Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra has been awarded Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism 2020 for “telling [stories] of the women of Kashmir.”
Catherine Antoine, president of the Global Media Forum Training Group and founder of the Peter Mackler Award, said: “Masrat Zahra exhibits the very qualities that my late husband, Peter Mackler, fostered in the new generation of reporters whose path he crossed. Masrat’s complete dedication to reporting the story, no matter the risks, along with her mental fearlessness and creative approach to use any medium at her disposal to bear witness to the world made our choice easy.”
The award citation noted that the course of her work, Ms. Zahra “has been summoned by the police and accused of spreading fake news and giving support to enemies of the state. In April, Zahra and another journalist in Jammu and Kashmir were cited under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).”
Earlier, the 26-year-old photojournalist was awarded Anja Niedringhaus Courage In Photojournalism Award 2020, which celebrates the courageous work of women photojournalists, by International Women’s Media Foundation. Her work has appeared in The Caravan, The Washington Post, TRT World, Al Jazeera, The New Humanitarian, Religion Unplugged and several other media outlets.
The Award is a project of the Global Media Forum Training Group (GMFTG), a 501 (C) (3) organization. Partners include the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, Reporters Without Borders and Agence France-Presse.
“It’s our job to work and show the truth,” and “you have to take risks” to do it, Zahra said in a Zoom interview from Srinagar with the Peter Mackler Award. “I feel that as a female journalist, I have a privilege” to tell the stories that have been ignored of Kashmiri women caught up in a conflict zone, Zahra said. “You have to speak on their behalf.”
The citation also noted that Ms. Zahra faced the additional burden of laboring under a new law enacted by the New Delhi government in June that Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has described as “Orwellian.” The “New Media Policy” of the government for Jammu and Kashmir “assumes the right to harass journalists and media judicially and economically if they publish content it doesn’t like. It amounts to prior censorship,” RSF said.