Iraq's Omer Salih, Australia's Elizabeth Tadic and Britain's John Williams have been recognised for their contribution to agenda-setting journalism by The Rory Peck Trust, which has announced that the three are finalists for the Sony Impact Award. The annual award honours the integrity of freelance cameramen and women in capturing humanitarian imagery that has had an impact internationally and led to a change in perception or policy. The winner will be announced at the Rory Peck Awards at The British Film Institute in London on November 15.
This year's judging panel, chaired by Chris Hampson, Bureau Chief, London Bureau, NBC News, was impressed by the finalists' research and initiative, camera work and remarkable ability to remain calm and focused while filming. Through first-hand accounts, the three submissions offer unparalleled insight into conditions such as oppression, political upheaval and war.
"The Sony Impact Award honours the role that broadcast freelancers play in capturing images that move us beyond the rhetoric of politics to action. Despite great personal risks, each of the finalists uncovered enormously important stories, reinforcing the critical contribution of freelance journalists to the maintenance of a free press," said Tina Carr, Director of the Rory Peck Trust. "We were encouraged to receive a record number of awards entries from across the globe as the Trust continues to grow and mature."
The Sony Impact Award 2007 finalists are (in alphabetical order):
Omer Salih: Baghdad: A Doctor's Story
Baghdad: A Doctor's Story examines the appalling conditions inside Al Yarmouk hospital's emergency room, a civilian hospital located in one of the most dangerous parts of Baghdad. The report exposes the impact of war on Iraqi citizens and the challenges of daily existence since Saddam Hussein's departure. Sonia Mikich, Head of Monitor Magazine, ARD German Television said, "This piece confronts us with moral issues. It stirs you and makes you angry about war."
Emotive and harrowing, through his lens, Omer illuminates the bravery of the staff at the hospital and the grim reality of life in a war zone. With footage filmed directly inside an ambulance, Omer captures the human effects of the conflict in a way that has never been seen before.
"Despite the chaotic and highly emotional environment in which Omer was filming, he managed to maintain a remarkably calm head and clear vision to deliver a powerful account of life in Iraq today to help put a human face on a complex story," said Chris Hampson, London Bureau Chief, NBC News.
A former resident doctor at Baghdad's Al Kharkh General Hospital, in 2005 Omer began working at the Baghdad bureau of National Public Radio as an interpreter and fixer. Since then he has freelanced for a number of media organisations, including Guardian Films and The New Yorker magazine.
Elizabeth Tadic: Malaria, Money and Murder
For Malaria, Money and Murder, Elizabeth travelled alone to Nigeria to expose how a global racket in fake drugs turned malaria – an easily remedied disease – into African's biggest child killer.
In Lagos, Elizabeth gained access to the Nigerian health unit and met individuals directly affected by the counterfeit drug industry to examine the responsibility of corporations. An immensely difficult place to film, Elizabeth endured constant physical threats to deliver a well told story.
"By bringing to our attention something that impacts millions of lives but has not been told often, Elizabeth forces us to look ahead to issues that need to be addressed and changed," said Sonia Mikich, Head of Monitor Magazine, ARD German Television. "The report challenges those that are directly at fault for a solid piece of agenda-setting journalism."
Elizabeth has contributed to a variety of international media organisations, including the BBC World Service, WGBH (Boston), Reuters and SBS Television. Malaria, Money and Murderwas selected to screen in the 21st International Scoop Festival of Journalism in France.
John Williams: Saddam's Road to Hell
Saddam's Road to Hell investigates the disappearance of 8,000 Barzani Kurds from government camps in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1983. Undertaken at the height of the Iraqi insurgency, the documentary tells the story from the unique perspective of ordinary Iraqis.
"John demonstrated remarkable determination and courage to make the journey to Iraq and remain filming in the same areas over a prolonged period," said Nigel Baker, Executive Director, AP Television News. "The superb camera work and significance of the story, which was used at Saddam's trial, created an absolutely compelling report."
Despite the tension of the environment, John delivered exemplary camerawork and framing throughout the sequences for a gripping investigative report. "John's skilled camerawork delivered imagery with an almost theatrical quality. The night scenes and natural lighting used made the scenes much more dramatic for a compelling documentary and an astonishing piece of journalism," said Chris Grabowski, Director, Baltmedia (Poland).
John took over from the original cameraman, Koutaiba Al Jannabi, who fell ill during the shoot in Kurdistan and was unable to complete the assignment. Sadly, John died of a heart attack in Iraq in September, 2005, towards the end of this shoot.
The panel of judges for the 2007 Sony Impact Award comprised:
- Nigel Baker, Executive Director, AP Television News
- David Bush, Director of Marketing, Sony Professional Solutions Europe
- Chris Grabowski, Director, Baltmedia (Poland)
- Chris Hampson, London Bureau Chief, NBC News
- Sonia Mikich, Head of Monitor Magazine, ARD German Television
"The immense challenges and dangers journalists encounter when filming in remote and dangerous regions, requires courage and composure," said David Bush, Director of Marketing, Sony Professional Solutions Europe. "Through their accounts, these cameramen and women play a vital role in helping raise international awareness of stories that are all too often untold."