The Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom has presented its first lifetime achievement award to retired CMG activist and CBC producer Arnold Amber. The Spencer Moore Award was presented to Amber on May 2, the eve of World Press Freedom Day.
Over the course of his lengthy career at the CBC, Amber earned a reputation as a solid newsman and innovative executive producer. He won 3 Gemini awards for news specials and traveled the world extensively, training broadcasters and journalists in emerging democracies – perhaps most notably in the coverage to the first-ever democratic elections in South Africa in 1994. He also founded what is now known as Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and served as the organization’s president for two decades, and participated in numerous protests and campaigns in support of journalists in crisis.
Another feather in Amber’s cap is his part in the creation of IFEX, the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, an international organization dedicated to the protection of free expression around the world. IFEX’s role has proved to be essential, as media workers continue to be victims of harassment, violence and murder.
During all this time, Amber has also been a strong and proud union activist, and a determined advocate for better conditions for workers. Many CMG members will recall Arnold from his days on the Guild’s bargaining committee during several rounds of bargaining with the CBC. He served as president of the CBC Branch through some of the most significant periods of the Guild’s history, including the creation of a single bargaining unit for CBC’s English-language employees in 2004, and the CBC lockout of 2005.
Through all of this, and too many other activities to mention, Arnold has had the support of his wife Phyllis and their three children, two of whom now work in the media themselves.
At the award presentation, CFJE board member Bob Carty spoke of Amber’s keen mind and near-photographic memory, and his combination of tactical skill and street smarts that allows him to make his points – sometimes quietly, sometimes less so, but always effectively.
I want to thank the CCWPF for recognizing Arnold Amber with this lifetime achievement award. I think it will be a very long time before they find another candidate as worthy of recognition.