Reporters share Gellhorn prize
by: Caitlin Fitzsimmons
Monday May 19 2008
Read full article at original posting here
Two freelance journalists have jointly won this year’s Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism for their reports from the Middle East.
The prize is to be shared by the American Dahr Jamail for his work as an unembedded journalist in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria; and the Palestinian Mohammed Omer for dispatches from his native Gaza. Both journalists work without the backing of news organisations.
Jamail and Omer will share the total prize money of £5,000, to be presented at an award ceremony at the Bafta HQ in central London on June 16.
The judges include three journalists – Pilger, James Fox and Jeremy Harding, himself a former Martha Gellhorn prize winner. The other judges are Gellhorn’s stepson Professor Alexander Matthews, her close friend Cynthia Kee, and travel writer John Hatt.
Pilger said the judges all knew Gellhorn well and this informed how they ran the prize.
“When we sit down to judge it, we try to think how Martha would judge it,” he added. “We know her work intimately, we know her journalism and her books. That’s why when we consider the prize winner, we consider they should have reported unpalatable truths substantiated by powerful facts.”
Jamail reported on the conflict in the Middle East from “the ground up” and the judges called his exposé of the siege of Fallujah in Iraq “a beacon of modern war reporting”.
Omer was honoured as “literally the voice of the voiceless” and his dispatches were described as a “humane record of the injustice imposed on a community forgotten by much of the world”.
Gellhorn reported from almost every major conflict during a 60-year career and was renowned for exposing government propaganda. She died in 1998, aged 89, and the prize was established in her honour. Although Gellhorn was American, she spent most of her working life after the second world war based in Britain.
This is the first year journalists working for publications outside the UK have been eligible for the Martha Gellhorn prize and the judges also expanded the entry criteria to include credible websites.
The award has been won by a foreigner before, but until this year the work had to be published in the UK. The Iraqi writer and photographer, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, won the award in 2006 when reporting for the Guardian.
Last year the prize was also shared, with Hala Jaber of the Sunday Times honoured for her reporting from Iraq and Lebanon; and Michael Tierney of the Glasgow Herald for his work in Dubai.