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Amnesty magazine July/August 2000

Media Award 2000 winners

Amnesty International UK's ninth annual Media Awards 2000 was hosted by top civil rights lawyer Michael Mansfield QC at BAFTA, on 22 June. This year, a special new award was made - for an outstanding article in the written media anywhere in the world.

Print
Robert Fisk for his series of articles on NATO bombings in Yugoslavia for The Independent Shortlisted: Anton Antonowicz, The Boy Killers of Sierra Leone (The Mirror); Ann Treneman, After the slaughter, a nice retirement in South London (The Times).

Periodicals
Janine di Giovanni - The rape of Kosovo in the Times Magazine. Shortlisted: Robert Fisk, Convoy of the damned (The Independent on Sunday Review); Christine Toomey, The Child Sacrifice (The Sunday Times Magazine).

Photojournalism
Mike Moore - Child victims of war in The Mirror. Shortlisted: John Reardon, Faces of War (Life, The Observer Magazine); Tom Pilston, Kosovo: Liberation and retribution (The Weekend Review, The Independent).

Radio
BBC Radio 4: Broadcasting House - Zambia reported by Ishbel Matheson. Shortlisted: Emma Rippon, A Kosovo Homecoming (BBC News); John Waite, Strangers on the Shore (BBC Radio 4).

Television News
Sue Lloyd-Roberts for her report - Nepal: rape, abortion, prison for BBC Correspondent. Shortlisted: Fergal Keane, Rwanda Genocide (BBC News); Ian Williams, Aceh (Channel 4 News).

Television Documentary
Insight News Television, with Channel 4 Television - Out of Africa reported by Sorious Samura. Shortlisted: Careless Talk (Panorama, BBC News); Licence to Kill (Correspondent, BBC News).

Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat
Ignacio Gómez, special investigations editor of the Colombian newspaper El Espectador and Director of the Colombian Press Freedom Foundation. Ignacio Gómez was recently forced to flee his country after learning that his name was on a paramilitary death list.

Global Award for Human Rights Journalism
Palagummi Sainath for his article A Dalit goes to Court published in The Hindu newspaper. Sainath's article exposes the systematic discrimination against India's 160 million scheduled castes.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: 'These awards recognise the important role of the media in exposing violations, as well as telling the inspiring stories of people struggling against the odds to realise human rights.'

Judges this year were: Nick Clarke, presenter of BBC Radio 4's The World At One; Daljit Dhaliwal, presenter of ITN's World News; Mark Lattimer, communications director at Amnesty International UK; Francine Stock, novelist and presenter of BBC Radio 4's Front Row; Greg Whitmore, picture editor at The Observer; and Peter Wilby, editor of the New Statesman.

 

Courage and tenacity in Colombia

More than 30,000 civilians have died in the last two years in Colombia, in conflict between Colombian armed forces, their paramilitary allies, and left-wing armed opposition groups. Violence has intensified despite peace negotiations which began in 1998. No fewer than 89 journalists have been assassinated, according to the Inter-American Press Society.

Ignacio Gómez, who covered human rights issues for many years for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador, won the AI Special Award for Human Rights Journalism Under Threat.

Despite receiving death threats, his investigative journalism exposed complicity between Colombian armed forces and illegal paramilitary groups, and between multinational oil companies and human rights violations. His work on British Petroleum's activities in Colombia was published in the Guardian.

In February, Gómez published his latest investigation into the dangers of foreign military aid to Colombia. One month ago, a colleague on El Espectador, Jineth Bedoya, was abducted and tortured by paramilitaries. He was told of a lista negra, a death list of journalists. One name on the list was Ignacio Gómez. His life in imminent danger, he fled the country two weeks before receiving the AI award.

A haunting question

He is talking about what he did that day, about his job as a wood cutter, but you know instantly that there is more at stake. He repeats where he lives, who he knows, his voice quickens and he repeats his address again. As the camera pans back, and you see the soldiers moving lazily around him, his excuses become ever more desperate. He is pleading for his life.

'I am still haunted by this boy', says Sorious Samura, the Sierra Leonean cameraman who last year filmed the rebel incursion into Freetown and its aftermath. 'My camera has saved lives. But not this time.' It is impossible to watch the distressing film that records the casual slaughter of the woodcutter without asking questions about what the camera is doing there. 'Could I have done more to save him?' Samura asks.

After thousands of civilians were killed, and many others had their hands amputated, the West African peace-keeping force ECOMOG retook the capital from the RUF/AFRC rebels. Because he had filmed with them on the front line, the peace-keepers allowed Samura to carry on filming as they rounded up suspected rebels, subjected them to vicious beatings and, in many cases, summary execution.

'Sometimes just because I was there with my camera, they would not be so quick to condemn suspects to an immediate sentence of death.' As Samura films, one captured boy, falsely suspected of being a sniper, survives the wrath of the ECOMOG troops. Clips of that footage, widely broadcast on BBC news, elicited a huge reaction from viewers.

Samura's film, Out of Africa, won the TV documentary category of AI's Media Awards 2000. The unspoken assumption behind the awards is that reporting human rights violations helps to stop them. Sometimes there does appear to be a direct link between exposure and remedial action.

When the rebels invaded Freetown in 1999 several local journalists were shot or hacked to death. One carried on filming. When the rebels again threatened Freetown this April, Britain sent paratroopers to support the UN peacekeeping force and keep the capital safe. Which may not be entirely unrelated to the fact that senior members of the government - and millions of British viewers - had seen Sorious Samura's film.
- Mark Lattimer

A dalit goes to court

An outstanding piece by Palagummi Sainath (pictured) in The Hindu newspaper won a new international award - the AI Global Award for Human Rights Journalism, made for one article published in any written medium anywhere in the world.

His article, A dalit goes to court, laid bare the systematic discrimination against India's 160 million dalits or scheduled castes. It was one of a mammoth series of articles on dalit rights for which Sainath travelled to remote areas, covering over 80,000km and many cultures and dialects. Attacks on dalit and tribal communities are common in India - and often take place with the apparent connivance of police and local authorities.

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