Post reporter wins two awards in human rights press competition

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 March, 2009, 12:00am

A staff reporter from the South China Morning Post won two award plaques at the 13th Annual Human Rights Press Awards for stories written from Myanmar in the wake of Cyclone Nargis, beating competition from international newspapers and news agencies.

The two articles, 'Where paranoia costs lives' and 'The survivors' struggle', documented how the junta blocked aid to Myanmar, the aid that got through was channelled to the military, and the victims were forced from their homes.

'We had many entries on Myanmar,' said Fred Armentrout, president of the Hong Kong English-speaking branch of International PEN. 'But it was the quality of the articles that were in the South China Morning Post', he said, that secured the two awards. The reporter cannot be named for safety reasons.

In a ceremony that lauded the courage of reporters who highlighted human rights issues around the region, but bemoaned self-censorship and the low number of media organisations entering the competition, the Post secured the general news win for the English-language press and a merit certificate, and won a plaque for the cartoon section.

There were two winning plaques for general news in the awards organised by Amnesty International, the Foreign Correspondents' Club and Hong Kong Journalists Association, because both pieces merited the award, the judges said.

Post graphic artist Wilson Tsang won a certificate of merit for a cartoon 'Triumph and Adversity'; while the Post's regular cartoonist contributor, Harry Harrison, won the plaque for a body of work.

Sinopix photojournalist and Post contributor Richard Jones won two awards in the magazine section for articles published in the Sunday Morning Post's magazine.

In the Chinese-language awards, Apple Daily newspaper won in both the general news and newspaper feature categories. Winning subjects included industrial pollution on the mainland, the Sichuan earthquake, poverty in Hong Kong and protests.

One area conspicuous by its absence from the awards was the Tibetan protests a year ago.

But Paul Harris, writing for the Far Eastern Economic Review, won a certificate of merit in the commentary and analysis section for his piece 'Tibet's legal right to autonomy', which Mr Armentrout said it took Harris several attempts to get into print and was an 'informative and challenging review ... and has survived Hong Kong's slide into self-censorship'.

The awards ceremony, held at the FCC, marked two new departures in that it was now open to foreign correspondents in Asia, and journalists and photographers from Macau.

The FCC's Francis Moriarty called that 'a timely decision', in the wake of increased pressure on journalists, and a photographer from the Post being recently refused entry to the city.

Stanley Leung, honorary treasurer of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, complained that overall there were fewer entries, and fewer organisations entering, which made him question whether journalists were still focusing on human rights issues. There were 215 entries.