The winners of the 2021 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism are announced today. The Awards honour brave, yet often unrecognised journalists for their reporting on conflict, corruption and injustice.
Jason Motlagh, an Iranian-American journalist, wins the Kurt Schork Freelance Award for his reporting on Afghanistan. Motlagh’s stories provide valuable insight into the realities on the ground prior to the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces in August, while his investigative reporting on civilian casualties and spotlighting of threats to Afghan media workers starkly reveal the human cost of war. The judges commended his courageous journalism from high-risk environments, resulting in a body of work that is “prescient, searing and of tremendous significance”.
Brazilian journalist Rafael Soares is the winner of the Local Reporter Award for his investigations into extra-judicial killings involving military and civil police in Rio de Janeiro. The judges recognised his “meticulous research, sourcing and journalism” on an under-reported and complex issue, which exposed the byzantine bureaucracy that enabled such corruption and impunity to flourish. The judges noted his commitment to “building close contacts with communities who are rarely given a voice”.
This year’s News Fixer Award goes to Khabat Abbas from Syria. Through her local knowledge, extensive network of contacts and journalism skills, Abbas secured multiple exclusives for international media which made headlines, including an interview with three British women who had joined the Islamic State. As one of very few female fixers in north-eastern Syria, the judges highlighted how she has shown “determination and a very strong work ethic”, whilst crediting her as “a brilliant newshound, with an impressive record of breaking stories”. The judges also recognised Abbas for “demonstrating two talents that distinguish the best fixers: supreme efficiency and natural empathy”.
The News Fixer Award aims to recognise the rarely credited yet often at-risk individuals who typically act as the foreign correspondent’s eyes and ears on the ground. 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 and dangerous locations.
Now in their 20th 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 four in both the Freelance and Local Reporter categories was judged by Angus MacSwan from Reuters, Meera Selva from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson.
The 2021 Freelance category finalists were Jack Losh (UK), Jessica Buxbaum (USA), Dmitri Beliakov (Russia) and Francesca Mannocchi (Italy). The Local Reporter category finalists were Nermina Kuloglija (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Olatunji Ololade (Nigeria), Kourosh Ziabari (Iran) and Henriette Chacar (Palestinian citizen of Israel).
The 2021 News Fixer category finalists were Mustafa Al Ali (Syria), Hussein Gdora (Libya), Akhtar Mohammad Makoii (Afghanistan) and Nechirvan Mando (Iraq). The judges in this category were Lindsey Hilsum from Channel 4 News, The Economist’s Simon Long and award-winning journalist Juliana Ruhfus.
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 social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). They will also be hosting an online event on October 20, which will feature a conversation with winners of both the 2020 and 2021 Awards.
About the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund
Named in honour of American 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.