Peck award dedicated to murdered Afghan fixers

The British award winner at the Rory Peck awards has dedicated the prize to his two fixers who were beheaded by the Taliban.

British-Irish cameraman Sean Langan, who won the features award at last week’s ceremony for his work on the Channel 4 Dispatches programme, Fighting the Taliban, said: ‘I had two fixers, one of whom was a very good friend of mine. They were both beheaded by the Taliban.

‘The Rory Peck Trust contacted me and they set up a small stipend for their families. I’d like to dedicate the film to them [his fixers]. I didn’t give them a credit because I was worried about their safety.”

Fixers for news and documentary makers were honoured elsewhere at the awards ceremony last Thursday, which recognise the work of freelance camera operators in television newsgathering.

The Martin Adler Prize, a discretionary award launched this year to honour a freelance who has played a vital part in telling a significant news story, was presented 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”.

Oketch has worked as a freelance journalist and fixer in northern Uganda for more than a decade. He said: ‘I send my thanks to the Rory Peck Trust for remembering those who hardly see their own contribution to highlighting the wrongs of humanity in this world.”

A self-funded investigation into how the trade in fake drugs turned malaria into Africa’s biggest child killer was also honoured. Australian-born Elizabeth Tadic won the 2007 Sony Impact Award for her film Malaria, Money and Murder.

Tadic said of her film: ‘Robert Cockburn, upon whose research I based this story, spent years trying to get a commission. He was unable to. ‘When he told me about it, I thought: This is a great story, it’s got to be told. ‘When I was knocked back, I thought: Bugger this, I’m just going to go there, get the story, bring it back. Someone will pick it up. And it happened.”

The fourth winner was Somalia’s Farah Roble Aden, who won the hard news award for his report for the Reuters World News Service, capturing close-to-the-action fighting in Mogadishu after the Islamic militias were ousted by Ethiopian-backed Somali government troops.

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

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