The winners of 2020 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism were announced today. The awards honour brave, yet often unrecognised journalists for their reporting on conflict, corruption and injustice.
Shah Meer Baloch, a journalist from Pakistan, won the Kurt Schork Freelance Award for his reporting on child labour in the country’s coal mines, the persecution of the Kalasha community and systemic government negligence in the national polio vaccination programme. The judges highlighted how “the high degree of personal risk involved in tackling such stories in Pakistan cannot be understated” and that Baloch “has demonstrated admirable moral determination” in bringing these stories to light.
Nigerian journalist Fisayo Soyombo is the winner of the Local Reporter Award for his undercover investigation on the west African nation’s criminal justice system. Under a pseudonym, Soyombo feigned an offence for which he was arrested and spent five days in a Lagos police cell and then eight days in Ikoyi prison. The judges commended his “vivid and compelling three-part series” which exposed “the everyday corruption and abuses of Nigeria’s criminal justice system”.
This year’s News Fixer Award went to Kamiran Sadoun from Syria. The Kurdish fixer has worked with journalists from major news outlets reporting on conflict in north-eastern Syria and the enduring suffering following the collapse of the Islamic State – including Yazidi mothers forced to choose between their children born to IS fighters or acceptance back into their communities in Iraq. The judges applauded the calibre of the articles written by the reporters with whom Sadoun worked, which were “a testament to his exceptional ability as a fixer”.
The News Fixer Award aims to recognise the rarely credited yet often at-risk individuals who typically act as the correspondent’s eyes and ears on the ground. It is the fixers’ local knowledge, as well as their network of official – and unofficial – contacts that helps to secure critical interviews and access for the out-of-town correspondents. The prize was inspired by the freelance journalist, author and friend of Kurt Schork, Anna Husarska, and pays tribute to the vital role that these unsung heroes play in coverage from difficult, dangerous and hostile locations.
Now in their 19th year, the Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism are named in honour of American freelance journalist Kurt Schork who was killed in Sierra Leone while on assignment for Reuters in 2000.
A shortlist of eight in both the Freelance and Local Reporter categories was judged by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Tina Rosenberg, The Intercept’s Peter Maass, and The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson.
The 2020 Freelance category finalists were Jiaming Xu (China), Xavier Aldekoa Morales (Spain), Jason Motlagh (USA), Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu (Ghana), Pilar Cebrian (Spain), Mohamed Dawjee Haji (South Africa) and Philip Obaji (Nigeria). The Local Reporter category finalists were Olha Omelianchuk (Ukraine), Rafael Soares (Brazil), Kourosh Ziabari (Iran), Olatunji Ololade (Nigeria), Hisham Arafat (Syria), Riyaz Wani (India) and Tabassum Barnagarwala (India).
The 2020 News Fixer category finalists were Abu Bakr Bashir (Palestine), Barzan Jabr Mohammed Barzan (Iraq), Kareem Sulaiman (Iraq), Khabat Abbas (Syria), Mohammed Hassan (Syria), Seme Luate Khemis (South Sudan) and Ossama Muhammad (Syria). The judges in this category were CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen and Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 News.
The three winners will each receive a cash prize of US $5000. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in lieu of a physical award ceremony, the Thomson Reuters Foundation will be announcing the winners on its Twitter and Facebook social media channels.
About the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund
Named in honour of American war correspondent Kurt Schork, the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund exists to keep the world aware of the debt we owe to brave journalists who work hard – often at great personal risk – to report on conflict, corruption and injustice. Its annual Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism uniquely honour the work of freelance journalists, local reporters and news fixers, who often otherwise receive little recognition.