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Haaretz journalist Amira Hass on Thursday won the UNESCO Guillermo Cona World Press Freedom Prize for 2003. The prize was awarded her for her journalistic coverage of what is happening in the territories, where she has been living since 1993. At first she lived in Gaza and in 1997, she moved to Ramallah.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has been awarding the prize since 1997 to an individual, organization or institution defending or promoting freedom of expression anywhere in the world, especially if this puts the person's life at risk.

UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said that during the past decade Hass has shown outstanding professional commitment and independence, as well as personal courage. "If peace is to be established between Israelis and Palestinians," said Matsuura, "it will be thanks to people like Ms Hass who are able to look at the facts and understand them."

The decision to award the prize to Hass was taken by an international jury from the media field.

In their decision, the members of the jury stated: "Despite restrictions from both Israeli military authorities and from the Palestinian authorities, Ms Hass has been doggedly filing compassionate reports about the daily lives and hardships of the Palestinians. Her independent and critical reporting on the policies of both Israelis and Palestinians has exposed her to pressure from both sides."

The prize of $25,000 will be awarded to Hass on May 3, in Kingston, Jamaica, to mark World Press Freedom Day.

The prize is awarded in memory of Guillermo Cona, a Colombian journalist who was murdered in 1987 after writing critically about the activities of the drug barons in his country.

In previous years, the prize has been awarded to journalists from Zimbabwe, Syria, Mexico, Nigeria, Burma (Myanmar) and China.