Amnesty International Canada Announces 2017 Media Awards Winners

Amnesty International Canada is pleased to announce that the winners of its 23rd annual Media Awards are Nathan VanderKlippe of the Globe and Mail, Margaret Evans, Stephanie Jenzer and Richard Devey of the CBC, Sally Armstrong and Peter Bregg of the United Church Observer and Denise Ryan of the Vancouver Sun. These exceptional journalists are recognized for their powerful, front-line reporting on grave human rights crises in Myanmar, South Sudan, Vancouver’s East Side and Iraq.
Nathan VanderKlippe receives the award in the National Print Category for his article “Myanmar’s Front Lines of Horror,” published in the Globe and Mail on September 23rd. As tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar, fleeing the early days of a brutal, scorched-earth campaign of ethnic cleansing, burning of villages and indiscriminate killing, VanderKlippe was amongst the first Canadian journalists to visit the border points and share the tragic stories of people running for their lives.
“The piece notes the failing promise of Myanmar’s tentative steps toward democracy, and the stunning impotence of the woman in whom the world had invested so much political capital; Aung San Suu Kyi,” said Rick MacInnes-Rae, former CBC journalist and member of the three-person awards jury. “It is a gutsy piece of work, layered with interviews gathered in dangerous circumstances and working in a second language, enhanced with poignant photos taken by the author. Alarmingly, he notes a diplomatic solution involving global pressure on the Myanmar authorities might have been possible, but adds, the time for attempting it is ever more narrow.”
Margaret Evens, Stephanie Jenzer and Richard Devey are the winners of the broadcast category for her story “South Sudan: Unfulfilled Promise,” which aired on CBC’s The National on May 15 2017. Since conflict erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, the world’s youngest country has plunged into one of Africa’s most acute crises. Today, there are more refugees fleeing the conflict in South Sudan than any other county on the continent. In a crisis which is too frequently forgotten and notoriously difficult for journalist to cover, the CBC’s reporting shone a light on the plight of those who remain inside the country.
“The daily struggle for health care and food frame a detailed exploration of why inter-group violence has left the initial hopes for South Sudan an “unfulfilled promise,” said John Tackaberry, media award jurist, and former journalist and Amnesty International media officer. “This reporting, with archival footage, vivid video and direct interviews gives this crisis meaning that cannot be appreciated in written reports. Through their excellent work, the CBC team brought focus to profoundly disturbing human rights violations through an artful piece of reporting which is unparalleled in Canadian journalism about the crisis in South Sudan this year.”
Denise Ryan receives her award under the regional news, alternative and magazine category for her powerful exposé “Fear and loathing in the SROs,” published in the Vancouver Sun on May 13. Ryan’s work provides a visceral description of the dangerous and inhumane living conditions endured by those who live in single room occupancy hotels in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Her work goes further, to provide a rigorous examination spanning decades of policy failures which have dismantled urgently-needed housing programmes and left their occupants with nowhere else to go.
“Ryan’s work reminds us of a human rights tragedy occurring right here in Canada. Through her description of the conditions endured by people with no place else to go, she humanises an issue which is too often swept under the rug. The power of her description and of the stories she shares is matched in equal measure by the depth of her research and analysis of the factors that have brought about this egregious situation,” says Sue Montgomery, media award jurist and former Montreal Gazette journalist. “Her dedication to story, facts and rigour are on clear display in this critical piece of journalism from the frontlines of poverty in Vancouver.”
Sally Armstrong and Peter Bregg are the winners of this year’s award under the Online category, for their story “Resisting Genocide,” published in the United Church Observer online in June 2017. Two and a half years after the ISIS siege of Mount Sinjar thrust the fate of Iraq’s Yazidi population to the forefront of media attention across the world, Armstrong and Bregg shared the story of a young woman fighting for the future of her community. Yazidis have been the targets of some of the most brutal violence of the Islamic State group as it seized control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq, including mass executions and sexual slavery. Armstrong and Bregg’s powerful reporting reveals an uncertain road ahead as the Yazidi’s in Iraq seek to rebuild their lives and communities after unimaginable horrors.
“With this powerful profile of the Yazidi people suffering through the devastating conflict in Iraq, Armstrong and Bregg succeed in sharing the story of that hardship while turning dominant narratives of victimhood on their heads,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. “Through the story of a passionate, strong and determined young Yazidi woman, they tell a story of hardship and abuse while conveying strength and determination, and that of her community, to chart a path toward true human rights protection.”
The Amnesty International Canada Media Awards honour the efforts of journalists to increase Canadians’ awareness and understanding of human rights issues. Amnesty thanks its volunteer jurists this year, including Sue Montgomery, freelance journalist and former justice reporter with The Montreal Gazette; John Tackaberry, former Media Relations Officer for Amnesty International Canada and former reporter for Inter Press Service and Pacifica Radio News; and Rick MacInnes-Rae, Associate Professor of Journalism at Humber College and former host, journalist and correspondent with the CBC. Now in its 23rd year, these awards recognize journalists’ efforts to bring awareness to international human rights issues. The Award Ceremony will take place in Toronto on April 4, 2018.