2017 Kurt Schork Memorial Awards in International Journalism

The war in Western Mosul and the skin trade and organ trafficking in India were the stories that motivated the winning reporters in this year’s Kurt Schork Memorial Awards in International Journalism. For the first time this year, a new Award was created for News Fixers which was won by Iraqi news fixer, Makeen Mustafa.

Now in their 16th year, the Kurt Schork Memorial 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.

This year, 177 journalists from 63 countries submitted 531 published stories. Shortlists of eight in the Freelance and Local Reporter categories were judged by Reuters Global Editor Alessandra Galloni, Eye Witness Media’s Sam Dubberley, and Cardiff University’s Professor of Journalism Richard Sambrook.

The 2017 Freelance category finalists were Lauren Wolfe (USA), Jason Patinkin (USA), Ioan Grillo (UK), Fausto Biloslavo (Italy), Jack Losh (UK), Victor Soehngen (USA) and Francesca Mannocchi (Italy).The Local Reporter category finalists were ‘Olatunji Ololade (Nigeria), Raksha Kumar (India), Ray Mwareya (Zimbabwe), Arison Tamfu (Cameroon), Zorayda Gallegos Valle (Mexico), Riyaz Wani (India) and Arukaino Umukoro (Nigeria).

The Kurt Schork Memorial Awards will also confer the inaugural News Fixer Award to recognise the unsung heroes of modern journalism at the November ceremony. Rarely credited and usually in danger, these on-the-ground ‘guides’ often also act as translators, drivers and assistant reporters. It is the fixers’ local expertise, as well as their network of official – and unofficial – contacts that provides the raw source material for the out-of-town correspondents.

The new prize was inspired by the freelance journalist, author and friend of Kurt Schork, Anna Husarska, and pays tribute to the vital role that news fixers play in coverage from difficult, dangerous and hostile locations.

30 nominations from 11 countries were submitted to the category in total, with the award going to Iraqi news fixer Makeen Mustafa. Mustafa was nominated three times by international journalists working in Erbil who hired him as their fixer during assignments in Iraq.

The 2017 News Fixer category finalists were Bienvenue Richard Leonce (Central African Republic), Kimberley de la Cruz (Philippines), Irene Lioumi (Greece), Oleksandra Hrybenko (Ukraine), Jorge-Luis Benezra Briceno (Venezuela), Hwaida Saad (Lebanon) and Aung Naing Soe (Myanmar).

The judges – BBC’s Hugh Schofield, Associate Global Editor of the Daily Mail Online Jake Wallis Simons, and former US Ambassador to the UN Samantha J. Power – agreed that Mustafa “has demonstrated tremendous bravery, judgment, relentlessness, linguistic versatility, and resourcefulness in his work for a range of journalists. He is passionately dedicated to his country and ensuring the outside world understands the trials and hopes of its people.

The three category winners will each receive a cash prize of US $5000 to be presented at a prestigious awards ceremony in the Thomson Reuters auditorium in Canary Wharf on the evening of Tuesday November 7th.

CEREMONY

The 16th annual Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism were held on the 7th November at the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London. The awards recognise independent journalists for their courageous reporting on controversial issues, and included an inaugural award for the category of News Fixer. The awards are named in honour of the American journalist Kurt Schork, who was killed in Sierra Leone while on assignment for Reuters in 2000. They celebrate excellence in the reporting of conflict, corruption, human rights violations and related issues that illuminate the challenges faced by a particular country or region. The three category winners will each receive a cash prize of US $5000.

The Local Reporter Award was won by New Delhi-based journalist Soma Basu, whose stories exposed the ordeal of trafficked Nepali women who are forced to sell their own skin to supply India’s cosmetic surgery industry.

The Freelance Journalist Award was won by John Beck, whose stories from Western Mosul for Al Jazeera were praised by the judging panel as being in the spirit of Kurt Schork for going “beyond the frontline and reporting about the innocent victims of war”.

The inaugural News Fixer Award was won by Makeen Mustafa for his work in Iraq, which “demonstrated tremendous bravery, judgement, relentlessness, linguistic versatility and resourcefulness in his work for a range of journalists” according to the judging panel.

 

The ceremony was followed by a panel discussion on the question: “What Role do News Fixers Really Play?”. Moderated by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the panel included judges Hugh Schofield (BBC) and Jake Wallis Simons (Daily Mail Online), as well as Reuters Global News Editor Alessandra Galloni and freelance journalist Campbell MacDiarmid. They addressed the work and perception of fixers in the news industry, who are often unrecognised despite the vital contributions they make to reporting from dangerous, unstable or hostile locations.

 

The panel discussed the unique expertise that fixers can contribute to stories, often acting as translators, drivers, assistants, guides and even drone pilots. They also engaged with questions and comments from fixers in the audience, who conveyed their desire for greater recognition, professional support and skills training. Amanpour noted that the experience of many fixers “is unacceptable, and it goes to show [how much] being taken for granted news fixers go through”.

 To view photos from the awards ceremony, click here.

You can also watch a short film celebrating Kurt’s legacy here.

 

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