In Recognition of Distinguished Journalism
The David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award recognizes the courage, integrity, and professionalism of individuals in reporting the news within the BBG broadcast entities. Named in honor of David W. Burke, the founding chairman and leader of the BBG for its first three years, the award is presented annually to U.S. international broadcasters who demonstrate exceptional performances, including bravery and extreme hardship. The amount of the award is $2,500.
Mr. Burke had an illustrious career as a news and broadcast executive. He is the former President of CBS News and served as both Vice President and Executive Vice President of ABC News.
Burke Award Winners 2014
Voice of America
Anne Look is the Dakar bureau chief for VOA Central News. In December, Anne and VOA stringer Heather Murdock went on a dangerous reporting trip to the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri. They were there to report on how the city had rebounded from months of attacks from the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. But shortly after arriving, Boko Haram attacked the air force base in the city. A curfew was imposed just before the VOA reporters boarded a flight out. At the risk of revealing her presence, Anne filed a radio report about the attack and was the only Western journalist reporting on-the-scene.
Idriss Fall, of VOA’s French-to-Africa service, spent almost two weeks in late 2013 reporting from Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. His first-hand accounts captured how thousands were fleeing to avoid deadly clashes between Muslim and Christian factions. Idriss experienced the violence first hand, when a mob threw rocks and used machetes to attack his car. The crowd smashed through the windows of the car and attempted to pull out Idriss, his driver and fixer when French soldiers arrived, saving all from harm.
Bagassi Koura, also of VOA’s French-to-Africa service, provided exceptional coverage of the 2013 elections in Mali. In the face of considerable dangers, Bagassi was prolific in his reporting, providing daily radio pieces, video reporting and a multimedia blog with video, photos, audio, and text recounting details of the campaign and voting. His coverage included the peace treaty between Tuaregs and the Malian government.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
RFE/RL’s Kyiv Bureau (team coverage)
The Kyiv Bureau is recognized for team coverage of the crisis in Ukraine. The country erupted in protest following a late November 2013 decision by President Viktor Yanukovych to unexpectedly back away from an agreement with the EU. Police violence against demonstrators and journalists led the initially peaceful protests in Ukraine to grow in size and intensity. RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Radio Svoboda’s Kyiv Bureau was live-blogging and filing dramatic video from the epicenter of the conflict, offering its audience in-depth analysis, eyewitness stories, and reactions from different sides, including pro-government supporters.
Radio Free Asia
Moe Thu Aung
Moe Thu Aung was among the first journalists RFA hired in Burma (also called Myanmar) after press freedom reforms allowed the network to open an office there. Moe Thu’s resourcefulness and dedication were invaluable in RFA’s efforts to establish its budding operations in the country. As a reporter, Moe Thu covered pivotal events from a local perspective, including armed conflicts among Burma’s ethnic groups, the elections, political reform, and President Obama’s historic 2012 visit. On Nov. 25, 2013, Moe Thu died tragically after succumbing to injuries from a traffic accident in Mandalay while on assignment for RFA. He was only 23.
Office of Cuba Broadcasting
Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina
Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina is an independent journalist and producer in Cuba who oversees a small group of video journalists. Working with limited technological resources the independent reporters travel the island and risk imprisonment to document stories focusing on health, social issues, the environment, sports, freedom of expression, and other issues that directly impact Cubans.
Middle East Broadcasting Networks
Omar Adnan Al-Obaidi
Despite the deep security challenges in Iraq, Omar Adnan Al-Obaidi has consistently achieved excellence in his television reporting and presented a balanced and objective picture of the events. A seasoned Alhurra-Iraq journalist, he has reported from hot spots in the Annbar province including Fallujah, Anbar’s second largest city, where Iraqi and U.S. troops have fought fierce battles against fighters affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Most recently, Omar was targeted by a sniper who shot his car while he was on his way to the Iraqi military headquarters to interview the head of the counter-terrorism unit to report on efforts in fighting terrorism.
Alhurra’s correspondent in the cities of Diwaniyeh and Babel in Iraq, Maitham Al-Shibani, has been a persistent and courageous reporter over the past seven years. Maitham provided comprehensive reports on the security situation in Buhairat and Jaref Al Sakher – the well-known “Triangle of Death” areas where Al-Qaeda is present. Maitham has been embedded with Iraqi security forces when they go on raids. He also tackled poverty and government mismanagement, topics left uncovered by many local and pan-Arab media outlets. Maitham’s unique contributions earned him recognition as the 2013 best television correspondent in Iraq from the Ayoon Association for Culture and Press.
Burke Award Winners 2013
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.
Burke Award Winners 2012
Mukarram Khan Aatif, Voice of America’s (VOA) Deewa Radio
Aatif was honored, posthumously, with the Burke Award for his dedication to delivering accurate, honest coverage for Deewa Radio of a dangerous tribal region of Pakistan. On January 17, Aatif was attending evening prayers in a mosque near his home when he was killed by Taliban militants. According to VOA Director David Ensor, Aatif “had been threatened many times, but he refused to stop doing what he believed in.”
Karen Caballero, Radio and TV Martí
Caballero was given the award for her coverage of the “Lights of Liberty Flotilla,” a small group of boats with a mission to sail across the dark and hazardous Florida Strait to just outside Cuban waters to set off a fireworks display. The event sought to draw attention to the solidarity between Cuban exiles with those residing on the island and to human rights abuses by the Cuban government.
Sailab Mahsud, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Mashaal
Mahsud is one of the most prominent journalists in the Pashtun tribal area of Pakistan and received the Burke Award for his coverage of events there. When Shiite pilgrims in three Afghan cities were attacked by suicide bombers in December 2011, Mashud not only broke the story, but was the first to identify Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami as the Pakistani group claiming responsibility for the attacks.
Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) Korean Service
RFA’s Korean Service earned a Burke Award for its “proactive efforts and outstanding teamwork” in covering the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in December 2011. The Korean Service employed a 24/7 emergency staffing plan to report on developments taking place in D.P.R.K. and to provide perspectives from the international community, media outlets, North Korea experts, and defectors.
Mohamed Moawad and Lamia Rezgui Bourogaa, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks’ (MBN) Radio Saw
Bourogaa and Moawad were recognized for their coverage of the clashes in Libya for Radio Sawa. In one instance, Moawad was traveling on a boat between Misrata and Benghazi when it was shelled by Qadhafi militants. Despite such incidents, Bourogaa and Moawad continued to provide outstanding reports from the frontlines of the fighting in Libya, giving listeners eyewitness accounts as history unfolded in Libya.a
Burke Award Winners 2011
Tarek El Shamy, Akram Khuzam, Muslim Khandil and Nayef Mashakba, Alhurra TV, Middle East Broadcasting Network
El Shamy, Khuzam, Khandil and Mashakba provided outstanding coverage of the Egyptian Revolution in late January and February 2011. These courageous journalists reported around-the-clock from Cairo and Alexandria, providing live and non-stop coverage of the revolution for its 18-day duration. In one incident on February 2, 2011, El Shamy and Khuzam were reporting from the network’s offices in Cairo when crowds broke into their building and tried to get into the facility. Despite the threat and violence, El Shamy and Khuzam stayed on the air to continue Alhurra’s coverage. As a result, Alhurra was the only television network broadcasting live from Egypt for several hours during the evening of February 2.
Creole Service, Voice of America
VOA’s Creole Service provided unmatched coverage of the devastating Haitian earthquake. In the hours after the disaster, the service surged their programming by 900%, set up a hotline and created Facebook and Twitter accounts to help families in the United States locate their relatives in Haiti. VOA’s news coverage played a public service role. On one occasion, after camp residents complained of lack of food during the call-in show, an NGO brought a truckload of food. Haiti’s Ambassador to the United States, Louis Harold Joseph, thanked the service for its role in the aftermath of the earthquake and called its broadcasts over the years a “breath of fresh air for us.”
Belarus Service, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Belarus Service’s 20 journalists and producers provided breaking news and in-depth analysis of Belarus’ disputed presidential election in December 2010. The service, called Radio Svaboda, integrated radio, television and web coverage to provide accurate and comprehensive information at a time when a voice of credibility was desperately needed. The day after the crackdown, Radio Svaboda’s website traffic recorded a 5-fold increase and its Youtube page views increased by 300%. Its coverage was widely quoted by major news media, including CNN, BBC and the New York Times. Svaboda also created “Voices of Solidarity,” a project that invited dozens of U.S. and international leaders to read the names of the more than 700 people detained in the crackdown.
Cantonese Service, Radio Free Asia
Reporters in Washington, D.C. and Hong Kong from RFA’s Cantonese Service were recognized for groundbreaking coverage of a radiation leak and the Chinese Government’s attempt to cover up the information. In May 2010, four accidents occurred at China’s Shenzhen Daya Bay Nuclear Plant, including the most serious radiation leak in the nuclear plant’s history. RFA’s Cantonese Service obtained a document revealing details of the nuclear leakage and provided comprehensive breaking news coverage that was picked up by major media organizations, including the New York Times and Bloomberg News. After the publication of the story, environmentalists and local politicians called for an investigation and a better system for accountability.
José Luis Ramos, Radio Martí
José Luis Ramos earned the award for dedicated reporting of the funeral of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. On February 23, 2010, 42-year-old Tamayo died from starvation after more than 80 days of a hunger strike to protest the prison conditions and his beatings by cell guards. Official Cuban media did not report the story and the Cubans on the island followed the news through Radio Martí. Mr. Ramos arranged exclusive live coverage of Tamayo’s funeral through cell phone communication between the Radio Martí Studio and Tamayo’s home in Banes. The moving live coverage included Tamayo’s mother crying the words of freedom over Radio Martí.
Burke Award Winners 2010
Sok Pov, Voice of America
Sok Pov created a series of reports profiling former Khmer Rouge leaders who could face arrest if the tribunal widens its prosecution of the regime. He travelled to the jungles of northern Cambodia, where many Khmer Rouge leaders have sought refuge and got exclusive interviews with five of them. He confronted the Khmer Rouge officials with questions about their roles in the genocide that killed 1.5 million Cambodians in the 1970′s. Local chiefs who recognized his voice from VOA broadcasts guided him to the villages and farms where Khmer Rouge leaders lived in relative safety, often among former Khmer Rouge soldiers. This series of reports embodies the best principles of journalism: the search for accountability and questioning power.
Mohamed Mokhtari and Betty Ayoub, Middle East Broadcasting Networks
Mohamed and Betty played vital roles in the successful second season of Alhurra’s outstanding five-part documentary series Americans, about Arab-Americans. Travelling throughout the United States searching for extraordinary people and stories, Mohamed and Betty left no stone unturned to give viewers an in-depth look into immigration and integration into American society. Programming included interviews with prominent Arab-Americans such as Congressman Charles Boustany, retired Gen. John Abizaid, actress Kathy Najimy, pollster John Zogby and former Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala. They visited Dearborn, Michigan, the Arab-Americans hub, and hosted several Arab-Americans during a Town Hall Meeting that aired as a part of Americans. Mohamed and Betty opened a door for Arab-Americans to communicate with their brothers in the Middle East and share their hopes, dreams and issues facing their community.
Jin-Seo Lee, Radio Free Asia
Jin-Seo Lee provided outstanding reporting in late 2009 on the plight of thousands of North Korean street children who have been abandoned or separated from their parents. Jin-Seo’s investigative series done at considerable risk inside China found that, despite the missionaries’ best efforts, conditions for many North Korean orphans have been deteriorating. His coverage revealed that these orphans lack legal protection; therefore, many of the children cannot get adequate food, education or medical attention. In his reports, Jin-Seo’s captured the voices of a number of these children, thereby humanizing the story as never before.
Dawa Khan Meenapal, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Dawa Khan Meenapal is Radio Free Afghanistan’s correspondent in Kandahar, one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Meenapal, has shown tremendous bravery working under constant pressure both from the militants and government security forces, and his objective reporting has earned him respect from across the political spectrum. In November 2008, Meenapal was kidnapped on the Kabul-Kandahar highway. Three days later he was released after tribal leaders in the area, who consider him to be a balanced and objective reporter, protested his detention and persuaded the Taliban to release him. In August 2009, Meenapal was severely beaten by Afghan police while covering the largest-ever explosion in Kandahar, which killed over 100 civilians. Despite paying such a huge price for doing his job, Meenapal continues his excellent work and is one of the Afghan Service’s most productive reporters.
Rahman Bunairee, Voice of America
Mr. Bunairee put his and his family’s life on the line to report on the deadly struggle between Pakistani troops and militants in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) regions of Pakistan for VOA’s Deewa Service. In July of 2009, militants took exception to Mr. Bunairee’s reporting and bombed his family’s home in the Pakistani district of Buner. After hiding in Karachi and then Islamabad, Mr. Bunairee headed to the United States where he was granted asylum and continues his reporting on the situation in the Pakistan border region from the VOA Headquarters in Washington D.C.
Laura Juan Huang, Radio Free Asia
Ms. Huang has been recognized for her 2009 environmental program “Guardian of the River Huai,” the story of photojournalist turned environmentalist, Huo Daishan’s, crusade to save China’s third largest river. Throughout history the River Huai kept the farmland along its banks lush and fertile, its water dotted with white sails and teeming with fish. By the 1990s, however, breakneck economic and industrial growth had wreaked such environmental damage along the river that this ancient paradise on earth had turned into a home to scores of cancer villages. In just one village with a population of 2,500, hundreds died of cancer between 1990 and 2005. Among those who succumbed was a childhood friend of photojournalist Huo Daishan. Taking on a sensitive subject inside China, Ms. Huang gave this sad story a human face as she told Huo’s often lonely, arduous crusade to save the beloved river of his childhood and how he achieved rare success despite repeated threats and obstruction from local officials. Over time, publicity to the plight of the cancer villages shamed local governments into action. The story of Huo, the ‘Guardian of the River Huai,’ constitutes one of the rare successes of Chinese environmentalists.
Elena Rodriguez, Office of Cuba Broadcasting
Elena Rodriguez is a leader in Radio Marti’s fast-paced News Department. Her talent as mentor of journalists, keen sense of the news and understanding of the role of social and new media journalism has contributed significantly in the mission of the OCB. Ms. Rodriguez has become a role model for the rest of the staff by securing excellent news coverage of key events. One of the most significant aspects of her contributions to the Newsroom has been the extended reporting on the blogging community in the island. She has consistently followed the work of bloggers and informed the audience of the work of this segment of Cuba’s emerging independent new media. She maintains personal contact with the members of this influential group and has been a key element in their participation in Radio Marti newscasts.
Ashyrkuli Bayriev, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Ashyrkuli Bayriev is the Turkmen Service’s correspondent in the capital of Ashgabat. In Turkmenistan, any association with RFE/RL can bring harassment or worse. In March 2004, Bayriev was detained by the National Security office in Ashgabat. Today he remains under constant surveillance. In spite of these obstacles, Bariyev manages not only to report the news but to do so with utmost professionalism. One of his exemplary reports came from a region near Ashgabat where ordinary people gathered to commemorate the victims of the historical Geokdepe battle with Russian troops in 1881.
Burke Award Winners 2009
Serwa Abdel Wahed and Akram Alrubaiei, Middle East Broadcasting Networks
Ms. Wahed and Mr. Alrubaiei have shown great bravery and determination in their jobs as TV journalists in conflict zones. They have risked their lives to report on Iraqi events, demonstrating a professionalism, undaunted by difficult and dangerous conditions. Ms. Wahed and Mr. Alrubaiei’s reporting goes beyond the headlines to bring to life stories of human interest. Their reports are always stretching boundaries, both geographically and politically, to report on stories not covered on other Arabic-language networks, including coverage of the paralyzed life in 52 villages on the Iraqi-Turkish border during conflict there.
Luis Ramirez, Voice of America
Mr. Ramirez created a series of video and Web reports on the precarious journey of North Korean defectors while serving as the VOA Bangkok Bureau Chief. He showed extraordinary courage and integrity as a journalist. Luis secretly shot rare footage in a military zone in China and in North Korea. He interviewed defectors and those who risked their lives to help them. Luis carefully documented the defectors’ journey as they risked being apprehended and sent back by the Chinese, jailed in Thailand, or forced into sexual slavery. Given the difficulty accessing these places and people, Mr. Ramirez’s compelling reports shone the media spotlight on an issue that has rarely been reported in such depth.
Tseten Dolkar, Radio Free Asia
Tseten Dolkar demonstrated outstanding reporting, dedication, and professionalism by building relationships in Tibet for over 12 years and reaching out to an extensive network of reliable sources when the uprising began. She helped cover the earliest stories of Tibetan unrest and brought critical information to RFA’s Tibetan audiences. Even as the Chinese crackdowns began, sources became afraid to talk on the phone, and Chinese authorities banned reporters from entering Tibet, she still found ways to get the truth out. Because of her work and those of other reporters in the RFA, people learned that Tibetan protests were peaceful, unlike how the Chinese government portrayed them.
Radio Marti News Department, Office of Cuba Broadcasting
The Radio Marti News Department dedicated a great deal of effort to tell the people of Cuba their own story, one that was denied to them by their government. In covering the devastation of Hurricane Gustav and Ike, Radio Marti news staff sought to hear from Cubans directly about their lives and their struggle to survive. Radio Marti created an opportunity for the media to build bridges with listeners, breaking the walls imposed by censorship, this was it. Radio Marti became the leading source of news for Cubans on Hurricane Gustav and Ike. Thanks to the extensive network this group of reporters had established all over the island, Radio Marti provided information before government media and in greater detail.
Journalists in the Kabul Bureau of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. In 2008, Radio Free Afghanistan reporters in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan received numerous threats not only to their lives but to the lives of their families as well. Radio Free Afghanistan’s female reporters have been subjected to repeated threats by the Taliban, warlords, and other extremist groups. Simply by continuing to deliver the news to their fellow citizens, RFE/RL’s Afghan Service reporters demonstrate enormous courage every day. They routinely report from the scenes of suicide bombings, and they conduct investigative reporting on issues such as narcotics, warlords and corruption. They have made Radio Free Afghanistan the number one international broadcaster in Afghanistan at a time when, for security reasons, the BBC has completely stopped reporting from outside Kabul.
Burke Award Winners 2008-2001
- Mohamed Mokhtari, Middle East Broadcasting Networks
- John Miller and Robyn Kriel, Voice of America
- Adrian Criscaut, Voice of America
- Burmese Service, Radio Free Asia
- Baghdad Bureau, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
- Khamail Kalaf, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
- Salih Mohammed Salih, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
- Ali Alyasi and Emad Jasim, Middle East Broadcasting Networks
- Hyunju Lee and Han Min, Radio Free Asia
- Soo Kyung Lee, Radio Free Asia
- Alisha Ryu, Voice of America
- Tashkent Bureau,Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
- Sok Ratha, Radio Free Asia
- Luis Ramirez, Voice of America
- Katayoun Beglari, Voice of America
- Abd al-Hussein Khazal al-Basri, Middle East Broadcasting Networks
- Wu Jing, Radio Free Asia
- Aslanbek Dadayev, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
- Lucie Umukundwa, Jaqueline Segahungu, Marie-Claire Sissoko, Jean-Baptiste Nimubona, Auriane Ntahomvukiye,
- Yvette Umugwaneza, Gentille Ntibagirigwa, Olivier Isata,
- Joyeuse Akanyana, The “Ejo Bite” Team, Voice of America
- Lobsang Chopel
- Saparmurat Ovezberdiev, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
- Jeff Swicord, Voice of America
- Alisha Ryu, Voice of America
- Han Dongfang, Radio Free Asia
- Sami Shoresh, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
- Mary Arobaga-Reardon and Jeff Daughtery, Voice of America
- Feng Ji, Voice of America
- Zamira Eshanova, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
- Peter Zhong, Radio Free Asia
- Rashmi Shukla and Jagdish Sarin, Voice of America
- Andrei Babitsky, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty