2019 Kurt Schork Memorial Awards in International Journalism

The armed conflict and politics in Somalia and Cameroon were the stories that motivated the winning reporters in this year’s Kurt Schork Memorial Awards in International Journalism. The News Fixer Award, was won by Iraqi news fixer, Sangar Khaleel.

Now in their 18th year, the Kurt Schork Memorial Awards are named in honour of American freelance journalist Kurt Schork who was killed in Sierra Leone while on assignment for Reuters in 2000.

The News Fixer Award aims to recognise the rarely credited yet often at-risk individuals who typically act as the correspondent’s eyes and ears on the ground. It is the fixers’ local knowledge, as well as their network of official – and unofficial – contacts that helps to secure critical interviews and access to all important areas for the out-of-town correspondents. 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, dangerous and hostile locations.

Shortlists in the Freelance and Local Reporter categories were judged by Simon Robinson, Reuters Global Managing Editor, The Guardian’s Julian Borger, and Dan De Luce from NBC News.

The 2019 Freelance category finalists were Sally Hayden (UK), Shola Lawal (Nigeria), Charles Matthew (UK), Ruchi Kumar (India), Kenneth Rosen (USA), Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Nigeria), Erica Gies (Canada). The Local Reporter category finalists were Disha Shetty (India), Parth Nikhil (India), Chinedu Asadu (Nigeria), Amos Abba (Nigeria), Namrata Acharya (India), Damilola Banjo (Nigeria).

The 2019 News Fixer category finalists were Fadiel Fadel (Libya), Kamiran Sadoun (Syria) and Kateryna Malofieieva (Ukraine). The judges in this category were Jon Lee Anderson from The New Yorker, Global Editor of the Daily Mail Online Jake Wallis Simons, and journalist and author, Minka Nijhuis.

The three category winners each received a cash prize of US $5000 at a prestigious awards ceremony in the Thomson Reuters auditorium in Canary Wharf on the evening of Wednesday, 30th October.

CEREMONY

Photo: Cormac O’Brien. L-R: Stephen Sackur, the BBC’s HardTalk host, Stephen Jukes, Vice-President of the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund, Amindeh Blaise Atabong, Local Reporter winner; Amanda Sperber, Freelance winner, Sangar Khaleel, New Fixer winner and Sabina Cosic, Chair of the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund.

The 18th annual Kurt Schork Memorial Awards in International Journalism were hosted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London on October 30th. The awards recognise independent journalists for their courageous reporting on under-reported stories, and also confer the News Fixer Award to acknowledge the vital role that fixers play in coverage from difficult, dangerous and hostile locations.

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 each received a cash prize of US $5000.

Cameroonian journalist Amindeh Blaise Atabong is the winner of the Local Reporter Award. Atabong’s bravery in documenting the sometimes-violent split between Cameroon’s English-and-French-speaking communities was commended, with his reporting “digging into how the conflict is playing out everywhere from Cameroon’s orphanages to its wildlife reserves”. Read Amindeh’s winning articles here.

Amanda Sperber, an East Africa-based foreign correspondent, wins the Freelance Award for her reporting on armed conflict and politics in Somalia. The judges highlighted how Somalia is often overlooked in global media, and that her years of reporting “in difficult and dangerous conditions” have helped to shine a light on “elusive truths”. Read Amanda’s winning articles here.

This year’s News Fixer Award went to Iraqi news fixer Sangar Khaleel, who has worked with journalists from major news outlets covering the rise and fall of ISIS in Iraq. The judges applauded his courage and dedication in the field. Yet what stood out to them was his “empathy and genuine care for those he meets and a strong sense of purpose in giving a voice to the victims of war”, combined with his unrelenting “dedication to follow up on people and places when most media have moved on”.

The ceremony was opened by the Foundation’s CEO, Antonio Zappulla, who paid tribute to the awards and their significance at a time of increasing global hostility toward the press and the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s intention to promote and champion media freedom through various projects and initiatives.

The awards presentation was followed by a panel discussion on the topic: “Enemies of the People, the new threat to journalists”. Moderated by Stephen Sackur, Host of BBC’s HardTalk, the panel included Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director of Reporters Without Borders, Zaina Erhaim, Syrian journalist and Senior Media Specialist at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and Freelance winner, Amanda Sperber. The panel discussed the various risks that journalists and news fixers face and the ways in which their repression is manifesting itself around the world. The panel also engaged with questions and comments from the audience on the role and recognition of fixers.

You can watch a short film about the Awards featuring past winners here 

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