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“Democracy March” in Pakistan, Video Portrait of Afghan Poverty Earn Top Honors in January

Supporters of moderate preacher Tahir-ul Qadri on the third day of a protest rally in Islamabad, 16Jan2013
Supporters of moderate preacher Tahir-ul Qadri on the third day of a protest rally in Islamabad, 16Jan2013

The winning entries in January's edition of RFE/RL's internal journalism competition, "Best of RFE/RL" included outstanding coverage of a huge, multi-day "Democracy March" in Pakistan, revealing allegations of torture in a Tajik prison, heartbreaking reporting on a family enslaved at a brickworks in Afghanistan, and a fresh new look at the remotest parts of Ukraine.

News & Current Affairs:
Radio Mashaal Tracks Dr. Qadri's "Democracy March" in Pakistan
When Pakistani religious scholar Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri announced plans to mount a million-strong “Democracy March” against the elected Pakistani government
Islamic preacher Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
Islamic preacher Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri
​ in January 2013, Radio Mashaal and the Central Newsroom took on the challenge of covering the multi-day event and helping listeners sort out the march's meaning.

Working with the Newsroom, Radio Mashaal filed a story on Qadri's agenda and his reputation that was also picked up on the website of The Atlantic magazine. This piece was followed by an article explaining who might benefit from Qadri's campaign and a blog post addressing Qadri's controversial reputation.

The coverage, characterized by in-depth analysis and thought-provoking questions, examined a key event in Pakistan that may prove crucial to a successful democratic transformation in the country.

Feature/Feature-Length Coverage:
Tajik Inmates Allege Prison Torture, Abuse
The Tajik Service's in-depth, ongoing and timely coverage of inmate abuse in Tajik prisons is making a difference in the lives of many inmates, as demonstrated by the impact of video footage aired
A Tajik inmate who alleged torture in prison.
A Tajik inmate who alleged torture in prison.
by the service on its website in December of the alleged torture of inmates by guards at Tajik prisons that captured the attention of Tajikistan's Justice Minister and Prosecutor General.​

After the video was aired of inmates describing (and showing) how they have been tortured while being held at a prison in Khujand, Justice Minister Rustam Mengliev announced that “all of these torture cases will be investigated.” The message was repeated to inmates' parents by Prosecutor General Sherkhon Salimzoda, who said he had ordered a full investigation into what he heard and saw in the reports he had watched on the service's website.

At Afghan Brickworks, Family Trapped In Cycle Of Debt
This 4:15 video by Radio Azadi videojournalist Sabawoon takes viewers into the hell that is the life of Zabit Khan, his wife, and their 9 children. Trapped by a 20-year-old loan for medical treatment that he had hoped to repay by working at a local brick kiln, Khan and his family have been swept into a cycle of debt that offers them no escape. The wages proved too small to allow him to repay the loan, he had to borrow more money to pay for more medical bills, and now Khan's children must also work at the kiln to pay off the loan. This video has sparked a discussion of whether Khan's case is an example of voluntary labor -- or a form of modern slavery.

At Afghan Brickworks, Family Trapped In Cycle Of Debt
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The jury recognized Sabawoon and Radio Azadi for reporting this story and producing such a sensitive and provocative video that demonstrates the service's (and RFE/RL's) commitment to making Afghanistan a better place for all of its people.

Life In The Hinterlands
The Ukrainian Service was recognized for producing an innovative three-part series of programs in January that examines the hardships of life in the remotest corners of the country through the eyes of real people in real-time. Produced with skill and empathy, the stories told by this show describe the extreme joblessness, lack of educational opportunity and absence of transportation options in these areas.

Special Contribution:
Azeri Service Reporter Nushabe Fatullayeva
Nushabe Fatullayeva
Nushabe Fatullayeva
Reporting on street protests with a camera strapped to her back; capturing footage of rock-throwing demonstrators and police beating protesters, while not thinking of her own safety. These qualities earned Baku-based Azerbaijani Service videographer Nushabe Fatullayeva recognition for her live coverage of a violent clash between vendors and police at a shopping center.

--Zydrone Krasauskiene