The United States Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) Board of Governors awarded journalists and staff from each of its five networks yesterday with the David Burke Distinguished Journalism Awards. The awards recognize courage, excellence and professionalism in journalism and are given every year to USAGM journalists who demonstrate a commitment to providing accurate news and information that goes above and beyond.
Board Chairman Kenneth Weinstein, Board member Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director Grant K. Turner presented the awards at USAGM’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“These awards honor people who take risks; these awards require not just hard work, but real courage,” said Keynote Speaker and CBS News Correspondent Chip Reid. “These are not just journalists; these are heroes.”
The winners represented each of USAGM’s five networks— Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN)—and contributed to work that reached audiences in Cuba, Afghanistan, western China, the Turkey-Syria border, and throughout the Middle East.
VOA recognized its Kurdish Service Qamishli-based reporter Faheem Omer, who uses the professional name Zana Omar, for his bravery and journalistic integrity in ongoing coverage of the war in Syria and other geo-political stories in the region. Faheem’s reporting in 2018 centered on the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces’ operation to oust ISIS from eastern Syria.
RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, locally known as Radio Azadi, was honored for its comprehensive reporting and unwavering commitment to journalism despite suffering the tragic loss of three colleagues in a deadly suicide blast that targeted journalists in Kabul in April 2018.
OCB lauded award-winning documentarian and former Miami Herald columnist Joe Cardona for producing and hosting Arcoiris (Rainbow), the first and only program in Radio Martí’s history to address LGBTQ+ issues on the island. Arcoiris, which premiered in July 2018, provides the LGBTQ+ community in Cuba a platform for expression and a connection point with similar communities in the United States and around the world.
RFA’s Uyghur Service was celebrated for its dedication and commitment to reporting the truth about human rights atrocities being committed against Uyghurs and other ethnic minority Muslims in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). Many of the staff, if not all, have China-based relatives detained in internment camps and, in at least six cases, they were mistreated in retribution for their family members’ work at RFA.
MBN’s Creative Services Team, led by Fadi Izzidin, was commended for their innovative, resourceful and impactful contributions to the successful relaunch of Alhurra Television. The team transformed productions, using leading-edge technology, to present pan-Arab audiences with contemporary, visually-engaging content.
“I firmly believe the work our journalists do every day makes the world a safer place,” said Ambassador Ryan Crocker. “The sacrifices these journalists have made to report the news day in and day out increases our debt of gratitude—thank you for your service.”
“Every year, we gather to recognize these amazing men and women, and every year, I leave more and more inspired,” said Chairman Weinstein.