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Media Awards 2010: Unique award hat trick for BBC journalist

First-time ever three years in a row Amnesty Awards win

BBC journalist Mike Thomson was declared winner of the Radio category of Amnesty International Media Awards for the third year in a row this year.  The Today programme’s Foreign Affairs Correspondent scooped the award on Tuesday 1 June, making Thomson the only Media Awards winner to receive the award three years in a row.

BBC journalist Fergal Keane also won three Amnesty Media Awards during the 1990s but not in consecutive years.

Mike Thomson’s five-part series was entitled ‘Zimbabwe: what Mugabe did not tell us’ and was produced by Ed Prendeville and featured on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme which is edited by Ceri Thomas.   Reporting for the series was carried out entirely undercover because the BBC was not allowed to operate in Zimbabwe at that time. The series focused on human rights violations and the under-reported food, health and education crises within the country.

In 2009, Mike Thomson won for his series on the Today programme entitled ‘Forgotten: The Central African Republic’, while in 2008, Thomson won the award for his compelling account of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo entitled Where there’s muck.

Judges of the Amnesty Media Awards radio category this year were BBC Radio correspondent Alan Johnston, TalkSPORT presenter Ian Collins, radio editor of Radio Times Jane Anderson, Sabrina Radmore – head of news for the Litt Corporation which owns Sunrise TV and Radio, and Amnesty UK Media Director Mike Blakemore.

The judges were impressed by the strength of the journalism of the piece.
One judge described it as “an extraordinary piece of journalism”, while another described it as “incredibly brave, the best type of reporting of this kind”, and “the best stuff I’ve heard over the last three years”.  

The other shortlisted entries was BBC Radio 4’s Crossing Continents: Chechnya programme and BBC Radio 5 Live’s Guantánamo Reunited piece.

In accepting the award, Mike Thomson said he was surprised to get the award because he had won for the last two years running, and also because of the strength of the other two entries shortlisted in the category. He described the other entries as “fantastic pieces of journalism.”   

One of the shortlisted entries, BBC Radio 4’s Crossing Continents’ Chechnya piece received a Sony Gold Academy Award last month.

Mike Thomson went on to pay tribute to the people of Zimbabwe saying that they are “often in danger of being forgotten and this is particularly true when it comes to the enormous suffering of orphans, school Children's rights and those facing long-term political intimidation and persecution.”

Following the ceremony, Mike Thomson added:

“My producer for the Zimbabwe series – Ed Prendeville – told me afterwards that he had never seen me look so surprised as when my name was announced as winner.  

“The Amnesty Awards – and the work Amnesty does across the globe – are extremely highly rated in the media and so to win for the third time in a row was simply gobsmacking! I also think it is a great tribute to the judges that they did not decide to ‘ring the changes’ for the sake of it, and had the courage of their convictions.”

Commenting on Mike Thomson’s achievements, Amnesty International’s UK Media Director, Mike Blakemore said:

“It really is an incredible accomplishment for Mike Thomson to have achieved this award three years in a row. With his series on Zimbabwe, he again gave a voice to victims of dreadful rights abuses and engaged with and moved his audience.”  

Notes to the editor
1.    Photographs of Mike Thomson at the award ceremony are available on request.
2.    A full list of the 2010 Media Awards winners is also available on request.

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