ICFJ, 22 May 2012 – A Kenyan journalist investigating the Somali pirates and an Afghan broadcaster exposing violence against women will receive the 2012 Knight International Journalism Awards, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) announced. The award recognizes excellent reporting that makes a difference in the lives of people around the world. Kassim Mohamed is an investigative reporter covering Kenya and Somalia, a nation plagued by lawlessness and piracy. He has chronicled the ensuing chaos in great detail—and at great personal risk —for the Nairobi-based Star FM radio station and The Star newspaper.
His in-depth interviews with Somali pirates have shed light on a lucrative industry that endangers international sea routes. During one investigation, the pirates took him hostage. After they freed him, he wrote a groundbreaking story on the struggles of the pirates’ wives. He has received death threats.
A Kenyan of the Somali ethnic community, Mohamed covered the beleaguered Somali refugees living in Nairobi. He wrote about gangs that terrorized a Somali neighborhood in Nairobi as the police apparently looked the other way. After the story appeared, the police arrested 65 gang members.
Afghan broadcaster Sami Mahdi has revolutionized Afghanistan’s media landscape. In a country where the Taliban once starved people of information, Mahdi is one of the most reliable sources of news. More than that, he has engaged Afghans in a way no other newscaster has.
As the director of news and current affairs at 1TV, Afghanistan’s fastest-growing independent news station, he has pioneered programs such as “Kabul Debate Live,” a televised town hall meeting. In this show, he invites political leaders to appear before a live audience. For the first time, citizens can ask questions about critical issues, while viewers can phone or text in their concerns. It is one of the few ways Afghans can demand accountability from those in power.
Mahdi is unafraid to take on taboo subjects. In an effort to stop violence against women, he launched the show “Niqab” (Mask). Afghan women, hiding behind a mask, talk to a live audience about rape and domestic violence. The masks encourage women to speak without fear of reprisals.
The winners of this year’s award, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will be honored at ICFJ’s Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13. “These fearless journalists expose abuses despite the risk of violence from Somali pirates and the Taliban,” says ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “As a result, they have changed minds—and policies.”
Seasoned journalists and Knight International Journalism Fellows nominated the candidates. They include:
- Elizabeth Ballantine, ICFJ director and director, The McClatchy Company;
- Jacqueline Barnathan, executive editor, CBS Newspath;
- Christopher Isham, vice president and Washington bureau chief, CBS News;
- Rob Doherty, U.S. general manager, Thomson Reuters;
- Doug Mitchell, consultant and project manager, National Public Radio and former Knight International Journalism Fellow;
- Rob Rehg, ICFJ director and president, Edelman, Washington;
- Andrew Stephen, British journalist;
- Susan Talalay, ICFJ advisory board member and former director, Knight International Journalism Fellowships;
- and ICFJ’s Barnathan.
The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition. For 27 years, ICFJ has worked directly with more than 70,000 journalists from 180 countries.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. More at www.knightfoundation.org.