Radio Mashaal, RFE/RL's Pashto-language service, has been lauded by a leading group of Pakistani journalists and media professionals for its coverage of the displacement crisis that has followed an anti-Taliban military operation in North Waziristan, in the tribal belt along the country’s Afghan border.
The Union of Journalists of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FUJ) also awarded Radio Mashaal correspondent Umar Daraz Wazir for his individual reporting on the crisis.
Malak Khan Marjan, a tribal elder and an organizer of the awards ceremony, told Wazir and his colleagues, "We salute the team of Mashaal Radio, who spread the cries of the affected in Waziristan to all parts of the world. The award looks small…We wished to give you [Radio Mashaal] a gold award."
According to government figures, more than 435,429 people have fled targeted areas in North Waziristan since the military operation began in June, adding to as many as 1 million other persons previously driven from the region by insurgency and humanitarian needs.
Radio Mashaal’s coverage is produced by local journalists based in and around the tribal areas. From the start of the military offensive, they reported first-hand from combat areas and neighboring districts on both sides of the border where the displaced have fled, often providing listeners with the only information available about communities they had abandoned or recently joined.
Wazir, a reporter for Radio Mashaal since 2010, is currently based in Bannu, in North Wazaristan’s neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where 80 percent of local schools are currently occupied by displaced families.
Commenting on the region’s security challenges, Wazir told RFE/RL, "There is no police there, no law and order there. You can be abducted from your home at any time… We have no protection other than the microphone, and even that we have to hide in public."
The awards were presented on August 19 at a ceremony at the Peshawar Press Club.
Voice of America’s Deewa Radio, Khyber Television, and Dunya Television were also awarded for their coverage of the crisis.
- Irina Tkeshelashvili