Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
IWPR reporter Mina Habib receives her award from Afghan information and culture minister Sayed Makhdoom Raheen. (Photo: IWPR)
Afghan reporter Mina Habib has won a few awards in her time, but she never expected to get one from a government of which she is so often critical.
On October 15, however, she was handed first prize in the journalism category of a cultural and arts contest run by the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture.
The minister, Sayed Makhdoom Raheen, handed her a certificate noting that the prize was in recognition of an article entitled Afghan Constitution More Breached Than Honoured, published in February 2012.
Mina was gratified but surprised, as she had entered this particular piece for the contest in the full knowledge that it contained scathing criticism of government, parliament and the strongmen who hold so much power in Afghanistan .
One of the people she interviewed complained that “if powerful individuals or their relatives break the law, there is no one who can bring them to justice”.
Recognition made a change after the treatment Habib received from some officials while researching the article.
"Many sources were not prepared to give me an interview,” she recalled. “Some of them told me, in a fatherly, sympathetic kind of way, to steer clear of this kind of reporting, but I never allowed myself to be intimidated.”
Habib said she regarded the award as a prize for her colleagues at IWPR and in the wider journalistic community, particularly women.
"Honours are never won alone," she added.
Habib’s female colleagues offered generous praise.
"It really is a matter of pride for us that a girl like Mina is in the media family," Sohaila Kabir, a reporter with the state-run daily Eslah, said. “Mina's work undoubtedly deserved this recognition.”
Mary Nabard, deputy head of the Bakhtar news agency, added, "This prize is in fact an honour for all female media workers. I’m delighted.”
Nabard said telling the truth about wrongdoing by powerful individuals was not without risks, and only a handful of reporters were prepared to do so.
“The reports that Mina Habib produces really demand courage" she said.
She also noted the threats and intimidation that Habib had faced over her career, adding, “Sadly, I have to say that neither the information and culture ministry nor any of the other institutions set up to support journalists has done anything to help Mina or others."
According to Nabard, Habib’s report on the Afghan constitution came as a “shock” to those who systematically flouted the law.
"If the media join hands and strive to ensure the law is upheld, I am certain that one day this country will be governed by law, not by powerful individuals," she said.
Mina Habib and IWPR’s Afghanistan editor Hafizullah Gardesh both received awards for their journalism in May. (See IWPR Journalists Recognised at Afghan Awards Ceremony.)
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