of physical therapy, she regained her voice—her vocal cords had been badly damaged—and tried to return to work, but her radio show had been cancelled. Determined to continue her work, she found a new job at Canal 2 International in Yaoundé.

When asked about the incident three years later, her expression softens and she covers her mouth with her hand, blinking hard. “That is very hard,” she says. Her colleagues wanted to write a report about the incident but she wasn’t able to write or speak. “It was impossible,” she says. “So they imagined as best they could. And when they were speaking, they would ask me ‘Just nod [if it’s] “yes” and if it is “no” shake your head.’ I will never forget how it felt. I couldn’t even say what had happened to me.”

In October 2009, Taile accepted the 2009 Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) during a ceremony held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Iryna Khalip

Iryna Khalip lives in Belarus where she writes for the Minsk bureau of the Novaya Gazeta, the last independent newspaper in Russia. There are no independent newspapers left in Belarus.

A witness to and a victim of government oppression, Khalip has been beaten and interrogated, and has endured multiple arrests. Police have searched her house, confiscated her computer and deleted her hard drive. Others have suffered worse. “We lost many people who were killed, abducted, who emigrated, who lost their jobs, who lost their fight because of fear,” Khalip told findingDulcinea in October 2009.

Khalip, whose husband Andrei Sannikov is also an opposition leader, explains that she can't stop reporting on civil and human rights abuses: “I will betray my friends. I will betray the memory of their husbands. There is only one way to go ahead.”

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