Leader Reporter Wins International Press Freedom Award
By Niall Fitzgerald
The Assistant Editor of the Leader, Chris O’Neill, received the prestigious “Door to Freedom” award, for his “courageous work in journalism and for Freedom of the Press,” by the NNW International Film Festival held in Gdynia, Poland.
The NNW International Film Festival is the largest of its kind in Europe, and is short for the Polish words: “Unbowed, Unbroken and Tenacious.”
The Festival is a unique event in Europe, focused on cinema and history. The festival’s focus is on “history on the screen” and includes special events to meet those who documented or played a part in crucial historical events.
The 2022 theme was the “Road to Freedom,” as told in “documentaries, para-documentaries, fictionalized accounts, short films, videos, radio auditions, full-length films and discussions.”
During the four-day festival, the thousands of attendees enjoyed the experience of over 100 films, plus discussions that included many of the journalists, historical figures, and witnesses to history who made the films and whom the films portray.
There were various awards in the different categories of film, and special awards for "witnesses to history." Twenty one such awards were given out this year, including three posthumously and four to persons over age 90.
In addition to writing for - and editing - the Leader, O'Neill was active as an underground journalist for the Polish anticommunist opposition press in Poland, under Soviet occupation, in the 1980s and 1990s. He was then a Fulbright Scholar in Poland studying at the Catholic University of Lublin.
O'Neill was presented the award by Jan Loryś, longtime director of the Polish Museum of America, in Chicago. Loryś is the son of Maria Mirecka-Loryś, legendary commander-in-chief of the National Women's Military Union founded in 1944 to fight the communists. She died this year at nearly 107 years of age, organizing help for Poles in Ukraine, almost until the end.
“It was a very humbling experience to receive this award with so many great heroes of recent history,” stated O’Neill. “Good journalism means telling the truth, and not being afraid to do and write the right thing – even if a despotic government like the Soviet Union disapproves.”