Winners of the 2006 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism
Steven Vincent (US) - Freelance category
Massoud Ansari (Pakistan) - Local journalist category
2006 Awards Honour US Freelancer Murdered in Iraq for Uncovering Police Death Squads and Karachi Reporter for Documenting Islamic Militancy.
Steven Vincent, who paid with his life while chronicling the conflict in Iraq and the rise of the insurgency, has won the 2006 Kurt Schork Awards for International Journalism in the freelance category. Witnessing 9/11 at first hand turned Vincent from an art journalist into a war reporter; Drawn to the conflict in Iraq, he quickly built up a reputation as a dogged and fearless observer of the rise in sectarian violence.
In August 2005, The New York Times published his expose about lawlessness in British-controlled Basra, typified by a hit squad of Iraqi police who toured Basra in a ‘white death car.’ Just two days later that car returned for him. Vincent, whose body was recovered a short time later, was awarded this year’s freelance prize for ‘reporting upon the most sensitive story possible,’ according to judges, Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, Isabel Hilton of OpenDemocracy.net, Saira Shah, the author and broadcaster and author Peter Maass
The judges also highly commended Isabel Coello in the freelance category for her reporting on the many victims of obstetric fistula, ‘taking an ignored subject and pursuing it across Africa’.
The winner of the local category is Massoud Ansari, an investigative journalist with Pakistan’s Newsline magazine who wins the award in recognition of his ‘ability to weave together a very complex political story.’ As well as exposing a chain of command linking Pakistan extremists to the 7/7 bombers in London and reporting the political battle over the activities of his country’s madrassahs, Ansari uncovered evidence which appears to question Islamabad’s case against the man charged with Daniel Pearl’s murder.
‘I’m delighted to have won,’ Ansari told the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund. ‘I still have a great deal to learn and there is still a long way to go, but this award is a beacon of light and helps us all strive to set the highest standards of journalism.’
Ansari will join Steven Vincent’s widow Lisa Ramaci at the Frontline Club in London on November 16th to receive the awards and a prize of $5,000 each at an evening dedicated to celebrating the unsung heroes of global reporting. The event will be hosted by Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international correspondent and member of the Kurt Schork Memorial Advisory Board. The Kurt Schork Awards were set up in 2001 to celebrate the life of the former freelance journalist killed in Sierra Leone six years ago while on assignment for Reuters. More than 80 journalists from dozens of countries around the world entered this year’s competition in a continuing testimony to the growing strength of local and freelance journalism.
More than 80 print journalists from dozens of countries around the world entered this year’s competition in a continuing testimony to present and growing strength of local and freelance journalism. Entries were narrowed down by a pre-judging panel of former Reuter journalists.
The stories produced and selected highlight many of the key challenges and threats that ultimately affect us all. From the continuing trauma of Iraq, through to instability in Pakistan, insurgency in India, female mutilation and suffering in Africa, human trafficking in Georgia, ecological damage in the Niger Delta and the physical and psychological consequences of the Tsunami, the 2006 Kurt Schork Award finalists collectively demonstrate the highest kind of professionalism and commitment that Kurt Schork made his life and work.
About the Winners
Steven Vincent - 2006 Winner, Freelance category
Steven Vincent, 1955-2005
Steven Vincent was a New York art journalist who turned war reporter after witnessing 9/11 first hand from his apartment rooftop. He went to Iraq as a freelance and had been living for several months in Basra, wanting to report on stories that no-one else was covering. While there, he began to uncover an increasingly dark side to the ‘Serene South’, as The New York Times referred to the British-controlled sector of Iraq. A steadily-growing tide of violent Islamic fundamentalism, fueled by followers of the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Iranian infiltrators was beginning to overwhelm Basra and its environs.
On July 31 2005, Steven had an op-ed piece published by the New York Times regarding the infiltration of the Basra police force by Iranian-backed Shia fundamentalists: In it, he exposed the fact that rogue elements on the force had formed assassination squads and were driving through the city, snatching and killing their victims with impunity. Two days later, he and his translator were kidnapped off the street by men in police uniforms, driving a police vehicle, taken to an undisclosed location, beaten and then shot. His translator Nour al-Khal survived: Steven died.
While the infiltration of the Basra police force is now common knowledge and the British Army moved in to cull extremists from the force, Steven was the first to expose it as the only long-term Western journalist working in the area. Initially he wrote on his blog In the Red Zone, in several articles in the Christian Science Monitor and finally in The New York Times. He well knew the risks he was running, as a July 9th quote from his blog shows:
The Christian Science Monitor has been kind enough to run another of my articles, this one on the religious parties which now dominate Basra. When you read this, keep in mind that for various reasons –not the least of which are safety concerns – the piece only scratches the surface of what is happening here.
Says his widow, Lisa Ramaci: “My husband was not a foolhardy man, but considered the information he was disseminating to be extremely vital and worth pursuing as far as he could take it. He lived courageously, and died courageously in an attempt to bring what he was seeing and learning to a larger audience. There is not much more we can ask of journalists and Steven truly gave his all in the pursuit of truth and moral clarity.”
Steven Vincent’s book In the Red Zone – a Journey Into the Soul of Iraq (Spence Publishing), describes a tormented society whose inhabitants-troubling, infuriating, yet often inspiring-survived the ghoulish dictatorship of Saddam Hussein only to face the death cult of radical Islam.
Massoud Ansari - 2006 Winner, Local journalist category
Karachi-based Massoud Ansari is Senior Reporter with Newsline, one of Pakistan’s leading newsmagazines. He also strings for the London Sunday Telegraph and contributes to the US-based New Republic magazine, Jane’s Defense weekly digest and the New Delhi-based Women Feature Service. Since 1998, he has been reporting widely across Pakistan and Afghanistan covering stories about Al-Qaeda and the network of the militant organization, politics, political crimes, rise of religious fundamentalism, environment or poppy cultivation, ethnic and sectarian violence or human rights including slavery of peasants under feudal landlords, ritual killings of the women in the name of honor or about religious and sexual minorities.
Ansari began his career in journalism at the age of 19 in the highly political Sindh town of Larkana, home of slain premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir. In spite of its international significance, Ansari maintains people in Larkana look down upon journalists as blackmailers, racketeers and sycophants in the service of the local administration. Chased out of the town for his exposes on rape, religious zealotry and abuses of power, he re-settled in Karachi –one of the world’s most dangerous cities for an investigative reporter. It was here that Ansari wrote his series of stories which won him the Kurt Schork Award for International Journalism 2006. These included his investigation into the facts behind the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl and the Pakistan connection to the 7/7 bombings in London last year.
Says Ansari ‘After I joined Newsline I adopted investigative journalism is my main forte. Each investigative story that I do, gives me the pleasure of coming closer to my goal: unravelling the intricacies of human society. Living away from home and facing professional challenges as they come, give me greater confidence to do something meaningful for both my community and society in general.’
Judges Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, Isabel Hilton of OpenDemocracy.net, Saira Shah, the author and broadcaster and author Peter Maass also highly commended Isabel Coello in the freelance category for her reporting on the many victims of obstetric fistula, ‘taking an ignored subject and pursuing it across Africa’.
IWPR is honoured to administer the Kurt Schork Awards.