Winners of the 2008 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism
Anas Aremeyaw Anas (Ghana) - Local journalist category
Nicholas Schmidle (US) - Freelance category
The African and US journalist beat dozens of other reporters around the world with their entries selected by a panel of international judges.
The judges found Anas's expose of a complex cross-border human trafficking syndicate, “fearless and compelling” and a rich example of “journalism that has brought about real change for the better”. As a result of his undercover investigation, and his collaboration with law enforcement agencies, NGOs and other journalists, 17 Nigerian trafficking victims were rescued. Anas said, “This award is not about the money; it is about the prestige and more importantly how it has rejuvenated me to aspire higher and higher to serve humanity. The fact that somebody somewhere respects what we produce in our little corners here is enough motivation for me.” Anas won the award in the local journalist category.
Nicholas Schmidle picked up first place in the freelance journalist category for work ranging from tribal insurgency in a Pakistan province to the depth and breadth of Iranian influence in Western Afghanistan. The publication of his piece Next-Gen Taliban in the New York Times led the government to deport him and his wife from the country. The judges “particularly appreciated the way in which he disaggregated Muslim fundamentalism. His mix of detailed information with historical context gives you a wonderful sense of being there”.
Launched in 2001, The Schork Awards honour excellence and bravery in freelance reporting from areas of crisis and transition. They celebrate the life and work of Kurt Schork, the former freelance reporter who was killed eight years ago in Sierra Leone while on assignment for Reuters.
The awards are funded by the Kurt Schork Memorial Foundation and managed by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR). Next month will see both winners brought to London for an evening of celebration at the Frontline Club, presented by Allan Little of the BBC.
About the Winners
Anas Aremeyaw Anas - 2008 Winner, Local journalist category
Anas Aremeyaw Anas, an investigative reporter with an independent Ghanaian newspaper, was responsible for exposing two major trafficking rings in Accra during 2008. Working undercover for eight months, he revealed one ring's methods of transportation and the identities of immigration officials who were accepting bribes in return for overlooking fake visas and passports. Anas made recordings of his interactions, allowing him to produce evidence that could be used to prosecute the traffickers who were sending girls to Europe for prostitution. As a result of his undercover investigation, and his collaboration with law enforcement officials, NGOs and other journalists, 17 Nigerian trafficking victims were rescued. Following this success, Anas posed as a janitor in a brothel where he collected evidence of a second ring, trafficking children for prostitution. His efforts guided police in planning and executing a raid to rescue minors prostituted at the brothel.
Anas is currently Ghana’s journalist of the year and has a number of international awards to his credit including the Hero Award in Human Trafficking Presented by the US Department of State, Washington, 2008.
Story Background and Context
Human For Sale "Dons" Exposed
This cross-border investigative story unmasked a complex web of human trafficking in West African where young girls and in some cases children are sold into prostitution in Europe and America. The eight-month long investigative scoop finally led to the smashing of a trafficking syndicate in a sting operation led by this journalist. Seventeen girls who were about to be sold were flown back to their country to be reunited with their families. The investigation also caught on camera Ghanaian immigration security officials engaged in the sale of the girls, taking bribes of between 1000 to 1500 US dollars before allowing the traffickers to send them to Europe though Ghana’s international airport.
It was discovered in the investigation that Ghana had become the new headquarters of an African trafficking syndicate. When the story broke, the inspector-general of police called for the establishment of an anti-human trafficking unit within the Ghanaian police service. The story, originally published in the Crusading Guide, ended up being followed up by national newspapers, like the Daily Graphic and the Mirror, due to the sensitive nature of the issues raised. It must be noted that every single aspect of this story was captured by simple hidden camera by the reporter who went undercover disguising himself as one of the traffickers.
Nicholas Schmidle - 2008 Winner, Freelance journalist category
Nicholas Schmidle is a fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington, DC, He writes about culture, religion and politics in Asia, and he has reported from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Central Asia and Iran. His work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Slate, The New Republic, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Washington Post, Mother Jones and many others. Nicholas lived in Pakistan from February 2006 through January 2008, supported by a fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs. He speaks Persian and Urdu. Nicholas is currently writing a book about his experience in Pakistan, To Live or To Perish Forever, to be published by Henry Holt next year.
Story Background and Context
Waiting for the Worst, Democracy is Not a Postcard & Next-Gen Taliban
In 2006 and 2007, I spent 23 months living in Pakistan and working as a freelance journalist. The three pieces I am submitting for consideration for the 2008 Kurt Schork award reflect not only the diversity of subjects I covered during my time there, but also the extreme risks I took to give important, yet underreported, stories their justice in a long-form, feature venue. The first submission, Waiting for the Worst, was based on several weeks of reporting in Baluchistan, a province in Pakistan hit by tribal insurgency. Baluchistan covers nearly half of Pakistan’s territory, but the rebellion remains more or less unknown to the outside world.
The second submission, Democracy is Not a Postcard, featured reporting from a one-month reporting trip to Afghanistan in August of 2007. I went to Afghanistan with a question - and more specifically, a strip of territory - in mind: with all the focus on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, why weren’t people also reporting on the “other border”, the one shared with Iran? Iran exerted profound influence on western Afghanistan, both positive and negative. I divided my time there between hanging out with anti-American clerics, Afghan border patrol battalions, and businessmen at Herat’s chamber of commerce, all in order to better understand the dynamics and breadth of Iranian influence.
The third submission, Next-Gen Taliban, was the culmination of nearly two years of reporting about the Pakistani Taliban. To research this piece, I spent months running around the badlands along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and even entering a Taliban-run camp. The story created enough of an impact in Pakistan that the government deported me and my wife two days after it was published, on January 6. Within 48 hours, my wife and I were forced to pack all our belongings into suitcases, and hurry to the airport before the police arrested us - or worse.
IWPR is honoured to administer the Kurt Schork Awards.