The Thomson Reuters Foundation hosted the 16th annual Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism last night in London. The awards recognise independent journalists for their courageous reporting on controversial issues, and included an inaugural award for the category of News Fixer.
The awards are named in honour of the American journalist Kurt Schork, who was killed in Sierra Leone while on assignment for Reuters in 2000. They celebrate excellence in the reporting of conflict, corruption, human rights violations and related issues that illuminate the challenges faced by a particular country or region. The three category winners will each receive a cash prize of US $5000.
The Local Reporter Award was won by New Delhi-based journalist Soma Basu, whose stories exposed the ordeal of trafficked Nepali women who are forced to sell their own skin to supply India’s cosmetic surgery industry.
The Freelance Journalist Award was won by John Beck, whose stories from Western Mosul for Al Jazeera were praised by the judging panel as being in the spirit of Kurt Schork for going “beyond the frontline and reporting about the innocent victims of war”.
The inaugural News Fixer Award was won by Makeen Mustafa for his work in Iraq, which “demonstrated tremendous bravery, judgement, relentlessness, linguistic versatility and resourcefulness in his work for a range of journalists” according to the judging panel.
The ceremony was followed by a panel discussion on the question: “What Role do News Fixers Really Play?”. Moderated by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the panel included judges Hugh Schofield (BBC) and Jake Wallis Simons (Daily Mail Online), as well as Reuters Global News Editor Alessandra Galloni and freelance journalist Campbell MacDiarmid. They addressed the work and perception of fixers in the news industry, who are often unrecognised despite the vital contributions they make to reporting from dangerous, unstable or hostile locations.
The panel discussed the unique expertise that fixers can contribute to stories, often acting as translators, drivers, assistants, guides and even drone pilots. They also engaged with questions and comments from fixers in the audience, who conveyed their desire for greater recognition, professional support and skills training. Amanpour noted that the experience of many fixers “is unacceptable, and it goes to show [how much] being taken for granted news fixers go through”.
To view photos from the awards ceremony, click here.
You can also watch a short film celebrating Kurt’s legacy here.