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IWPR Iraq Journalists Honoured

  • Sahar al-Haideri honoured in the 2008 Amnesty International Awards.
    Sahar al-Haideri honoured in the 2008 Amnesty International Awards.
  • Winners of the Henri Nannen awards with Angela Merkel Chancellor of Germany.
    Winners of the Henri Nannen awards with Angela Merkel Chancellor of Germany.
  • Zaineb Naji giving the acceptance speech.
    Zaineb Naji giving the acceptance speech.

In June, Iraqi journalist and former IWPR trainee Sahar al-Haideri, who was murdered by gunmen in her home town of Mosul on June 7, 2007, was honoured in the Amnesty International Media Awards 2008.

Haideri’s story, “Honour Killing” Sparks Fears of New Iraqi Conflict – about the brutal murder of a Yezidi woman in the town of Bashika, which was published by IWPR in 2007, won the New Media category.

On April 7, a mob stoned the 17-year-old to death as bystanders applauded and filmed the assault on their mobile phones. The girl’s only “crime” had been to fall in love with a Muslim boy.

Haideri’s investigative report into the honour killing of Duaa Khalil Aswad was one of a series she wrote exposing violence against women in the region. Widely republished in Iraqi Kurdistan, this piece prompted a debate about honour killings.

The Amnesty awards ceremony took place on June 17 in Lawrence Hall, London. Also shortlisted in the New Media category were BBC News Online for its coverage of Buddhist monks’ demonstrations against the Burmese military junta and The Guardian online for its reports on Tibetan protests against Beijing's rule.

Haideri was killed after receiving 15 death threats as a result of her work which highlighted the influence of religious extremists, especially in curbing women’s rights. Ansar al-Islam claimed responsibility for her murder.

In May, IWPR’s Iraq journalists won a prestigious German journalism award.

Regular IWPR contributor Zaineb Naji travelled to Hamburg on May 9 to receive the Press Freedom award category of the Henri-Nannen prize on behalf of all of IWPR’s Iraqi journalists.

Naji, who was trained by IWPR in Sulaimaniyah in northern Iraq, was selected to represent the organisation due to her commitment to press freedom.

“This is the first time I have stood on stage as a journalist,” she told 1,200 guests at the ceremony for the prize – which is the most prestigious journalism award in Germany.

In her acceptance speech, she underlined the difficulties of reporting from the country which has been named repeatedly as the most dangerous place for journalists in the world.

“Iraqi journalism has almost become a secret profession. Usually, we Iraqi reporters avoid publicity because too much publicity can cost you your life,” said Naji.

The Henri Nannen awards are regarded as the German equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, and are the highest national honour for print journalism.

The event was attended by 1,200 high-ranking figures from the world of politics, culture, economy and the media, among them German chancellor Angela Merkel who personally congratulated Naji.

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