Renowned freelance reporter Ahmer Khan won the 2019 Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize on Thursday for his groundbreaking field coverage in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir during New Delhi’s lock-down of the region.
The award is named after one of AFP‘s finest correspondents which recognize quality journalism by locally hired reporters in Asia, operating in risky or dangerous conditions.
The 27-year-old reporter was honored for a series of video and written reports that illustrated the lockdown’s impact on the local Muslims in the area following India’s decision to strip the occupied region of its semi-autonomous status since August.
It has been a long while since India’s Hindu-nationalist government imposed restrictions on movement and communications blackout in the Muslim-majority area, virtually cutting the occupied Himalayan region off from the rest of the world.
India claimed that their decision was aimed at bringing prosperity and peace to a region where tens of thousands of people have died in a decades-old freedom fight that India blames on arch rival Pakistan.
Ahmer Khan’s contributions
Despite the curfews and heavy security, Ahmer Khan risked his well-being and took to the streets with his camera to document the tensions and problems among the residents of Srinagar and other cities in IOJ&K.
Unable to skirt the communications shutdown, he flew in and out of New Delhi to file his stories. “Reporting from Kashmir at this time has been extremely challenging for everyone, including the established foreign media. For an independent, local journalist those challenges have been far greater, and it is to Amer’s enormous credit that he managed to provide accurate, high-quality journalism when it was so sorely needed,” said AFP‘s Asia-Pacific regional director Philippe Massonnet.
In an interview, Khan had this to say about his award,
“This is a real honor, and a huge motivation to carry on my work with enthusiasm and determination. I want to dedicate this award to the courageous and resilient journalists from Kashmir who have been reporting in extremely difficult conditions for the past six months. This is a collective award.”
In 2018, the award went to reporter Asad Hashim for his coverage of ethnic Pashtuns and blasphemy issues that plagued Pakistan. The prize will be formally presented to the daring reporter at a ceremony in Hong Kong later this year.