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.

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