Somalian journalist wins top award for Channel 4 report

A Somalian journalist who risked his life to provide unique TV pictures of his country’s descent into chaos was among the winning Channel 4 News team to jointly pick up the top journalist of the year prize at the Foreign Press Association Awards in London last night.

Abdullahi Farah dedicated his award to colleagues who have been killed covering what has become one of the world’s few absolute no-go zones for British journalists. Also picking up the prize were Farah’s Channel 4 News colleagues, Ben de Pear and Nima Elbagir.

Farah picked up the prize in a week that the safety of journalists in Somalia was again in the spotlight as the inquest takes place into the killing of BBC journalist Kate Peyton, who was shot dead in Mogadishu in 2005.

He told Press Gazette: “I was really lucky to survive.”

Farah has worked for Channel 4 News since 2005 and gathered his award-winning footage over a period of three weeks when he laised with London to tell them which days he was working so he would be insured.

De Pear said: “He sent back via DHL five or six tapes which were extraordinary – it was the descent into absolute chaos of Mogadishu following the Ethiopian invasion and the Islamic insurgency against the invasion.”

As well as dramatic pictures of street fighting, Farah filmed refugee camps where children were close to starvation and covered the funeral of a journalist colleague.

While driving back from the funeral, Farah’s car was blown up and his best friend – the journalist Ali Iman Shaimke – was killed. In the past two years, Farah has seen eight colleagues killed in Somalia.

De Pear said: “We are reliant on people like Dulla because you can’t go to Somalia as a western broadcaster. He is the only person who has told that story from a TV perspective in the last two years.”

The BBC took the most prizes last night – taking four out of the 12 categories.

The event marked the FPA’s 120th birthday, and the guest of honour was Prince Charles, who used the occasion to make a wide-ranging speech on the world’s environmental and economic crises and how they are linked to fundamental problems with western values.

He said: “‘Whenever you look, the arguments that justify what we call progress are finding it harder and harder to hide the less than glamorous side-effects of all we have achieved.

“The present crisis in the financial world, known to us all as the credit crunch, is but one recent graphic example; the environmental crisis that confronts us and is, in fact, a climate crunch, is another.

“I wonder, though, whether these crises would have flared so alarmingly had our perspective been somewhat wider when the decisions that have caused the troubles we now face were originally taken.”

FPA Media Awards 2008 – finalists and winners

TV News Story of the Year

Neil Connery: ‘Burma Cyclone: Deep inside the Irrawaddy Delta’ ITV News
Alex Crawford, Jamie Matthews, Neville Lazarus: ‘Afghanistan: Trail of Death’ Sky News
Winner: Abdullahi Farah, Nima Elbagir, Ben de Pear: ‘Somalia’ Channel 4 News

TV Feature Story of the Year

Chris Boulding: ‘Blood on the Nile’ A Juniper Production for BBC Arabic
Joshua Dugdale: ‘The Unwinking Gaze’ www.unwinkinggaze.com
Winner: Ivan O’Mahoney, Laura Winter, Karen O’Connor: ‘The Boys from Baghdad High’ BBC This World & Renegade Pictures

Environment Story of the Year

David Edmonds, Mark Gregory, Jeremy Skeet: ‘One Planet: Carbon Trading’ BBC World Service
James Sales & Team: ‘The Bangladesh Boat Project’ BBC World Service
Winner: Jonathan Green: ‘The Dirty Secrets of Your NHS’ Live Magazine

Financial Story of the Year

Faisal Islam, Andrew MacFadyen, Stuart Webb: ‘Iraqi Oil Fields: Iraq Five Years On’Channel 4 News
Jeremy Skeet, Michael Robinson, Neal Razzell: ‘Debt Threat’BBC World Service
Winner: David Dietz, Darrell Preston: ‘The Insurance Hoax’Bloomberg News

Sports Story of the Year

David Evans: ‘Big Brown Owner fined by NASD, plans $100 million Hedge Fund’ Bloomberg News
Brian Oliver, Kevin Mitchell, James Robinson, Richard Gillis : ’21st Century Sport’ The Observer
Winner: Gavin Lee, Bridget Harney, Ibrahim Sannie, Edward Main: ‘Assignment: Football Fraudsters’ BBC World Service

Travel & Tourism Story of the Year: Print

Martin Fletcher: ‘One day in Baghdad’ The Times
Will Self: ‘Head to Head – Easter Island’ Conde Nast Traveller
Winner: Stanley Stewart: ‘The old ones are the best – Damascus’ Conde Nast Traveller

Travel & Tourism Story of the Year: TV & Radio

Channel 4 News Team: ‘Olympics: From inside the Tibetan areas.’
Lesley Curwen, Vicki Broadbent: ‘Business Daily: Gambia Tourism’BBC World Service
Winner: David Clews, Nick Mirsky, Marco Crivellari: ‘Wonderland: The End of the World Bus Tour’BBC

Radio Story of the Year

Steve Titherington & Team: ‘The World Today: Chinese Congress’ BBC World Service
David Goldblatt, Anna Raphael, Maria Balinska: ‘Crossing Continents: Football in the Holy Land’BBC Radio 4
Winner: Robert Hodierne, Celina Dunlop, Rosie Goldsmith, Maria Balinska: ‘The My Lai Tapes’ BBC Radio 4

Print/Web News Story of the Year

Marie Colvin: ‘I felt a new terror on Basra’s streets’ The Sunday Times
Christina Lamb: ‘Shrapnel rained down, Bhutto’s return became a bloodbath’ The Sunday Times
Winner: Afif Sarhan, Caroline Davies, Mark Townsend: ‘The Iraqi teenage girl killed for loving a British soldier’ The Observer

Print/Web Feature Story of the Year

Stephanie Kirchgaessner; ”One big country club’ How a marketing business from Britain leads the field in Washington’s power game’ The Financial Times
Alex Renton”The Rape Epidemic’ Observer Woman
Winner: Jamil Anderlini: ‘Losing the countryside: a restive peasantry calls on Beijing for land rights’ The Financial Times

Story of the Year by a member of the FPA

Alan Fisher: ‘Russian Advance from Gori to Tbilisi’ Al Jazeera EnglishA
Annalisa Piras: ‘The Italian Patient’ BBC Radio 4
Winner: Jonah Hull: ‘The War in Georgia’ Al Jazeera English

Journalist of the Year (Winner of Winners)

Abdullahi Farah, Nima Elbagir, Ben de Pear: ‘Somalia’ Channel 4 News

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