Umar Cheema Awarded for Courage

June 13, 2013 by  


UmarCheema1

A reporter investigating corruption in Russia and a seasoned Pakistani journalist known for courageous muckraking reports have won the 2013 Knight International Journalism Award, the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) announced. The award recognizes excellent reporting that makes a difference in the lives of people around the world.   

Roman Anin, a reporter for Russia’s daily Novaya Gazeta, has demonstrated how Russian companies and officials have created a culture of corruption that reaches far beyond the country’s borders.

Umar Cheema, an investigative reporter for Pakistan’s largest English-language daily, The News, has set a new standard for courage and quality journalism in a country where reporters are routinely attacked and murdered.

“These top-notch investigative journalists define bravery,” said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “Their pursuit of the truth, despite serious threats, is inspiring. They fearlessly expose abuses and ultimately change policies.”

The award is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which funds ICFJ’s Knight International Journalism Fellowships Program. The fellows seed new ideas and services that deepen coverage, expand news delivery and engage citizens in the editorial process.

Four of Anin’s colleagues at Novaya Gazeta have been murdered in the last decade, but Anin remains undaunted. He continues to document high-level corruption through his work with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).

His dogged reporting led to documents and data showing nearly $1 billion had vanished from Russia’s budget over a five-year period. It ended up in a maze of offshore accounts and shell companies throughout Europe, some of it traced to Russian officials and their relatives. Anin’s work sparked investigations in five countries and the European Union.

He has helped break stories in the Financial Times, the BBC and Sveriges Television (SVT), Sweden’s public broadcaster. SVT collaborated with Anin on a story that revealed corruption in a deal between Swedish telecom TeliaSonera and the daughter of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. The report led to the resignation of the telecom’s CEO.

In Pakistan, Cheema has been a resolute force in investigative journalism. In 2010, he was kidnapped and brutally tortured for writing critical stories about the government. Since then, he has churned out a steady stream of hard-hitting reports. He documented how car smugglers rake in huge profits without paying taxes. He mined data to expose how top lawmakers spend little time in Parliament working on legislation.

Two years ago, Cheema founded the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan. In its initial report, he analyzed the tax records of 446 lawmakers and ministers. He discovered that nearly 70 percent of legislators did not file income taxes in 2011, including President Asif Ali Zardari. After his story ran, the government instituted rules forcing candidates in contested elections to submit tax returns.
Anin and Cheema, who were selected by a prestigious panel of judges, will be honored at ICFJ’s Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 7. Seasoned journalists and Knight International Journalism Fellows nominated the candidates. 

The International Center for Journalists advances quality journalism worldwide. Our hands-on programs combine the best professional practices with new technologies. We believe that responsible journalism empowers citizens and holds governments accountable. For more information, go to www.icfj.org

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org. Contact: Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, (305) 908-2646, media@knightfoundation.org

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