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Pakistani-American Journalist, Amna Nawaz, first South Asian Woman to moderate US Presidential Debate

Amna Nawaz, a university of Pennsylvania graduate, began her career after 9/11 and has since then reported from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey, and the broader region.

Nawaz

Amna Nawaz, an upcoming Pakistani-American journalist, has been selected to moderate a US presidential debate, the first woman of South Asian origin to win this honour, according to media reports.

Ms. Nawaz, 40, a senior correspondent for the Public Broadcasting Service news programme “NewsHour” senior national correspondent will co-moderate the sixth Democratic primary debate, scheduled for Dec. 19 at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California.

In making the announcement on Nov. 27, jointly with Politico, Sara Just, executive producer of PBS NewsHour, said, “Judy Woodruff has incomparable experience moderating debates and demonstrates her fairness in probing interviews every day on the PBS NewsHour. I’m delighted that she will be joined on the debate stage by such accomplished and evenhanded journalists, including NewsHour’s Amna Nawaz and Yamiche Alcindor,”

Amna is the daughter of Shuja Nawaz, a former Pakistan Television (PTV) journalist and currently a Distinguished Fellow, South Asia Center, at Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think-tank.

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Prior to joining the NewsHour, Nawaz was an anchor and correspondent at ABC News, anchoring breaking news coverage and leading the network’s digital coverage of the 2016 presidential election. Before that, she served as a foreign correspondent at NBC News, reporting from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey, and the broader region.

Asked about the effect of her being an Asian American woman on her career, Ms. Nawaz told Jade magazine.com, , “Sure, in the parts of the world I’ve covered, there have been a lot of times when I’m the only woman at the protest, or in the briefing room, or on the military embed.”

Ms. Nawaz has also been honoured with an Emmy Award for the NBC News Special “Inside the Obama White House,” a Society for Features Journalism Award, and was a recipient of the International Reporting Project fellowship in 2009

“I’m certainly not the first woman to be any of those places and was actually really lucky to have the support and encouragement of female journalists before me who’d been there and done that.”

But she acknowledged, “I’ve had people make assumptions about me – because I’m a woman, because I’m Asian, because my family’s from Pakistan, because I’m Muslim – but I can’t control what others think. All I can do is bring my whole self to this job, to report the stories as I see them, and try to treat others’ stories with the same care and respect I’d want someone to treat mine.”

Nawaz began her career as a Nightline Fellow at ABC News. When the Sept. 11 attacks happened just weeks into her first job, Nawaz was given the opportunity to work on one of the most important news events in recent times, which set the precedent for the rest of her career.

At the NewsHour, Nawaz has reported politics, foreign affairs, education, climate change, culture and sports. Her immigration reporting has taken her to multiple border communities in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico. She’s investigated the impact of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies, including following the journey of a single toddler as she left her home in Mexico, was separated from her family at the U.S. border, and later reunited with her family several weeks later. She also regularly covers issues around detention, refugees and asylum, and migrant children in U.S. government custody.

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She was NBC’s Islamabad Bureau Chief and Correspondent for several years, and was the first foreign journalist allowed inside North Waziristan. She covered the Taliban attack on Malala Yousafzai, the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, and broke news in a series of exclusive reports on the impact of U.S. drone strikes. Ms. Nawaz reported for the network’s investigative unit, covering the U.S. housing crisis and the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill, and also covered the election and inauguration of Barack Obama, the earthquake in Haiti, and Hurricane Katrina.

Ms. Nawaz has also been honoured with an Emmy Award for the NBC News Special “Inside the Obama White House,” a Society for Features Journalism Award, and was a recipient of the International Reporting Project fellowship in 2009.

She’s an alumna of the University of Pennsylvania–where she earned a bachelor’s degree, majoring in politics, philosophy and economics, and also where she captained the varsity field hockey team—and the London School of Economics—from where she received her master’s degree majoring in comparative politics.

In an interview with Jade magazine.com, tracing her genesis into journalism, she recalled, “I thought I might one day be a lawyer (I also loved to argue.)  I got a one-year fellowship at ABC News right out of college. I figured I’d apply for law school afterwards.”

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“But a few weeks into the job – my first – the 9/11 attacks happened. A lot of things I’d believed to be true – about my faith, about the part of the world I come from, about who I was – were called into question. I found solace, a sense of purpose, in trying to find out the answers. And I saw how important it was to provide that information to others. It’s one of the only jobs I know of where you can actually learn something new every day. I still get such a kick out of that,” she said.

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