Kabul, May 24, 2012
Afghan broadcaster exposing violence against women will receive the 2012 Knight International Journalism Award, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) announced.
The award recognizes excellent reporting that makes a difference in the lives of people around the world.
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.
Kassim Mohammad an investigative from Kenya will also receive the 2012 Knight International Journalism Awards.
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.
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.”