Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

IWPR Journalists Recognised at Afghan Awards Ceremony

Enforced postponement of event underlines just how dangerous the environment is for reporters.
By IWPR Afghanistan
  • Hafizullah Gardesh receives his award from SAFMA mission head Zia Bomia. (Photo: IWPR)
    Hafizullah Gardesh receives his award from SAFMA mission head Zia Bomia. (Photo: IWPR)
  • Mina Habib (second from left) at the awards ceremony. (Photo: IWPR)
    Mina Habib (second from left) at the awards ceremony. (Photo: IWPR)

IWPR’s longstanding editor Hafizullah Gardesh and newer reporter Mina Habib have been lauded for their contributions to Afghan journalism at an awards ceremony in Kabul.

Gardesh won first prize as Outstanding Journalist of the Decade and Habib was among three female journalists given special awards by the South Asian Free Media Association, SAFMA.

Only two weeks earlier, Habib had been awarded a prize for her courage as a woman journalist by the Journalists’ Council of Afghanistan.

The awards ceremony for 15 local journalists, hosted by the Canadian embassy in Kabul, was supposed to have been held on May 3 – International Freedom of Speech Day – but a wave of suicide attacks in the capital and other cities meant it had to be postponed until May 17.

Canadian chargé d’affaires Shelley Whiting noted the enforced delay in her speech at the awards ceremony.

“Afghan reporters try to publish the realities under difficult security conditions,. and we support them,” she added.

SAFMA’s head in Afghanistan, Zia Bomia, said that as well as celebrating the work of those present, the event was also an opportunity to remember those who had lost their lives in defence of free speech.

“The government’s biggest achievement since the collapse of the Taleban regime is freedom of speech and of the media,” he said. “We must not lose this precious thing, even if it costs us in blood.”

On the awards to Gardesh and Habib, he said, “IWPR’s website serves as a good guide for many media outlets, but the efforts of its staff have to date been overlooked.”

Hafizullah Gardesh has played a leading role in IWPR’s editorial output ever since the organisation set up an office in Kabul in 2002. As well as commissioning and shaping stories, he trains up-and-coming reporters in how to find credible sources and build up a balanced, solid article.

He expressed surprise at being recognised, as in his view, “connections generally outweigh competence in Afghanistan”.

Bomia said, “I have witnessed Hafizullah Gardesh’s hard work over the last ten years. But unfortunately that hard work has so far been hidden from many eyes. I feel relieved to have discharged an obligation to recognise his efforts through the award of this prize.”

Graduating in journalism 2007, Mina Habib is a newer IWPR recruit who has already proved her determination to track down the truth for difficult stories.

“I’ve received many letters of appreciation, but this prize is special for me, because SAFMA has made an effort to reward deserving individuals,” she said.

IWPR Country Director Noorrahman Rahmani noted that Afghan journalists faced danger on all sides.

“Being a journalist is the most difficult job in Afghanistan. We have lost some great colleagues over the past decade, while others have been forced to leave the country after coming under pressure from government and from others,” he said.