Remarkable human rights journalism from the Amnesty Media Awards 2023

Amnesty media awards feature image - a patchwork of tiny head-and-shoulder profile pictures from the BBC Online report 'The Faces From China’s Uyghur Detention Camps'

The Amnesty Media Awards 2023 spotlights critical human rights journalism by reporters, editors, and citizens telling paramount stories about justice. With many media outlets facing budget cuts, the Amnesty Media Awards is a reminder of the power of journalism in the wake of widespread injustice. These five finalists’ stories highlight police brutality and corruption, gang violence and post-colonial realities, and yet, each is an example of bravery, solidarity, and resistance.

“During the interrogation, the man in black, Ivan Ryabov, said that he was the law there. […] I don’t consider myself a second-class citizen. […] The truth is on my side, I didn’t do anything illegal. That’s why I’m talking… and I’m not afraid.”

Finding My Torturer – BBC Eye

Investigation category – finalist

In this sobering documentary, three women activists in Russia work to find the identity of their torturer after being detained at an anti-war protest in March 2022. Detained activists were subjected to kickings, stranglings, and beatings along with verbal abuse. Despite the visible distress amongst the activists taken in for questioning, no higher authority at the police station stepped in. Two activists were able to record their interrogations. The police brutality they faced compounded by the subsequent apathy of the Russian anti-corruption authorities prompted the women to seek justice on their own, using a food delivery app to track him down. “Finding My Torturer” is a remarkable account of police brutality and the sheer fortitude of its victims in the wake of institutional complicity.

Watch the full documentary here.

“Husband and wife have been robbed of almost everything, including their love for their country. “Haiti is erased from our hearts,” he says. “Any chance we get, we will leave.” At that he breaks down, his chest heaving as he weeps.”

Haiti: Inside the capital city taken hostage by brutal gangs – BBC Online

Written News category – finalist

In this harrowing depiction of rampant crime, BBC’s Senior International Correspondent Orla Guerin details a country on its knees owing to violence, kidnapping, murder, and rape at the hands of at least 200 gangs in Haiti. Political corruption, poverty, and economic instability owing to its colonial history, has left over half the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince in the hands of violent gangs. This dismal account of Haiti’s gang problem highlights the strife of multiple Haitian citizens and families who are no longer safe in their own home country. Their lives have been irreversibly destroyed by gang violence and, with so many gangs in active collaboration with governmental and police forces, few avenues for accountability exist.

Find the full story here.

“I couldn’t even speak to anybody. I just had a complete and absolute breakdown because I thought ‘How can this be?’. My heart was ripped out of me. Completely ripped out of me. Police was everything to me.”

Police, WhatsApp & Whistleblowers

Nations and Regions category (BBS Northern Ireland) – finalist

This BBC documentary follows the converging stories of two whistleblowers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland who called attention to patterns of gross misconduct and negligence amongst a particular division of the police force – C-section. While responding to a road traffic collision one night, one of the whistleblowers discovered a web of misbehaviour. Body camera misuse, neglecting to follow procedure, and sleeping during shifts were just some of the behaviours alleged by the senior police official turned whistleblower. Upon bringing this to their superiors, the two whistleblowers were met with retaliation and accusations by their fellow police officers. An alarming WhatsApp group was later discovered, leading to investigations for misconduct and gross misconduct. The documentary reaffirms the importance of support and care for whistleblowers in the police service.

Find the full documentary here.

“Do you think the police were aware of the complexities and difficulties it would have caused Abraham by giving evidence?” – “The police know. They know very well. It’s just whether they care enough. That’s the difference.”

Please Protect Abraham – Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio 4 

Radio and Podcasts category – finalist 

This podcast tells the story of Abraham Badru, who at the age of 15, witnessed a 14-year-old girl being gang raped in his neighbourhood in Hackney. With phenomenal courage, Abraham stepped in and saved her, later testifying in court against the rapists. Abraham felt scared for his life after the incident and his mother Ronke Badru spent years trying to protect her son, who was killed just yards from her home, aged 26. Ronke has spent the years since fighting for justice for his murder. This 10-part series by Sam Holder asks why Abraham and Ronke weren’t given the support they deserved by the police and the courts. The series takes time to explore the protections in place for witnesses of violent crimes, the obligations for witnesses to give evidence in court, and what can be done if someone feels their life is at risk.

Listen here.

“The material is unredacted, it’s raw, it’s unmitigated, it’s diverse. We have everything,”

A huge cache of data hacked from police computer servers, named The Xinjiang Police Files, were passed to the BBC last year. This report, written, produced, edited and researched by the BBC’s European, UK and US-based staff, shows profile pictures ofthousands of Uyghurs, as well as documents, and location photos. Working with a consortium of 14 media organisations from 11 countries, the BBC was able to authenticate significant elements of the Xinjiang Police Files. Uyghurs living in Europe and the US were asked for the names and ID numbers of their missing relatives back home in Xinjiang. Multiple matches in the spreadsheet data were discovered, providing firm evidence that the information contains real people. The government of China’s claim that the re-education camps built across Xinjiang since 2017 are nothing more than “schools” is contradicted by internal police instructions, guarding rosters and the never-before-seen images of detainees. The photographs give human form to a policy designed to deliberately target Uyghur families as a repository of identity and culture and – in China’s own words – to “break their roots, break their lineage, break their connections, break their origins”. 

Find the full report here.

A full list of finalists can be found here. The winners of this year’s awards will be announced in a ceremony starting at 7pm on Wednesday 26 April and can be viewed live here.

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