McClatchy’s Baghdad Bureau | 2007 Courage in Journalism Award


McClatchy, Iraq.

Since the war began in 2003, Iraq has become the deadliest country in the world for journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 100 journalists have been killed, approximately 80 percent of whom were Iraqi journalists. The conflict is the bloodiest for journalists since World War II.

Constantly under duress, the McClatchy reporters have dodged gun battles and tiptoed around car bombs just to do their jobs. They’ve been targeted for their work. They’ve lost family members and friends. Their homes have been destroyed.

Shatha al Awsy – Awsy has narrowly missed homemade bombs and has avoided gun battles and car bombs, all the while managing tough interviews with government officials and members of parliament. Once, when more than 40 families were killed at an illegal checkpoint, she reported even as she mourned. Because of ongoing threats and the perpetual fear that someone would find out what she did for a living and have her killed, she was forced to destroy all documents that indicated her identity and leave Iraq.

Zaineb Obeid – A single mother of two, Obeid nearly died when a bomb-laden vehicle detonated near her on her way to work. She was thrown into the air and temporarily lost her hearing. She returned to work only days later.

Huda Ahmed – Often sleeping in the office to cover late-breaking news after curfew, Ahmed would awaken each day only to start all over again. She covered the battle in Najaf in 2004 and compiled eyewitness accounts of a bombing in Musayyib before she allowed herself to grieve over violence sure to continue. Ahmed is the 2006-07 IWMF Elizabeth Neuffer Fellow.

Ban Adil Sarhan – Though she had no previous journalism training, Sarhan doggedly reported, even up to days before the birth of her son. In 2004, insurgents gunned down her husband, daughter and mother-in-law, and Ban continued to receive threats on her own life. She narrowly escaped from Baghdad and now lives in Oklahoma with her son.

Alaa Majeed – Bold and unconventional in reporting, Majeed has found and led others to extraordinary stories and embraced journalism as a means to help her country. She proved adept at understanding politics and was unafraid to pursue tough stories about the government, even in a time of turmoil.

Sahar Issa – An ambitious reporter, Issa tells tales of grief and destruction, even though they’ve struck all too close to home. Her eldest son was caught in a crossfire in late 2005; he was shot and killed instantly. Issa has also faced going to the morgue to claim the body of a nephew who was killed in a market bombing. She found his body in two pieces. Issa continues to report from McClatchy’s Baghdad bureau.
“It’s because I’m tired of being branded a terrorist: tired that a human life lost in my country is no loss at all.”, she said in the acceptance speech for the Courage in Journalism Award. “It is our responsibility to do our utmost to acquire the answers, to dig them up with our bare hands if we must.”

McClatchy’s Baghdad bureau are the first Courage in Journalism Award winners from Iraq.

Click here to read a blog the reporters at McClatchy’s Baghdad bureau contribute to.

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