Gong! It's the Amnesty media awards

Awards sometimes get a bad rep.

If it's (say) Ronnie Wood getting the Lifetime Achievement Award For Consuming Copious Amounts Of Drugs Whilst Being In A Top Stadium Rock Band, then you can kind of see why. (I exaggerate, but you know what I mean).

But some awards do matter. Last night Amnesty gave out 10 awards for journalism that has made a difference. Things like Channel 4 News' dogged reporting on the Sri Lankan army's alleged war crimes during its crushing of the Tamil Tigers in 2009. Or The Bureau Of Investigative Journalism's work on the WiliLeaks Iraq abuses documents.

During the awards the presenter George Aligiah said that the best journalism is about holding the powerful to account. Fair point.

Is it doing a good job? Depends where you look. There's some ropey, superficial stuff out there but also very well-researched, tenaciously-investigated and brilliantly-presented journalism being done. For example, I think we should definitely be grateful for the output of people like The Independent's Andrew Buncombe, the BBC's Hilary Andersson and Panos Pictures' Robin Hammond (to name but three).

And never mind the “tomorrow’s chip paper” jibe, because some journalists are in it for the long-haul and this dedication does matter. So I also think we should acknowledge the perseverance of people like the veteran journalist Eamonn McCann who's pursued the Bloody Sunday story for most of the last 40 years (he was one of the organisers of the Derry march as a young man). At the awards last night he spoke eloquently about his friendship with some of the bereaved families and how – in a devastating comment – "the story was clear the next day", only journalists and others had failed to see it or burrow into it.

Meanwhile, journalists sometimes win awards but they sometimes get threatened, attacked, imprisoned or even killed for their work. Amnesty UK media director Mike Blakemore discusses this on Left Foot Forward today. It’s not all glasses of wine, fancy photo-bylines and popping up on TV to do punditry …

One case in point. In Azerbaijan the newspaper editor Eynulla Fatullayev was jailed four years ago on trumped-up charges after publishing articles critical of the government. In a nice show of solidarity, journos at last night’s awards tweeted messages to the Azerbaijani president about his case. For what happened next – read this fascinating post.

Also,  a quick mention for the work done by campaigners like Wai Hnin Pwint Thon (pictured). Last night she urged assembled journalists to keep reporting on her native Burma; it's "wrong", she said, to assume that things are improving there.

Meanwhile, back to Ronnie Wood and the Rolling Stones! Last night I was talking to a guest at the media awards who did some freelance work on .. wait for it, Keith Richard’s recently-published autobiography. Then as I was writing this post the Stones came on in the bar where I was eating my lunch.

I don’t know, there’s something about that band – they pop up everywhere. In a not-entirely-unrelated-link, look out for Bianca Jagger talking about Amnesty’s 50th birthday on BBC Breakfast this Saturday – scheduled for about 8.30am. (There will be more on the 50th from TOP HAT later this week). If you ask me, Bianca Jagger herself deserves awards for her sterling human rights campaigning. Gong!

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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