The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) today announced the winners of the 2013 David Burke Distinguished Journalism Awards for exceptional integrity, bravery, and originality in reporting.
This year’s winners are:
- Hamid Mohmand, Kabul bureau chief for Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Afghan Service;
- Pisethvicheyanandh Chor “Anandh” of Radio Free Asia’s Khmer Service;
- Vanessa Ruiz of TV Martí;
- Idriss Fall, French-to-Africa Service, Voice of America
- Scott Bobb, Central News Division, Voice of America; and
- Bashar Fahmi, Alhurra Television correspondent of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.
“Our Burke Award winners are on the front lines of some of the most challenging and dangerous places on earth for reporters,” said BBG Governor Susan McCue. “Their courage and personal sacrifice are matched only by their desire to get to the heart of stories that affect the lives of their audience and their conviction in the power of a free press.”
Hamid Mohmand of RFE/RL received the award for his extraordinary courage and exemplary reporting in Afghanistan. Hamid embodies the extraordinary risks journalists take in countries facing instability and conflict. Although he has been threatened repeatedly by the Taliban for his reporting, he is undeterred in his determination to cover the country’s most important stories, and in his conviction that a free press is instrumental to peace and prosperity in Afghanistan.
RFA’s Pisethvicheyanandh Chor “Anandh” is also recognized for his cour age and dedication. He has put himself at great personal risk while covering numerous human rights issues, including the arrests of Cambodian journalists, election fraud, appalling working conditions, land grabs that leave villagers homeless and a corrupt court system that provides them no recourse. In December, he filed a report about a local journalist who had been arrested after informing local authorities about illegal logging. Shortly after, Anandh suffered a severe roadside accident that left him in a coma for nearly two weeks. He is still recovering.
Vanessa Ruiz of TV Martí has been recognized for the integrity and originality with which she covered the Venezuelan elections. As President Hugo Chavez fanned the flames of a possible civil war if he lost, Ruiz traveled with a local cameraman to interview citizens and politicians during the campaign and on Election Day. Because TV Martí is seen as an enemy to Venezuela’s closest ally, Cuba, she placed herself in grave danger by reporting honestly and objectively for audiences in Cuba.
Idriss Fall of VOA’s French-to-Africa Service is recognized for his excellent reporting of the crisis in Mali. After interviewing leaders of the Ans ar Dine group and citizens in the area, Fall was able to confirm that two extremists associated with Al Qaeda were operating in Gao, Mali. He became the first foreign correspondent to confirm that jihadists from other nations were actively working with Malian Islamists to create an Islamist state. He mobilized a network of Malian stringers whose frequent reports sustain the recently created mobile news service, Mali 1.
Scott Bobb of VOA’s Central News Division received the Burke Award for his comprehensive and courageous coverage of the conflict in Syria. On one reporting trip, while interviewing a Free Syrian Army commander, Bobb witnessed a government airstrike. He, alongside a freelance reporter, was able to bring home to viewers and listeners the daily reality of the conflict and the impact not just on the fighters involved but also on the civilian population.Bobb later filed radio and television reports about the heavy damage incurred upon the ancient market area of Aleppo and the resistance to the Assad regime in the Syrian Kurdish territory.
Bashar Fahmi of Alhurra Television received the Burke Award for his professional and fearless reporting that shed light onto a humanitarian situation that is largely unseen due to the strict Syrian government restrictions of the media. Bashar risked his life to cross the Syrian/Turkish border to give viewers a first-hand account of the clashes between the Free Syrian Army and forces loyal to Bashar Al-Assad. On Aug. 20, 2012, while reporting from Aleppo, Bashar and cameraman Cüneyt Ünal were caught in a firefight. Japan Press’ Mika Yamamoto, who was traveling with them, died in the crossfire. Unal was captured and released 90 days later. No one has heard from Bashar; nor has anyone claimed responsibility.
The Burke Awards are named after David Burke, former chairman of the BBG, and are given by the Board annually to distinguished journalists working for US international broadcasting.The winners will be recognized in a formal ceremony later this year.