3rd Lab Azad Award Honors Journalists for Excellence in Right-Based Reporting

Promoting specialized human rights reporting on social issues in Pakistan

Karachi (Muhammad Yasir Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry has said that his ministry is planning to table a bill in the National Assembly for the protection of journalists. The new legislation will be similar to the one enacted in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

This was stated by Chaudhry at an awards ceremony, organised by the Centre for Excellence in Journalism, in collaboration with the Centre for Communications Programmes Pakistan, Palladium Pakistan and the Sukh Initiative at the Institute of Business Administration’s city campus on Tuesday.

Journalists from across Pakistan submitted their news stories that had been published between July 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018. The aim of this independent annual award is to recognize and promote rights-based reporting in Pakistan, especially on issues that affect the most ignored and marginalised factions of society. Awards were distributed to print and broadcast journalists who developed exceptional stories, that brought to the fore some of the most imperative issues afflicting society. 

An independent jury, comprising veteran journalists, assessed the shortlisted submissions following a comprehensive criterion to select the winners. The panel of judges comprised Ashraf Khan and Owais Tohid for Excellence in Reporting for TV and Radio, Farah Zia for Excellence in Reporting for District Correspondents, Ayaz Khan for Excellence in Reporting for Urdu Newspapers and Online Content and Zaibunissa Burki for Excellence in Reporting for English Newspapers and Online Content.

The stories were divided into three categories – child rights, health rights and women rights. These were then further divided into four awards for each category namely; Excellence in Reporting for Urdu Newspaper and Urdu Online Content, Excellence in Reporting for English Newspaper and English Online Content, Excellence in Reporting for TV and Radio and Excellence in Reporting for District Correspondents.

In his welcome address, Kamal Siddiqi, Director, CEJ said that the idea behind the award was to encourage good journalism and highlight distinction in reporting on social issues. “We all know that we can do much better and this is one way to recognize people doing good journalism,” he said. “These are challenging times and good journalism is under threat,” he added.

Ghazi Salahuddin concurred with Mr Siddiqi that times were indeed challenging for the media. “Media shouldn’t be alone in its fight for freedom, rather the society should also support it, as the media is the voice that protects the freedom of the society.” 

Fawad Chawdry, Minister for Information and Broadcasting, who was the chief guest at the ceremony spoke at length of the reforms he is trying to bring about at the ministry. “I am honored to be here, and I think this is a brilliant initiative,” he started, praising the CEJ’s efforts. He announced that the information ministry is trying to work on the development of a media technology school in Pakistan and the development of a journalist protection act, similar to the legislation in KP.

The information minister added that he is working on providing health insurance to working journalists and is committed to safeguarding the interests of journalists in Pakistan. “The future is of ideas, where only superior ideas will win and they can only be generated through constructive debate and dialogue,” he added. 

Commenting on how crucial such initiatives are, Zaibunissa Burki, one of the judges, said, “It’s wonderful to see the sort of work our journalists; men and women, seniors and those new to the field are continuing to do despite all the challenges they face. It was a pleasure to read so many stories that focused on human rights. This award becomes all the more important at a time when such stories don’t make it to prime-time TV and to our very overly political front pages.”

Xari Jalil, who won the award for her story on child sexual abuse, agreed. “It’s very encouraging when journalists are rewarded and recognized for the hard work that they do. Reporting is after all not just a job. You have to devote your life to this work and bring change through your writings, so this should not go unnoticed. I am honored to have received the award,” she said.

“It gives me immense pleasure to be receiving such kind of award. It is a great achievement for my journalistic career, being a district correspondent of Dawn, I’m also proud my organization that provided me the opportunity to do such work,” said Umar Bacha, another recipient of the awards.


The winners of the awards are as follows:

Excellence in reporting for Urdu newspaper and online content

Health rights – Muhammad Atif Sheikh

Child Rights – Henna Saeed

Women Rights – Muhammad Atif Sheikh

Excellence in Reporting for TV and Radio

Health Rights – Henna Saeed

Child Rights – Rashida Sadiq Kiani

Women Rights – Saman Khan

Excellence in Reporting for District Correspondence

 Health Rights – Mureeb Mohmand

Child Rights – Umar Bacha

Women Rights – Muhammad Yousaf

Excellence in Reporting for English Newspapers and English Online Content

 Health Rights – Zofeen Ebrahim

Child Rights – Xari Jalil

Women Rights – Ghulam Dastageer and Muhammad Rizwan Safdar

The event was attended by media professionals from across the country, members of the academia, development sector and the corporate sector. Some of the prominent people present were Farhan Iqbal, Dr. Farrukh Iqbal, Afia Salam, Tasneem Mirza, Lubna Naqvi, Zubeida Mustafa, Azhar Abbas, Ahmed Iqbal Baloch, Sara Siddiqui.