Inspiration

Pakistani journalist wins best Local Reporter award in Washington

Pakistani Journalist

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Pakistani Journalist Umer Ali bagged the Local category award in the Kurt Schork Memorial Awards 2016 in International Journalism held at Washington, DC. He was nominated for his articles on social and political issues in Pakistan published by DAWN and Pakistan Today.

The Kurt Schork Memorial Awards have been taking place since 2002 to acknowledge the courageous efforts of Journalists over the globe to report and illuminate cases of human barbarity, corruption, discrimination and injustice. These memorial awards are named after an American reporter and war correspondent that used to cover war conflicts for REUTERS. He was killed during an assignment in Sierra Leone. These awards recognize the work of Local reporters and Freelancers who are not really valued for their risk taking assignments.

A total number of 93 entrants were evaluated for these awards, out of which 56 belonged to the Local category and 37 to the freelancer category. Along with Umer, the other finalists of the local category were Aylaa Abo Shahba (Egypt), Chitrangada Choudhury (India), Fisayo Soyombo (Nigeria), Montanrayo Joel (Nigeria), Ray Mwareya (Zimbabwe), Olatunji Ololade (Nigeria) and Brian Ligomeka (Malawi).

Rawalpindi-based Umer is a local reporter who has penned many eye-opening realities of Pakistan’s social and political system. He writes for various newspapers and online blogs. He is also a special correspondent at Pakistan Today. He was really grateful to the jury and was hopeful for the future of journalism in Pakistan.

I am truly humbled to have won such a prestigious award. I’m thankful to the jury for considering my stories, which highlight the unfair blasphemy laws and mistreatment of minorities, to be worthy of winning. By using this win as a motivation, I want to encourage youngsters like me to take journalism as a profession seriously.

The judges for this years event were Anna Husarska, freelance journalist and author; Sam Dubberley, co-founder of Eyewitness Media Hub; Samia Nakhoul Reuters middle East editor; and Richard Sambrook, professor of journalism at Cardiff University. They had nothing but praise for the young reporter. They believed that it takes a lot of pluck to enter the stream of journalism and report incidents of casteism and extreme discrimination in a country like Pakistan.

Tackling sensitive issues such as blasphemy law and ethnic tensions in a country where journalism is a dangerous occupation made his writing exceptional.

Iona Craig was announced as the winner of the Freelance category among the group of 8 finalists which included James Harkin (Ireland), Antony Lowenstein (Australia), Jeong May (Canada), Sara Williams (UK/Canada), Sophie McBain (UK), Eric Reidy (USA) and Philip Obaji (Nigeria). The Irish reporter was awarded for her undercover story of Yemen’s civil War for Al Jazeera America and The Intercept.

Umer Ali will be awarded a cash prize of US $5000. The award ceremony will be held at the Thomas Reuters Auditorium on 27th October. He is really excited for the event and also congratulated by his fellow reporters and the freelance category winner Iona Craig.