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Asia

Indian reporter wins AFP prize for work in Kashmir

Photojournalist and reporter from Mumbai, Dilnaz Boga, wins the Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize. The 33-year-old says the award means a lot, especially since her work is viewed skeptically in India.

Mumbai-based reporter, Dilnaz Boga wins AFP prize for her courageous work in the troubled region of Kashmir

Dilnaz Boga wins AFP prize for her courageous work in the troubled region of Kashmir

Indian photojournalist and reporter, Dilnaz Boga has won the Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize for her courageous work in the troubled region of Kashmir. Dilnaz Boga's stories on Kashmir talk about how people, especially children, think and feel in this troubled region. She was chosen for the AFP award based on ten human interest stories she had submitted, most of them focusing on crime, women, children and youth.

"Youth are bearing the brunt of the violence," says Boga. "When I went to Kashmir ten years ago, I came back with a lot of pictures of children and, and they had this look in their eyes, then I started wondering, what it’s like for a child to live in a place like that where there is so much violence."

Kashmiri children watch through a window in Srinagar, where curfews and protests are common

Kashmiri children watch through a window in Srinagar, where curfews and violence are common

Boga, based in Mumbai, has been covering Kashmir for the past ten years. She spent the whole of 2010 in Srinagar working for the news portal Kashmir Dispatch as well as international publications and websites. The 33-year-old says receiving the award means a lot, especially since she has been criticized for her coverage of Kashmir in India.

"My work in India is looked at very skeptically; they don’t believe that all this goes on in Kashmir. So an award coming from other journalists and from this prestigious foundation really means a lot. And I am not called biased or anything, which is the case in India," she says. "Because what goes on in Kashmir is so outlandish and no one from here can believe that the government is doing this to people there."

Kate Webb Prize for courageous work

The non-profit AFP Foundation awards the prize to recognize exceptional work produced by Asian journalists operating in dangerous or difficult circumstances in the region.

The Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize was launched in 2008 in honour of the legendary AFP correspondent in Asia who blazed a trail for women in international journalism. Webb, who died in 2007 at the age of 64, was one of AFP's finest correspondents, earning a reputation for bravery while covering wars and other historic events in the Asia-Pacific region.

Youths pelting stones at security forces during a demonstration at Srinagar

Youths pelting stones at security forces during a demonstration at Srinagar

AFP's Asia-Pacific regional director said as a woman, Dilnaz endured difficult, male-dominated conditions in an extremely hostile environment to report on the human side of the Kashmir situation, particularly the impact on the youth.

Dilnaz said being of Persian descent also made it difficult at times, as editors in the past had often said it made her biased. She said it had also been difficult getting information from authorities in the troubled region of Kashmir.

"In Kashmir, the officials say nothing." says Boga. Even if five people have been killed in a village somewhere, they will tell you everything is fine. So you have to kind of have grassroots level contacts who will confirm."

Highligthing the Kashmir story

It is very difficult to operate under these hostile circumstances, says Boga, remembering instances when the authorities would "block the phone signal, for example," if there had been a killing or make it difficult for reporters to move around during curfews. "We would be given curfew passes, but they wouldn’t be honored; The soldiers in the streets wouldn’t let you go anywhere," she adds.

Despite set-backs, Boga says she feels people need to know what's really happening in Kashmir behind the propagandist coverage in the mainstream media.

Kashmiri journalists, who are often monitored, protest against the government in Srinagar in 2010

Kashmiri journalists, who are often monitored, protest against the government in Srinagar in 2010

"Most of the Indian journalist who report on Kashmir don’t know much about the history of the place, or what they do know of is government propaganda," she explains. "A lot of them see the conflict through this Islamic jihad prism and the government keeps on changing its versions and there’s no media analysis.

"The government doesn't want the rest of the country to know why people are unhappy in a certain part of the country and that holds true for all the conflicts in India, not just Kashmir," she explains.

Earlier this month she organized a daylong exhibition, "Kashmir Klicks," to highlight the issue of the people of Kashmir. As part of the AFP award Dlinaz Boga will receive a certificate and 3,000 euros in cash at a ceremony in Hong Kong at the end of March.

Author: Sherpem Sherpa
Editor: Sarah Berning

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