Ahmer Khan. File/AFP
Gulf Today Report
Ahmer Khan, a 27-year-old freelancer journalist was named the winner of the 2019 Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize on Thursday for his coverage in India-controlled Kashmir during Delhi's lockdown of the region.
Khan was honoured for a series of video and written reports that vividly illustrated the impact on locals in the area following India's decision to strip Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status in August.Despite curfews and a heavy security presence, Khan took to the streets with his camera to document the tensions, concerns and frustrations among the residents of Srinagar and other cities in Kashmir.
The award, named after one of AFP's finest correspondents, recognises journalism by locally hired reporters in Asia operating in risky or difficult conditions.
The Indian government has imposed restrictions on movement and a communications blackout, virtually cutting the Himalayan region off from the outside world after recent tussle.
India insisted the move was aimed at bringing prosperity and peace to a region where tens of thousands of people have died in a decades-old separatist rebellion.
Unable to skirt the communications shutdown, Ahmer flew in and out of Delhi to file his stories.
"Reporting from Kashmir at this time has been extremely challenging for everyone, including the established foreign media," said AFP's Asia-Pacific regional director Philippe Massonnet.
"For an independent, local journalist those challenges have been far greater, and it is to Ahmer's enormous credit that he managed to provide accurate, high-quality journalism when it was so sorely needed," he added.
Khan said on learning of his win: "This is a real honour, and a huge motivation to carry on my work with enthusiasm and determination."
"I want to dedicate this award to the courageous and resilient journalists from Kashmir who have been reporting in extremely difficult conditions for the past six months. This is a collective award."
The Kate Webb Prize, with a 3,000 euro ($3,400) purse, honours journalists working in perilous or difficult conditions in Asia, and is named after a crusading AFP reporter who died in 2007 at the age of 64, after a career covering the world's trouble spots.
The award, which in 2018 went to reporter Asad Hashim for his coverage of the plight of ethnic Pashtuns and blasphemy issues in his native Pakistan, is administered by AFP and the Webb family.
The prize will be formally presented at a ceremony in Hong Kong later this year.
The Editors Guild of India said the accusations against Zahra and Ashiq were a "gross misuse of power" meant to "strike terror into journalists."
Several hours of shooting rocked the Pulwama district, south of Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, after officials said four soldiers, a policeman, three militants and a civilian were killed in the latest clash.
An army major was among the dead, along with three militants from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group which claimed last week's attack, military and police officials said.
Six senior army men including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel were injured in the hours-long gun battle, a police official told AFP.
Pakistani airspace on its eastern border with India will remain closed until June 14, a civil aviation official said on Wednesday, the latest extension months after a standoff between the arch rivals.
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