KARACHI – The 3rd Lab Azad Award distribution ceremony was organized by the Centre for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) IBA, Karachi, in collaboration with the Centre for Communication Programs Pakistan, Palladium:Make it Possible and The Sukh Initiative – Aman Foundation at the Institute of Business Administration’s city campus.
Journalists from across Pakistan submitted their news stories that had been published between July 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018. The aim of this independent annual award is to recognize and promote rights-based reporting in Pakistan, especially on issues that affect the most ignored and marginalized factions of society. Awards were distributed to print and broadcast journalists who developed exceptional stories that brought to the fore some of the most imperative issues afflicting society.
An independent jury comprising of veteran journalists assessed the shortlisted submissions following a comprehensive criterion to select the winners. The panel of judges comprised of a correspondent in Southern Pakistan for Agence France Presse (AFP), Ashraf Khan, host of the current affairs program Crosscheck at Public TV, Owais Tohid for ‘Excellence in Reporting for TV and Radio’, editor of The News on Sunday, Farah Zia for ‘Excellence in Reporting for District Correspondents’, group editor of Daily Express, Ayaz Khan for ‘Excellence in Reporting for Urdu Newspapers and Online Content’ and deputy editor of the op-ed pages of The News, Zaibunissa Burki for ‘Excellence in Reporting for English Newspapers and Online Content’.
The stories were divided into three categories – child rights, health rights and women rights. These were then further divided into four awards for each category namely: ‘Excellence in Reporting for Urdu Newspaper and Urdu Online Content’, ‘Excellence in Reporting for English Newspaper and English Online Content’, ‘Excellence in Reporting for TV and Radio’ and ‘Excellence in Reporting for District Correspondents’.
In his welcome address, Director IBA-CEJ, Kamal Siddiqi said that the idea behind the award was to encourage good journalism and highlight distinction in reporting on social issues. “We all know that we can do much better and this is one way to recognize people doing good journalism,” he said. “These are challenging times and journalism is under threat,” he added.
Ghazi Salahuddin concurred with the Director CEJ that times were indeed challenging for the media. “Media shouldn’t be alone in its fight for freedom, rather the society should also support it as the media is the voice that protects the freedom of the society.”
The chief guest of the event was Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry. In his address, he said that his ministry is planning to table a bill in the National Assembly for the protection of journalists. The new legislation will be similar to the one enacted in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
He also spoke at length of the reforms he is trying to bring about at the ministry. “I am honored to be here, and I think this is a brilliant initiative,” he praised the CEJ’s efforts. He announced that the information ministry is trying to work on the development of a media technology school in Pakistan and the development of a Journalist Protection Act, similar to the legislation in KP.
He further added that he is working on providing health insurance to working journalists and is committed to safeguarding the interests of journalists in Pakistan. “The future is of ideas where only superior ideas will win and they can only be generated through constructive debate and dialogue,” he added.
Commenting on how crucial such initiatives are, Burki, one of the judges, said,
“It’s wonderful to see the sort of work our journalists men and women, seniors and those new to the field are continuing to do despite all the challenges they face. It was a pleasure to read so many stories that focused on human rights. This award becomes all the more important at a time when such stories don’t make it to prime-time TV and to our very overly political front pages.”
The winners of the awards are as follows:
Excellence in reporting for Urdu newspaper and online content
Health rights – Muhammad Atif Sheikh
Child Rights – Henna Saeed
Women Rights – Muhammad Atif Sheikh
Excellence in Reporting for TV and Radio
Health Rights – Henna Saeed
Child Rights – Rashida Sadiq Kiani
Women Rights – Saman Khan
Excellence in Reporting for District Correspondence
Health Rights – Mureeb Mohmand
Child Rights – Umar Bacha
Women Rights – Muhammad Yousaf
Excellence in Reporting for English Newspapers and English Online Content
Health Rights – Zofeen Ebrahim
Child Rights – Xari Jalil
Women Rights – Ghulam Dastageer and Muhammad Rizwan Safdar
The event was attended by media professionals from across the country, members of the academia, development sector and the corporate sector. Some of the prominent people present were Farhan Iqbal, Dr. Farrukh Iqbal, Afia Salam, Tasneem Mirza, Lubna Naqvi, Zubeida Mustafa, Azhar Abbas, Ahmed Iqbal Baloch, Sara Siddiqui.