The News staffer wins inaugural Kate Webb award -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

The News staffer wins inaugural Kate Webb award

HONG KONG: Pakistani journalist Mushtaq Yusufzai, who reports out of the restive tribal belt haven of al-Qaeda loyalists, has won the inaugural Kate Webb Award presented by Agence France-Presse (AFP), the agency announced Thursday.

Yusufzai, 32, started out in journalism as a health writer in ‘The News’, a major English-language daily in Pakistan for which he still works. He also blogs and reports for the United States’ NBC news out of his base in Peshawar.

His life changed however with the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, triggering the US-led toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that had been sheltering al-Qaeda. Since then he has reported on the extremist attacks, army offensives and shifting tribal politics.

Mushtaq Yusufzai, who has been wounded by the Taliban and arrested by security forces in pursuit of his stories, won the prize for in-depth reports, analyses and blogs shedding light on the complex region.

He said he planned to use the award bursary of 5,000 euros (nearly 8,000 dollars) offered by the AFP Foundation for an international investigation into reports that radical Islamic groups in the West are sending converts to the tribal zones.

“I am aware of the movement of Western people into our tribal areas for onward operations in Afghanistan against foreign forces deployed there,” he told AFP. “One of my biggest desires is to be able to trace who sends these people, who finances their trips from the West to our areas.”

AFP, in consultation with Kate Webb’s family, created the annual prize in memory of one of its finest foreign correspondents shortly after Webb’s death from cancer last May at the age of 64.

It is for a locally-engaged journalist, photographer or television reporter in the Asia-Pacific region who has produced exceptional work in dangerous or difficult circumstances, or who has demonstrated moral or physical courage in the course of their reporting.

The award is administered by the AFP Foundation, a non-profit organisation created to promote higher standards of journalism worldwide, and the work from the reporting assignment will be displayed on its website.

AFP Asia-Pacific Director Eric Wishart, who headed the panel of judges, said Yusufzai was a worthy first winner. “He has shown great courage in covering one of the most dangerous zones in the world for journalists,” he said.

“His stories reflect many facets of life in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and his work is truly in the Kate Webb spirit.”Yusufzai’s other big ambition is to visit the Guantanamo Bay facility where the United States holds some of its most prized “war on terror” detainees.

The inmates, said Yusufzai, “are a source of inspiration for young people here to train for suicide attacks against foreigners and those who collaborate with them.” Kate Webb’s brother and sister, Rachel Miller and Jeremy Webb, said they were delighted with the choice of Yusufzai for the award.

“His initiative and skill in reporting events in Afghanistan and Pakistan are qualities which would be dear to Kate’s heart,” they said. “We trust the award will assist Mushtaq Yusufzai pursue a highly successful career as a journalist.”

Webb, who covered the Vietnam War and spent most of her career in Asia, recognised the pivotal importance and courage of local journalists working for foreign news organisations in gathering news, often in difficult or dangerous circumstances.

The award drew a range of entries from across Asia, including a posthumous submission by the Japanese photo agency APF in memory of Kenji Nagai, a video journalist killed covering last September’s democracy protests in Myanmar. The award will be handed out at a ceremony at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong at a date to be announced in June.

Source: The News