Reporting of Chechen Women Brought an Award
On November 24, the British Foreign Press Association Media Awards 2009 presented to its winners in London. One of the awards went to Lucy Ash and Nick Sturdee on their radio broadcasting at BBC about women in Chechnya.
The work of journalist Lucy Ash and producer Nick Sturdee, entitled “Chechnya: The Fate of Women“, has been listened in “Crossing Continents” programme of BBC Radio 4. And Foreign Press Association* (FPA) awarded their work as “Radio Story of the Year”.
After the award ceremony, we have asked Nick Sturdee’s feelings and his opinion about the awards.
Mr Sturdee said, “Two radio programmes were nominated by the initial group of judges appointed by the FPA. I don’t know how many other programmes were submitted and I don’t really know how the panel came to choose the two they did. But I did speak to one of the panel of judges at the awards ceremony, and she told me that she liked our programme because it was devoted to a subject that she thought was very important and that she had heard nothing about. She said that although in this country we hear a lot about the situation in places like Afghanistan and Iraq – for obvious and good reasons – she had no idea what life was like for women in Chechnya. So I am very glad we were able to provide some information that was not on the usual media agenda.”
“I am very glad that these awards can draw attention to stories and parts of the world that are easily forgotten. I also feel very grateful to those kind and generous people who were willing to talk to us and help us. One of those is Natalya Estemirova, who was abducted and murdered just a few weeks after we left. Her death was utterly devastating and shameful, and caused quite a stir in the UK and much indignation among those who knew of her. Natasha’s murder also provided unwanted confirmation of what we had learnt and described in the programme – that danger and brutality are ever-present in Chechnya, and that many can act with total impunity. Natasha however was an exceptional woman – she refused to allow fear to keep her quiet” said Nick Sturdee.
“When Lucy and I decided to make these programmes, we did so because there seemed to be a window of opportunity after the lifting of the Counter Terrorism Operation status in Chechnya. The rules connected to this status meant that it was virtually impossible for foreign journalists to fufill their professional obligations in Chechnya. Despite the efforts of some very courageous journalists like Anna Politkovskaya, there was a virtual information blackout from the onset of the second Russian-Chechen war till this year. People outside Russia and Chechnya would generally receive information about the fighting – much of it incomplete and unverifiable – but very little got out about everyday life and reality in Chechnya. We decided to make a programme about women because we wanted to hear about the experience of the years of war from people whose voices had remained mostly unheard and unrepresented. We were also interested in women because of the light their experience appeared to shed on the rule of law in Chechnya. We had heard for example that women are required to cover their heads when entering an official building of pro-Moscow authorities in Chechnya – which is not the case anywhere else in the Russian Federation – that Kadirov encourages polygamy – which is against the law in the rest of the Russian Federation – and that there had been a disturbing spate of murders of young women. Not many people seemed to have very much faith in the willingness or ability of the pro-Moscow authorities to solve these murders” added Mr Sturdee.
At the same time, Nick Sturdee was awarded for “TV News Story of the Year”, with his programme “Somalia: UN World Food Programme: Theft and Corruption” at Channel 4 News. This other programme was about the arrest and detention of individuals fleeing Somalia into Kenya as the Ethiopian army entered Somalia and deposed the Union of Islamic Courts in 2006. The programme documented the existence of what was called the African Guantanamo in Addis Ababa, and the treatment of detainees.
Now Mr Sturdee has various ideas and is developing them. He plans to look at something different -issues related to the climate – and of course to follow events in Russia, the Caucasus and elsewhere.
*British Foreign Press Association was founded in 1888, its members foreign journalists in the UK and includes about 700 employees.