Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra on Thursday received the Peter Mackler prize for courageous and ethical journalism, for her coverage of women impacted by decades of unrest in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
“To work in this industry is to bring the truth,” the 26-year-old journalist said during a virtual ceremony.
The Muslim-majority Himalayan region is occupied by India in parts and claimed by Pakistan in full, and plagued by years of conflict that has left thousands dead, many of them civilians. Zahra’s work shines a light on the stories of women who would otherwise likely be forgotten in deeply patriarchal South Asia.
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“My pictures offer a glimpse of the everyday struggle of the people in Kashmir,” said the 12th journalist to receive the Peter Mackler prize, distributed by the Global Media Forum in partnership with Agence France Presse and Reporters Without Borders. “It gives a voice to the ones silenced by the conflict,” she continued.
For her work Zahra has faced mistrust from some Kashmiris who accuse her of working for Indian intelligence, as well as harassment from Indian authorities who accuse her of spreading disinformation.
Jammu and Kashmir’s new media policy is aimed at demolishing the local press, editors say https://t.co/gEWdfo2vkk via @scroll_in
— Lord Nazir Ahmed (@nazir_lord) June 24, 2020
And in June, the government for Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir instituted a “New Media Policy” that rights groups say allows the censorship and persecution of journalists. Zahra said that being a Muslim woman “amplifies” her anxiety as a journalist working in such conditions — but her identity also drives her work.
The award was established in 2008 to recognize courageous and ethical journalism. It honors the memory of longtime AFP journalist Peter Mackler, who died of a heart attack that year.
Once again @Masratzahra made us proud, as she has been declared as the winner of the 2020 Peter Mackler Award (@PMAward) for Courageous and Ethical Journalism for her work covering events in #Kashmir with a specific focus on women in the region. 1/n @asadowaisi @BDUTT @Zebaism pic.twitter.com/xaBUEqwT77
— SARIA WANI (@SariaW) August 22, 2020
“Masrat Zahra exhibits the very qualities that my late husband, Peter Mackler, fostered in the new generation of reporters whose path he crossed,” said Catherine Antoine, president of the Global Media Forum Training Group and founder of the award.
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“Masrat’s complete dedication to reporting the story, no matter the risks, along with her mental fearlessness and creative approach to use any medium at her disposal to bear witness to the world made our choice easy.”
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk