Winners of the 2009 Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism


Maqbool Ahmed
(Pakistan) - Local journalist category


Manon Quérouil
(France) and Nir Rosen (US) - Freelance category (jointly)


This year’s jury selected three outstanding candidates whose fearlessness and journalistic excellence represent the overall mission of the Kurt Schork Awards for International Journalism.

The 2009 Kurt Schork Awards for International Journalism will honour freelancers Manon Quérouil (France) and Nir Rosen (US) jointly, and local reporter Maqbool Ahmed (Pakistan). The awards ceremony at Thomson Reuters headquarters, Canary Wharf on Thursday 12th November will be followed by a reception and panel discussion.

This year’s Schork jury included John Burns of The New York Times, Mark Danner of The New York Review of Books, Isabel Hilton of China Dialogue and Aung Zaw of the Southeast Asia publishing group Irrawaddy.

The jury enjoyed Manon Quérouil‘s terrific variety of subject matter and lovely reporting style which marries attention to detail with sensitivity. They commented that her piece on a female Colombian serial-killer and another titled Pirates of Somalia were particularly courageous.

The jury was impressed by the outstanding quality and level of detail of Nir Rosen's reporting, which they said was remarkable, intrepid and very well executed. The Gazni piece is unusual, personal and demonstrates a readiness to take risks.

Maqbool Ahmed’s on-the-ground piece from Swat was extremely well reported and fearless. The jury commented on Ahmed’s strong ability to go beyond the broad arc of the story and give a sense of what it is like to be there including sensitivity to the people and their fears. They hailed his longterm dedication to covering the Swat conflict.

A special commendation was given to local reporter Reji Joseph (India) for his splendid ongoing and important work, which is both encouraging and not without risk in the communist state of Kerala.


About the Winners

Maqbool Ahmed - 2009 Winner, Local journalist category


Maqbool Ahmed

Maqbool Ahmed

Biography

Born in Karachi October 1969, Maqbool Ahmed entered journalism as a trainee subeditor at Pakistan Press International (PPI) newswire in 1988. Spurred by its exciting prospects, he later switched to reporting in 1992 before joining the prestigious English-language daily The News in 1995 where he covered political proceedings and legal cases at the higher judiciary. When progressive journalist Najam Sethi launched Daily Times from Lahore in 2001, Ahmed was part of the launch team at its Karachi Bureau. In 2006 he joined monthly current affairs magazine Herald where his report “The Invisible Displaced”, on the plight and ordeal of people displaced from Balochistan, was recognised by the Islamabad office of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Winning Stories

Inside Swat (extract) - published in The Herald, November 2008

The battle between the Pakistani security forces and militants in the once serene and beautiful Swat Valley rages on more than a year after it first began. Ironically, the area’s civilians are suffering the most as a war aimed at their own safety continues to be waged around them and the government is making no obvious effort – even as a key battle tactic – to win the hearts and minds of the locals. This may turn out to be its worst and gravest mistake. The problems that Swat’s civilian population is facing as a result of military actions are of broadly two types. Like Pakistani citizens in many areas of the country today, their daily lives and economic wellbeing are disrupted by inconveniences such as decreasing availability of basic utilities and restrictions on movement due to security measures. In Swat these problems have become particularly burdensome because of heightened security concerns and the destruction of infrastructure in the ongoing violence. More importantly, however, military action is endangering and taking the lives of civilians instead of militants. With the odds stacked against their own survival, it should come as no surprise that the valley’s residents consider themselves to be pawns rather than stakeholders in this ‘war on terror’.


Manon Quérouil
- 2009 Winner, Freelance journalist category


Manon Quérouil

Manon Quérouil

Biography

Manon Quérouil, 29, graduated from the Oriental Languages Institute in Persian language and civilisation. Specialised in Middle East and gender issues, Manon has been working on numerous stories over the past few years in Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Colombia, Guatemala and Kosovo among others. She has lived in both Iran and Afghanistan. She has been widely published in the French Marie Claire, the Figaro Magazine and in other European magazines. Her latest work on rebels in Niger Delta was published in Paris Match. She is currently writing a book on the life of an Afghan policewoman to be published in April 2010.


Winning Stories

Colombia - Occupation: Contract Killer (extract) - published in Marie Claire, April 2009

Murderer at 12, mother at 13, killed off at 18: the Icarian destiny of Monica Rodriguez, a street urchin who grew up plum in the middle of the gang wars of Medellin, seems like a story right out of a movie plot. A sort of Colombian Nikita who, in a documentary shot a few months before her death, recognized with undisguised pride that her life would be the stuff of a “super-movie”. Her gaze straight and steady in front of the camera, the young women confided details of her sordid childhood in a harsh voice, those years of sleeping during the day “to suppress hunger pangs” and beg away the evenings in bars to eke out “at least enough money to buy a few eggs”. Monica grew up with “anger in her heart”, did drugs and was in and out of prison for theft and acts of violence, until she committed her first murder, a neighborhood rival, whom she pummelled squarely in the chest. “I’ve never refused to fight,” she threw at the camera with a challenging air, running her finger down the long scar on her cheek, a burning souvenir from a fierce encounter. Standing beside her in the video, the father of her two children, whom she met in the detention centre, and himself killer some years later, confirmed, half-admiring, half-resigned, “Monica knows no limits and respects nobody.” And he predicted in a weary tone, “It will cost her life…”


Nir Rosen
- 2009 Winner, Freelance journalist category


Nir Rosen

Nir Rosen

Biography

Nir Rosen is a freelance journalist from New York and is based in Beirut with his wife and son. He is a Fellow at the New York University Center on Law and Security. Nir moved to Iraq in 2003 and covered the early years of the invasion. He has also reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Yemen, Turkey and Egypt. Nir has filmed for documentaries and consulted for humanitarian organisations.

 


Winning Stories

How We Lost the War We Won (extract) - published in Rolling Stone, October 30, 2008

Arriving at another mosque, we find a dozen men inside. A large shoulder-fired missile is on the floor, an anti-armor weapon. Shafiq tells me we are waiting to meet the commander who will approve my trip.

This is news to me. I thought my trip had already been approved by the Taliban defense minister. Suddenly, as I am talking to one of the fighters, the angry man on the motorcycle bursts in holding a walkie-talkie. He barks at the fighter to stop talking to me until the men's commander shows up. A judge, he says, will decide what will happen to me. Upon hearing the Pashtu word qazi, I start to panic. As Shafiq made clear earlier, a meeting with a judge could end with decapitation.

I have been held by militias in both Iraq and Lebanon, but in those situations I could speak the language and talk my way out of trouble. Now I am in one of the most desolate places I have ever seen, far from any help and unable to speak more than a few garbled words of Pashtu. Trying to contain my mounting sense of helplessness, I tell Shafiq that I am not leaving him - I am his guest. Once I am out of his control, I will be at the mercy of men who kill almost as routinely as they pray. Brandishing their rifles, the men shout at me to get into their car.


IWPR is honoured to administer the Kurt Schork Awards.