WASHINGTON -- Ulanbek Egizbaev, a journalist with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Kyrgyz Service who died earlier this year, has been honored posthumously with the 2018 David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award, a prize that recognizes courage, integrity and professionalism in reporting.
The annual award is given to journalists affiliated with each of the five networks overseen by the United States Agency for Global Media’s (USAGM) Board of Governors.
The December 12 ceremony took place against the backdrop of a Time Magazine tribute that extolled journalists, including murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as “guardians of the truth.” USAGM Board Chairman Kenneth Weinstein told the awardees, “It can’t be overstated how important your work is -- getting the truth out to people who don’t have access to the truth,” and commended them for reporting that “demonstrates the best ideals of your profession.” USAGM CEO John Lansing honored the passion and dedication of the agency’s journalists, citing the risks they take “for just doing their jobs – reporting the facts.” Keynote speaker Robert McMahon, Executive Editor for the Council of Foreign Relations and a former RFE/RL journalist, applauded the recipients for reporting that has placed their networks “among the established journalistic sources that are out there in a time of great noise and confusion.”
During his tenure with RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, Egizbaev produced hard-hitting investigative reporting that exposed corruption cases in government, the Customs Service, various ministries, public-land distribution, and even a major corruption scheme at cemeteries, as well as impassioned reports on those who could not stand up and speak up for themselves -- be it a teacher in a desolate mountain village, a young woman overcoming the consequences of a botched operation that left her blind and in need of dialysis, or a young disabled teenager staying optimistic despite difficult challenges in his life. For this last story, Egizbaev and RFE/RL video producer Mykola Nemchenko won a 2016 Webby People’s Voice Award and traveled to New York to accept the prize. Egizbaev died in an accident in July 2018.
Other Burke Award recipients were Voice Of America’s (VOA) Turkish Service, for its breaking news coverage of attacks on peaceful protesters outside the home of the Turkish Ambassador in Washington, D.C.; Radio Free Asia (RFA) Burmese Service Reporter Kan Thar, for his extensive reporting from Shan State in Myanmar; Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) photojournalist Rodolfo Hernandez, for his intrepid reporting from Colombia and Nicaragua; and the Middle East Broadcasting Network’s Alhurra TV Correspondent Heybar Othman, for reporting from northern Syria.
RFE/RL relies on its networks of local reporters to provide accurate news and information to 34 million people in 25 languages and 20 countries where media freedom is restricted, or where a professional press has not fully developed. RFE/RL recorded 2.6 billion combined views across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram in FY2018. RFE/RL is an editorially independent media company funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Agency for Global Media.