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Annual Rory Peck Awards

Aired November 21, 2008 - 20:30:00   ET


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, HOST: Hello, I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. And welcome to this special edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS, which this week is coming to you from London's Science Bank, where the annual Rory Peck Awards has just been held.
Now the Rory Peck Awards are an event which recognizes the work of freelance news gatherers from around the world. We'll be speaking to the winners and the finalists about their projects that showcase stories from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and Myanmar.

Well, first up, the piece that won the Rory Peck Award for features, it was shot by Tim Hetherington in Afghanistan. Let's have a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's all right.

TIM HETHERINGTON, WINNNER, FEATURES AWARD: It was a really awful sight. Very hard sight to digest where men were in such a state of shock. You know, I think I was in a state of shock, too.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two friends, Sergeant Rugle (ph) on the left, Sergeant Rice on the right had both been shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing we can do, bro.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing we can do. (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Commanders moved quickly to get their men back into the battle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to push back, too. We got not enough company.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on. Pull it together, man.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not your fault.


SWEENEY: Tim Hetherington, first of all as a freelancer, I mean, is it easy to get pieces like this commissioned?

HETHERINGTON: I think the commissioning of this was very particular because I'm a contributing photographer for "Vanity Fair" magazine and was working as well for ABC. So it was funded primarily by "Vanity Fair" and then by ABC. And it's an interesting way that the piece was commissioned because they allowed us over there for over a - we worked last year coming and going.

SWEENEY: But when you went into Afghanistan to shoot this piece, did you know you were going to get up as close and personal?

HETHERINGTON: No, I thought I was going to get up for a walk and meet some elders in case you get shot at. I was not expecting the amount of combat that was going on in Congo Valley, where last year, it accounted for 18 percent of all fighting in Afghanistan.

SWEENEY: What is the next project? Do you want to go back and see that kind of violence again or that same situation again? Or how - where's the next step in the story for you?

HETHERINGTON: We're actually making a feature length documentary. I'm interested in this group of soldiers and showing the nuances of what people go through when they experience war. They prosecute a war. At the end of the day, the war is being, you know, proclaimed by kind of in parliament or in Congress, but it's actually been prosecuted by young men between the ages of 18 and 23.

I'm interested in that. And hopefully in the feature length film we're making, we'll, you know, examine that in more detail.

SWEENEY: In general, I guess, the freelance - the contribution of freelancers to news, what do - does the freelance element bring to the news industry?

HETHERINGTON: I think the freelancers bring originality and creativity that's in the kind of formatted news doesn't exist. And therefore, a very important part of the news, you know, product, but it's not like they're in opposition to the organizations.

SWEENEY: Grenadier is fighting in Halmond about the experience of British soldiers in Afghanistan last summer was made by this man Vaughan Smith. Before we talk to him, let's have a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who is the bloke being carried across the river?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the commander of the (INAUDIBLE) across. Luckily, he was only a little (INAUDIBLE).




SWEENEY: Vaughan Smith, what prompted you to make this documentary?

VAUGHAN SMITH, FINALIST, FEATURES AWARD: I felt very strongly at the time, this was 14 months ago, that the British public were failing to take ownership of the war in Afghanistan. And in Britain, we were against the war in Iraq mainly. And it hasn't been popular. And the manner in which it's being conducted hasn't been popular.

But I didn't think it was right not to pay attention and take note of the casualties, the British casualties, and also to take note of the fact that we were engaged in a war that was killing other people. And they're just - there was particular public disinterest. And I wanted to go out there and just show the soldiers in a way that people could appreciate that they were - they could have been their neighbor.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) because of mama sees this DVD, she'll kill me.


SWEENEY: When you spoke tonight at the award ceremony, you talk a lot about the role of freelance journalists. Do you truly believe that they are not recognized enough by the industry as a whole?

SMITH: I don't just believe it, I know it. What, you know, when do you ever see a credit for a freelancer, apart from the Rory Peck Trust? You don't. I mean, we're the hidden people. We're the people in the background doing a lot of the work that aren't seen.

SWEENEY: Sometimes they have to be hidden.

SMITH: Why? Well, yes, some are - of course, look, some of them. There are fixers who will be in danger. But it's hardly a majority. It's hardly excuse for not acknowledging that the huge amount of the independents exit (INAUDIBLE).

I mean, when I started in journalism, and I started with Rory Peck, and this award is named after Rory Peck, I hoped with Rory to create agencies that were modeled on the photojournalists agencies. You don't see a photograph without the name of the person who took it in news. You'll see video masked somehow as being half a broadcaster. And you will never see the name of the person who did that.

And I know there's a limit to what one can do to fix it, but we should try a bit harder.

SWEENEY: This is Rodrigo Vasquez. He is the producer of "Insight Hamas," which was a documentary - a feature documentary which was one of the finalists here at the Rory Peck Awards. Let's have a look at a clip about life in Gaza. Some viewers might find the following clip disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trouble starts. Shots are fired. Reinforcements arrive. The Hamas government's new frontline troops, the executive force, are now pitched against the Palestinian people.



SWEENEY: Rodrigo Vasquez, how difficult is it to operate as an independent journalist in Gaza?

RODRIGO VASQUEZ, FINALIST, FEATURES AWARD: It's quite difficult, especially they're trying to sell the story from inside Hamas because Hamas is not an organization that is used to allowing journalists into it, you know.

So it was quite tricky. But because I'd made a film before that they really liked, and they were sort of showing every time they could, I had, you know, the possibility of doing it.

SWEENEY: Is it more difficult or less difficult being a freelance trying to get inside Hamas than it might be with an established network?

VAZQUEZ: In terms of Hamas, it's easier to be an independent, because the Western media traditionally has a bias against groups, political groups that are not part of its world. So they have trouble understanding Islamic fighters, Islamic groups, as much as they have trouble in understanding South American left wing movements.

So it's better if you're an independent, because they'll trust that you will tell the story as it is, rather than, you know, make a piece of propaganda with it.

SWEENEY: These awards bear the name of Rory Peck, a freelance cameraman who was killed in crossfire while covering a coup in Moscow in 1993. When we come back, more winners, more finalists.


TIME STAMP: 0041:44

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Rory Peck Trust established in 1995 is a registered charity with an ongoing commitment to the welfare and safety of freelance news gatherers. The trust subsidizes training in hostile environments, provides direct practical support to freelancers in need, and to the families of those killed, injured, or suffering persecution during the course of their work.

SWEENEY: Welcome back to this special edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. This week, we're looking at the work of freelance news gatherers and talking to the winners and finalists of the annual Rory Peck Award.

Abdullah Farah Duguf was the winner of the Rory Peck News Award for his piece "Two Weeks in Mogadishu.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And even after the bombs go off, it's never safe. But instead of a coalition and a green zone, there's nothing here to shield the people from the violence. Insurgents with automatic weapons are taking on an Ethiopian tank.


SWEENEY: As we know, Mogadishu is just extremely dangerous for journalists. How difficult was it to film this particular sequence of events in two weeks?

ABDULLAH FARAH DUGUF, WINNER, NEWS AWARD: I was - -filming in Mogadishu, most dangerous place for camera man. As a camera man, I have never experienced. It's quite difficult because since you - if you try to get some pictures, you must create some enemies who wasn't happy what you are doing there. So (INAUDIBLE) in my life.

SWEENEY: I mean, for someone watching "Two Weeks in Mogadishu," your piece, do you, who offered this, realize the dangers that you face consistently?

DUGUF: Definitely, yes. Definitely, yes. (INAUDIBLE) work as a journalist in Mogadishu won now. And the situation was getting worse day by day.

SWEENEY: What does winning an award do for the recognition of the world of journalists in Somalia or does it do anything?

DUGUF: Yes. As camera man, saw my pictures watching 200 journalists here in Rory Peck Award, I'm so happy. And it makes me feel different.

SWEENEY: Well, I'm now with a finalist, Clifford Derrick. And he was a finalist in the news category of the Rory Peck Awards. Let's have a look at his entry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you're seeing now is Kilbera from within. Tear gas fired into a house. Another charge, more automatic gunfire. And take a look at these people. What's their part in all of this? The demonstrators went down the hill, this woman says. They're all distraught, frightened.


SWEENEY: First of all, what prompted you to go to Kilbera to shoot?

CLIFFORD DERRICK, FINALIST, NEWS AWARD: It was series and sequences of frustration that I saw happening in Kenya during that time, you know. It was really hard to believe that election was being stolen. And the media were doing nothing.

SWEENEY: What impact did choosing the violent so up close and personal have on you?

DERRICK: Yes, it's given me a very bad feeling about how the government was actually frustrating its own people instead of protecting them.

SWEENEY: What does it mean for you now to have been a finalist at the Rory Peck Awards?

DERRICK: I feel very honored and very encouraged to continue working hard, to ensure that we fight for the rights of the people, and that we give the voice to the voiceless. And it has just given me an oomph to keep on working hard.

SWEENEY: "Down the Irawadi (ph) Delta" by Subina Shrestha was one the finalists for the Rory Peck News Award. Let's have a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The river stretched into the sea. There used to be 20 villages along this river. As we looked onto what appeared to be a wasteland. The boat man explained that only ghosts live here. Everyone was dead. The cyclone had razed everything to the ground.


SWEENEY: That was a fantastic piece of journalism. I mean, you went into the country to do a completely different story?

SUBINA SHRESTHA, FINALIST, NEWS AWARD: Yes, it was a story on referendum. And the cyclone just happened to happen, so ended up doing these (INAUDIBLE).

SWEENEY: Tell us about the difficulties. Obviously, we can see that in the documentary to a certain extent, but there must have been things you weren't able to necessarily go into or explore?

SHRESTHA: Yes, the initial day that was quite easy. The authorities were not quite clued into what was happening. And they were allowing people to go into the delta, but later got increasingly difficult. And the immigration officers, the army, they would stop people in every check point., It's quite difficult to get in there. And, but-and then also, there was so much infrastructural damages also meant that getting into the delta (INAUDIBLE).

SWEENEY: What does being a finalist in these awards do, not only for you personally, but for the story that you cover? Do you think it has an impact there?

SHRESTHA: I hope so, because Burma falls in and out of the new agenda. And I hope is stays in the new agenda, quite - (INAUDIBLE) into Burma and it's easy to forget the story because it's not - it doesn't have, not quite sexy enough, you know what I mean. So I hope this keeps some, or at least helps keep Burma in the news agenda.

SWEENEY: From in-depth coverage, to a story's impact, when we return, more from the annual Rory Peck Awards.


TIME STAMP: 0050:03

SWEENEY: From the 2008 Rory Peck Awards, welcome back to this special edition of INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENTS. We're speaking to the winners and finalists of competition that recognizes the work of freelance news gatherers from around the world.

Another category in this year's final of the Rory Peck Awards was the impact awards, which is sponsored by Sony. The stories tell themselves. Let's have a look at the winning entry.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I can see two people. They are crossing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are they crossing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the camera recording?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last winter, a camera crew from a South Korean newspaper, The Chosun Ilbo, hid here on the Chinese side and watched. Two women are crossing. They're half naked, lest their clothes drag them down. On the Chinese side, wet clothes would give them away. And as fugitives from North Korea, they'd be sent back.

The woman on the left has paid her guide on the right to smuggle her across. But so too has the man who's waiting on the Chinese side. He wants to go to South Korea. But for that, as a Chinese citizen, he needs a Korean wife.


SWEENEY: I'm joined by Jung In Tack and Han Young Ho. In fact, very dramatic footage, but obviously, a lot of work.

JUNG IN TACK, WINNER, IMPACT AWARD (through translator): I wouldn't call it a lot of work. I think it's just things that I have to do. So I never thought this is just hard job to do. I just did what I had to do.

X Han Young Yo, what do you want the world to know about the story that you have told?

HAN YONG HO, WINNER, IMPACT AWARD (through translator): I wanted to know the pain, their pain. And I want them - I want more people to know about this and help them.

SWEENEY: Another finalist in the Sony Impact category was a piece that was shot in Zimbabwe. It's called "Mugabe's Calling Card." And some viewers might find the following clip disturbing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Harry Kangee (ph) are on their way to meet two men who's lives hang in the balance. Both men have third degree burns to almost 50 percent of their bodies. As violence escalates, an old terror tactic has been revived. Burning people alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you feeling?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): My arms, my legs, my stomach, up to my head. And also my neck. They're worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Mrs. Kay has brought you some medicine for your wounds. I've heard there's no medicine here.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: Are you in pain?


SWEENEY: Well, Ginny Stein joins us now. Ginny, you would have normally gone to Zimbabwe yourself, but too difficult for you at this stage. So this person Jay?

GINNY STEIN, FINALIST, IMPACT AWARD: Well, Jay and I have worked together for many years, going in and out of Zimbabwe. He lives in Zimbabwe. This time around, we decided together that it would be better if he went on his own. I was probably more of a problem for him than if he just went on his own.

So the footage that you just saw was shot by him in a hospital in Zimbabwe. He was devastated by what he saw, even as the Zimbabwean, you don't get to see that sort of stuff inside the country to see it first hand. It was very confronting for him.

SWEENEY: I mean, what does an award like this do for your piece? Does it give it recognition? Does it have any impact on the situation in Zimbabwe?

STEIN: I think it brings about the importance of the situation. I mean, the highlights the situation, it gives more - puts in the spotlight one more time, I think. That's the best you can hope for. The story you hope at the time does something. Raising it again is great.

For myself and for Jay, I don't know what it means, but we're happy about it for both of us. You know, he can't actually claim anything openly, publicly. But he deserves a lot.

SWEENEY: "Undercover in Tibet" was a hard hitting documentary, which looked at life in Tibet by using someone who had to escape the country several years ago, going back into the country, agreeing to live there undercover for three months. Let's have a look at the clip.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The camp has been occupied for nearly two years, but there are no public buses in or out, so the people here have little chance to travel to find work. There is no school or clinic. And with little support for retraining, the nomads are struggling to survive.

As a result, alcoholism is becoming more and more of a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, we should go.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think it's no good to speak to anybody.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he really trust them.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they punched in behind these concrete walls, is that right?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The driver's increasing anxiety was justified when the team spotted four police cars parked, watching the camp.


SWEENEY: Well, "Undercover in Tibet" was filmed and directed by Jezza Neumann. And he joins me now.

Being a finalist in the Rory Peck Awards, what kind of impact does it have, do you think, on the story that you covered and the situation in Tibet?

JEZZA NEUMANN, FINALIST, IMPACT AWARD: I think it has a fantastic impact, because our film was broadcast on Channel 4. People watched it. And then they switched after the subject. I think our story about Tibet became in the public eye because of the Olympics. It was given that broadcast because of that. Once the Olympics are over and the flame had gone out, as predicted, people turned off to the subject.

Being in an awards like this means that people are suddenly interested again in the subject. And it gives it a platform once again. The thing is is that there are many small nations in this world who are incredibly important, make up the tapestry of what our lives are, but they're not given a voice. And we'll only listen to them where there's a subject that we think is newsworthy.

SWEENEY: And of course, these are the Rory Peck Freelance - awards for freelancers. I mean, you spoke about the contribution of freelancers to the industry. Can it be overestimated?

NEUMANN: No, I really don't think it can because I think what people don't realize, what the public doesn't see is the amount of people that participate to these films, who you never hear about, because the sorts of films that we make for these kinds of awards are undercover journalism. They're dodgy circumstances. They might be war torn countries. And there are people that are prepared to risk their lives to speak out and work on these projects, who just cannot afford to be named or known about. And it's testimony to the fact that there are still people out there in these countries prepared to do that. And will never, you know, will never receive an award, will never be heard about. Can't be, because it's just too risky to their lives.

SWEENEY: Well, that's all for this special edition of the program coming to you from the Rory Peck Awards. Check out our website at

I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. Thanks for joining us.