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Afghanistan Back-Pedals On Women's Rights And Fences Go Up In Georgia -- These And Other Stories Awarded In May


Afghanistan -- University students and independent civil society activists take part in a demonstration in support of passing the Elimination of Violence against Women law in front of Parliament in Kabul May 27, 2013.

Afghanistan -- University students and independent civil society activists take part in a demonstration in support of passing the Elimination of Violence against Women law in front of Parliament in Kabul May 27, 2013.

Women’s rights in Afghanistan, corruption in Uzbekistan, and arbitrary borders imposed in Georgia were among the investigative and multi-media reports that took top honors in May’s “Best of RFE/RL” competition.

News and Current Affairs

RFE/RL’s Afghan Service won in the News and Current Affairs category for its comprehensive coverage of an attempt by conservative legislators to block efforts to ratify a key law protecting women’s rights. The long-running drama began in 2009, when supporters of women’s rights sought a parliamentary vote to formally adopt a law passed by presidential decree that criminalizes and sets penalties for rape, child marriage, and other activities that threaten women. Instead, conservative legislators counter-attacked and attempted to chip away at the law as un-Islamic and an intrusion into family life.

Afghanistan -- Afghan schoolgirls talk with acid attack victim Shamsia , 17, as she rests on a hospital bed in Kabul on November 15, 2008. Acid attacks against women are common in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan -- Afghan schoolgirls talk with acid attack victim Shamsia , 17, as she rests on a hospital bed in Kabul on November 15, 2008. Acid attacks against women are common in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Service covered the story live from parliament, interviewing legislators on both sides of the debate, as well as women’s rights activists in Kabul and human rights activists abroad. The service also hosted a debate on the issue featuring an MP and an official from the Ministry of Justice, and sought views from the street. The coverage was shared with the English-language newsroom, which produced a blog piece that helped direct international attention to the story. As a result of the coverage, Radio Azadi’s and RFE/RL’s audiences were well informed about this attack on the rights of women in Afghanistan, allowing Afghan listeners to enter the debate directly by contacting their parliamentary representatives.

RFE/RL’s Pakistani Service, Radio Mashaal, was awarded runner-up honors for its package, “U.S. Drone Kills A Top Pakistan Commander In The Tribal Areas.” Their coverage is a model of thorough reporting, that includes breaking news, feature coverage, and analysis.

Feature/Feature-Length Coverage

"Warnings About the Consequences of the Syrian Conflict on Iraq" is a radio piece prepared by Radio Free Iraq’s Samira Ali Mandee in cooperation with a group of reporters in Iraq. This story explores rumors that Iraqi fighters are traveling to Syria to take part in the conflict there on different sides -- a taboo subject within the Iraqi media.

Funeral ceremonies have recently taken place in some Iraqi cities for Shi'a youths killed in Syria, while the remains of Sunni youths have been brought back to their families in Iraq in total secrecy, for fear the young men will be accused of terrorism. Iraqi sources have confirmed that Iraqi Shi'a fighters are fighting in support of the Syrian regime, and that Iraqi Sunni fighters are fighting alongside the armed Syrian opposition. Nevertheless, Iraqi officials deny any involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Read Mandee's blog on how this report was done.

Special Project

“New Documents Suggest Fresh Evidence Of TeliaSonera Ties To Karimova” (in Uzbek; in English) is the winner of the “Special Project” category. The story is a collaborative investigative report prepared by RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service and the Central Newsroom along with Sweden’s “Mission: Investigation” TV program.

The report published leaked documents related to a shady telecoms deal purportedly containing the handwriting of Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Uzbekistan’s autocratic leader Islam Karimov. These new documents bolster suspicions of a direct link between Karimova and TeliaSonera, which is under investigation for allegedly paying upward of $300 million in bribes to a Karimova associate to gain access to the Uzbek telecom market in 2007.

Video/Multimedia

Tbilisi reacted angrily to Russia’s decision to install barbed wire fences on the administrative border between Georgia and South Ossetia, which were reportedly installed a few hundred meters beyond the administrative boundary within the breakaway region.

The Georgian Service sent a correspondent to the village of Ditsi to investigate. As its video report demonstrates, Russia’s action has had a direct impact on the lives of average people in Georgia.



Village residents complain that they are not able to use the land beyond the newly installed fences or graze their animals there any longer. One man reported that he must secretly climb the fence, full of fear, in order to receive his pension on the other side of the wire. Many families with relations living on either side of the new fence can no longer visit each other, their friends, or the cemetery where their ancestors were laid to rest. Those who cross run the risk of being fined or detained.

Thus, a story that may might have been overlooked as one of many items in the news now touches our hearts as a true human drama. The EU and NATO later condemned the construction of the barbed wire fences in Georgia as unacceptable as it impeded the free movement of the people. The organizations also claimed it may lead to further destabilization in the region.

--Zydrone Krasauskiene
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