15 journalists win Amnesty International Canada Media Awards

OTTAWA – Amnesty International is pleased to announce the winners of the 25th annual Amnesty International Canada Media Awards:

Long-Form Audio: Justin Ling, Jennifer Fowler, Erin Byrnes and Cesil Fernandes, CBC Podcasts, Uncover: The Village

Mixed Media: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours and Megan O’Toole, Al Jazeera (freelance), Nations Divided: Mapping Canada’s Pipeline Battle

Long-Form Text: Shree Paradkar, Toronto Star, These Girls Were Powerless, Living On The Edge Of Society, But One School Is Turning Them Into Heroes, Feminists, And Resisters

Short-Form Text: Shanifa Nasser, CBC, When CSIS comes knocking: Amid reports of Muslim students contacted by spy agency, hotline aims to help

Long-Form Video: Trina Roache, APTN, Law of the Land

Short-Form Video: Shree Paradkar, Kathryn Mallinson and Kelsey Wilson, Toronto Star, How this school in India is empowering girls

Post-Secondary Youth: Sarah Chew, Katie Swyers, Martha Currie, Stephanie Liu, Ryerson University School of Journalism, Trafficked

Due to the expanded number of categories for this year’s Media Awards, 10 judges reviewed almost 170 submissions from across the country. The submissions were published or broadcast between October 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019.

In a first for the Media Awards, Toronto Star reporter Shree Paradkar won in two separate categories – Long-Form Text and Short-Form Video – for her incredible story about the Prerna Girls’ School in Lucknow, India, which is helping empower 1,000 girls from lower economic classes. It was part of the Atkinson Series on Education Without Oppression.

“We were incredibly impressed by the field this year — so many important stories. But we all found it remarkable that in the middle of all of this, there can be such a powerful, uplifting human rights story,” said Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Curation Editor at Buzzfeed News, who was one of the judges for the Long-Form Text category this year.

Shree’s short video, which was co-produced by videographer and editor Kathryn Mallinson and editor Kelsey Wilson, further illustrated this important story.

Sadiya Ansari, a Media Awards judge and journalism professor at Centennial College, added, “While we know how intensely girls and women in India and around the world are impacted by patriarchy, Shree brings to life a solution: an alternative way of learning about the world so these girls don’t have to unlearn the ‘hidden curriculum’ many schools carry that reinforce the harmful norms and narratives girls hear about themselves.”

Shanifa Nasser’s exceptional piece, which won the Short-Form Text category, highlights the ways in which Muslim people are being targeted by police and intelligence agencies in Canada.

“Shanifa Nasser does an excellent job of reporting not only how widespread it appears to be, but the real harm it causes — from sharing information with foreign agencies, preventing people from getting jobs and putting them on no-fly lists,” said Sadiya Ansari. “What was particularly effective about this piece is that it presents one solution to this problem — a new student support hotline staffed by lawyers to help Muslim students targeted by this practice.” 

APTN reporter Trina Roache’s Law of the Land, winner of the Long-Form Video category, examines the issues that have sparked Indigenous blockades across the country – both recently and for decades past.

Olivia Ward, a former Toronto Star foreign affairs reporter, said this film “powerfully traces the grievances that are the root cause of the anguish that Indigenous people have suffered, their last-ditch attempts at redress, the government’s often draconian as well as politically inadequate and unjust responses, and what needs to be done to move forward.

“The film accomplishes this without playing to stereotypes, misconceptions and preconceived notions of Indigenous protests.”

Reporter Justin Ling, along with CBC producers Jennifer Fowler, Erin Byrnes, and sound designer Cesil Fernandes created the winning podcast series Uncover: The Village. It’s a gripping account of how Toronto Police allowed deep-seated, decades-long prejudice against the city’s gay community impede their investigation into Bruce McArthur’s shocking serial murders. As they bungled, people died.

“Weaving relentless on-the-ground reporting with a rich array of archival materials, Ling shows us that the prejudice that prevailed more than 40 years ago remains very much with us today,” said Bill Schiller, former foreign correspondent with the Toronto Star and previous Amnesty International Canada Media Award winner. “‘Uncover: The Village is sweeping and yet pin-point detailed. With its blend of high-level sound, music and writing, this is storytelling of the highest order.”

In the Mixed Media category, freelance reporters Jillian Kestler-D’Amours and Megan O’Toole travelled the 2,000-kilometre Trans Mountain pipeline route from Burnaby, B.C. to Edmonton, Alberta, interviewing stakeholders in the multi-billion-dollar expansion project.

Judge Samantha Fink, winner of the 2019 Amnesty Canada Youth Media Award, said Jillian and Megan won “for their sensitive story telling that centred the voices of those most affected, for the depth of their research and for their sophisticated use of digital tools including photos, videos, graphics and maps that gave readers multiple access points to understanding a complex story.”

Ryerson University journalism students Sarah Chew, Katie Swyers, Martha Currie, and Stephanie Liu earned much-deserved recognition for their documentary film, Trafficked. The piece explores the reality of human trafficking through the real-life stories of two survivors of sex trafficking.

“While many pieces were able to eloquently portray an important human rights issue, this film’s ability to promote the victims’ agency, empower their audience, and reach suggestions of a solution were the main reasons for our choice,” said Samantha Fink. “We believe the creators did an excellent job of guiding their viewers into the corners of this local, yet often hidden, significant human rights story.”

Amnesty International would like to give an immense thanks to the 10 judges* who put a tremendous amount of time and effort into reviewing this year’s Media Awards submissions. They are:

  • John Tackaberry, who served as Amnesty International’s Media Officer for more than 20 years and worked for many years as a journalist before that. The Media Awards were John’s vision and he has served as a judge from the inception, including now in his retirement.
  • Bill Schiller, a former foreign correspondent with the Toronto Star, who is a recipient of the National Newspaper Award, Amnesty International Canada Media Award and a Harvard Nieman Fellow from the Class of 2006.
  • Sadiya Ansari, whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the Guardian, Chatelaine, Toronto Star and Maclean’s, and she was recently the managing editor of features at Global News. She is cofounder of Canadian Journalists of Colour and she’s currently a journalism professor at Centennial College.
  • Elamin Abdelmahmoud, who is the Curation Editor at BuzzFeed News and cohost of Party Lines, a CBC political podcast.
  • Shree Paradkar, the Toronto Star’s race and gender columnist, is the recipient of the 20182019 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy, and author of Betrayed: My Cousin’s Wrongful Conviction for the Murder of Her Daughter, Aarushi.
  • Adrian Harewood, the cohost of CBC Ottawa News at 6, the station’s local weekday supper-hour television newscast. 
  • Karyn Pugliese, an awardwinning journalist who’s best known for her role as Executive Director of News and Current Affairs with APTN. She is currently a member of Ryerson University’s journalism faculty and a 2020 Harvard Nieman Fellow.
  • Olivia Ward, a retired Toronto Star foreign affairs reporter who covered human rights issues extensively in her career. She was the host of the 2017 Amnesty Canada Media Awards.
  • Samantha Fink, winner of the 2019 Amnesty Canada Youth Media Award for her article on Queen’s University students who are facing invisible disabilities on campus, which was published in The Journal.
  • Parsa Mahmud, a University of Toronto student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Economics and Public Policy, and coeditor of Amnesty International’s first human rights youth newspaper, The Matchstick.

*Note: In order to avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest, no judges served on panels for categories in which they had submitted entries themselves or were personally or professionally affiliated with others who had done so.

Regrettably, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amnesty International Canada has postponed the Media Awards ceremony, which was originally scheduled for May 6. The winning journalists will be recognized at a later date.

“At a time of an unprecedented national and global crisis — as people, societies and governments everywhere scramble to understand and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic — we are once again reminded of the essential role that journalists play in ensuring the public has access to comprehensive, accurate and insightful information and analysis,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.  “So often, human rights lie at the heart of the most urgent challenges we face.  We honour and celebrate this year’s Media Awards winners for their tremendous commitment to telling those human rights stories in ways that both inform and inspire.”

Media contact: Lucy Scholey, Media Officer, Amnesty International Canada, lscholey@amnesty.ca