Local fixers honoured at Rory Peck Awards

Fixers for news and documentary makers were honoured at the Rory Peck Awards, which acknowledge the work of freelance cameramen and women in television newsgathering in London last night.

The Martin Adler Prize, a discretionary award which honours a freelancer who has told or played a vital part in telling a significant news story, was awarded to Ugandan fixer and freelance journalist James Bitek Oketch.

Announcing the award, the co-founder of the Rory Peck Trust, Tira Shubart, said that journalists owed ‘a debt of gratitude to fixers”.

She said: ‘What we call a story, they call their lives.’

Shubart said of Oketch: ‘He’s the real deal. He simply wants the story to be told truthfully.”

Oketch dedicated his award to those, he said, hardly see their contribution to international news and documentary making.

The Martin Adler Prize commemorates the Swedish freelance journalist and cameraman who was murdered in Somalia in 2006.

Australian-born Elizabeth Tadic won the 2007 Sony Impact Award for her film Malaria, Money and Murder which investigated the impact of the global drug counterfeiting industry.

The self-funded investigation into the illegal drug racket fuelling a malaria crisis in Africa was based on research of Robert Cockburn, the Oxford University team and the Nigerian health unit.

Somalia’s Farah Roble Aden was awarded the Rory Peck Award for hard news for his footage Somalia Reports and British-Irish Sean Langan won the award for features for Fighting the Taliban at last night’s ceremony at the British Film Institute on London’s Southbank.

Somalia Reports captured close-to-the-action fighting in Mogadishu after the Islamic courts militias were ousted by Ethopian-backed Somali Government troops.

Roble Aden was arrested and had his camera confiscated during the filming. He said: ‘It was difficult to see relatives and friends suffering and dying during the fighting and even losing their homes. Even journalists have been killed, but I knew that my coverage would show the world the real situation inside Somalia.”

The judges selected Langan’s Fighting the Taliban for its unique approach to non-conventional current affairs programming as a standard-setting achievement.

The film, broadcast by Channel Four, shows the experience of the British forces effort to re-take the town of Garmser from the Taliban over the course of a week.

The Rory Peck Trust, which exists to support freelance newsgatherers and their families worldwide in times of need, and to promote their welfare and safety, also launched an appeal to raise funds for the Trust to continue its work internationally.

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