John Oliver to Host International Press Freedom Awards

Like his former boss Jon Stewart, John Oliver has historically bristled when his work has been called “journalism.” But that’s not stopping him from honoring the work of actual journalists.

On Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) announced that Oliver will host their 2024 International Press Freedom Awards (IPFA). The 34th annual ceremony and benefit dinner is slated to take place Thursday, November 21 in New York City. Jessica E. Lessin, founder and CEO of The Information, will chair the event.

“I’m delighted to join the Committee to Protect Journalists on the biggest night for press freedom, to champion journalists during harrowing times for democracy, as they are threatened or taken for granted,” the Last Week Tonight host said in a press release.

In addition to honoring four journalists at the IPFA, CPJ’s Board of Directors will also present the annual Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award, which is awarded “in recognition of extraordinary and sustained commitment to press freedom.”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter in April, Oliver maintained that his work shouldn’t be compared to actual journalism—even if the research he and his team do behind the scenes of Last Week Tonight has a lot in common with reporting.

“We might commit sporadic acts of journalism in the process, but those would be outliers,” Oliver said. “The vast majority of the time, we are relying on journalists’ work to aggregate stories. Without them, we just couldn’t do it. They’ve already had the most significant fights. So, as testy as things can get for us with lawyers, the thing that is undergirding our arguments is the previous fights that actual journalists have had.”

This is hardly the first time the host has made that distinction. In a 2016 interview with NPR, Oliver was asked if he considered his show to be investigative journalism, a notion he quickly shut down.

“There’s a pretty simple answer to that: no, it is not. No, we are a comedy show so everything we do is in pursuit of comedy,” Oliver explained. “When people say, ‘This is journalism,’ it almost makes me feel like, ‘Am I a terrible comedian?’ … Is it like looking at a sculptor and saying, ‘Well, it’s not art, so are you trying to build a wall? What exactly are you working on here?’”

The awardees for the IPFA and Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award will be announced in the coming months.

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