Canadian journalist Matthieu Aikins awarded Kurt Schork freelance journalist prize

by Kurt Schork Fund/Corrie Parsonson
Friday, 31 October 2014 18:55 GMT

Thomson Reuters Foundation/Shanshan Chen

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Kurt Schork awards were created in honour of American freelance journalist Kurt Schork, who was killed in 2000 while on assignment for Reuters in Sierra Leone

Photography: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Shanshan Chen

Matthieu Aikins, who won the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund's freelance journalist award of the year, disagrees with the notion that no story is worth dying for.

Accepting his award at Thomson Reuters' London office on Thursday, the Canadian said there are many stories worth taking risks for and that some, in a philosophical sense, would be worth dying for.

The awards, now in their 13th year, were created in honour of American freelance journalist Kurt Schork, who was killed in 2000 while on assignment for Reuters in Sierra Leone.

Every year, a winner is chosen in two categories: the first is for freelance journalists who travel to the world's news hotspots, often at great personal risk and little protection, to witness and report the impact and consequences of events. The second recognises the often unacknowledged work of local reporters in developing nations or countries in transition who write about events in their homeland.

Reuters News Manager Paul Ingrassia presented the awards to the winners - Aikins, Neha Dixit, who was named Local Reporter of the year and Priyanka Dubey who received a 'Special Recognition' award.

Dixit is a freelance investigative journalist based in New Delhi. Her hard-hitting stories on commercial sex exploitation, child marriage, female feticide and forced labour earned her a Trust Women Award from Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2013.

Dubey was commended for coverage of India's 'forgotten rapes', stories that brought public attention to the long wait for justice for Indian victims of violent sexual assault, despite national legal reforms.

Aikins won for his for outstanding investigations into the conduct of the United States military in Afghanistan published in Rolling Stone, Mother Jones and GQ.

Vice-President of the Kurt Schork Memorial Fund Stephen Jukes said their work "epitomises the courageous and tenacious reporting that Kurt Schork was renowned for".

Ingrassia, in his keynote speech, outlined Reuters' strategy for covering the Middle East, which he said puts journalists' safety and security first and foremost. "No story is worth dying for," he said.

He also said Reuters had made a very deliberate decision not to provide film or photographs of the horrific footage taken by Islamic State militants.

The second half of the awards' night was chaired by Christiane Amanpour CBE, host of the eponymous CNN 7:00 pm current affairs programme with panellists Stephen Sackur, host of the BBC's HARDTalk, Lindsey Hilsum, international editor at Channel 4 News and digital news expert Peter Bale.

The topic - "Driven to polar extremes: when journalists are forced to take sides – truth suffers" sparked a debate about impartial reporting and the importance of personal objectivity.

It also discussed the effects of social media and how well it has been martialled by Islamist extremists in northern Iraq and Syria.

"The West invented this technology and it's been turned against us," Bale said.

The annual event, the only one in the world to recognise and reward the work of freelance journalists and, crucially, that of the support work provided by local reporters, is hosted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.