United States Agency for Global Media

Burke Award Winners 2009

Serwa Abdel Wahed and Akram Alrubaiei, Middle East Broadcasting Networks

Ms. Wahed and Mr. Alrubaiei have shown great bravery and determination in their jobs as TV journalists in conflict zones. They have risked their lives to report on Iraqi events, demonstrating a professionalism, undaunted by difficult and dangerous conditions. Ms. Wahed and Mr. Alrubaiei’s reporting goes beyond the headlines to bring to life stories of human interest. Their reports are always stretching boundaries, both geographically and politically, to report on stories not covered on other Arabic-language networks, including coverage of the paralyzed life in 52 villages on the Iraqi-Turkish border during conflict there.

Luis Ramirez, Voice of America

Mr. Ramirez created a series of video and Web reports on the precarious journey of North Korean defectors while serving as the VOA Bangkok Bureau Chief.  He showed extraordinary courage and integrity as a journalist.  Luis secretly shot rare footage in a military zone in China and in North Korea.  He interviewed defectors and those who risked their lives to help them. Luis carefully documented the defectors’ journey as they risked being apprehended and sent back by the Chinese, jailed in Thailand, or forced into sexual slavery. Given the difficulty accessing these places and people, Mr. Ramirez’s compelling reports shone the media spotlight on an issue that has rarely been reported in such depth.

Tseten Dolkar, Radio Free Asia

Tseten Dolkar demonstrated outstanding reporting, dedication, and professionalism by building relationships in Tibet for over 12 years and reaching out to an extensive network of reliable sources when the uprising began.  She helped cover the earliest stories of Tibetan unrest and brought critical information to RFA’s Tibetan audiences. Even as the Chinese crackdowns began, sources became afraid to talk on the phone, and Chinese authorities banned reporters from entering Tibet, she still found ways to get the truth out.  Because of her work and those of other reporters in the RFA, people learned that Tibetan protests were peaceful, unlike how the Chinese government portrayed them.

Radio Marti News Department, Office of Cuba Broadcasting

The Radio Marti News Department dedicated a great deal of effort to tell the people of Cuba their own story, one that was denied to them by their government.  In covering the devastation of Hurricane Gustav and Ike, Radio Marti news staff sought to hear from Cubans directly about their lives and their struggle to survive.  Radio Marti created an opportunity for the media to build bridges with listeners, breaking the walls imposed by censorship, this was it. Radio Marti became the leading source of news for Cubans on Hurricane Gustav and Ike.  Thanks to the extensive network this group of reporters had established all over the island, Radio Marti provided information before government media and in greater detail.

Journalists in the Kabul Bureau of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Afghanistan is one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. In 2008, Radio Free Afghanistan reporters in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan received numerous threats not only to their lives but to the lives of their families as well.  Radio Free Afghanistan’s female reporters have been subjected to repeated threats by the Taliban, warlords, and other extremist groups. Simply by continuing to deliver the news to their fellow citizens, RFE/RL’s Afghan Service reporters demonstrate enormous courage every day.  They routinely report from the scenes of suicide bombings, and they conduct investigative reporting on issues such as narcotics, warlords and corruption.  They have made Radio Free Afghanistan the number one international broadcaster in Afghanistan at a time when, for security reasons, the BBC has completely stopped reporting from outside Kabul.