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MEE journalists win two Drum Awards for Online Media

Suadad al-Salhy wins Journalist of the Year and Peter Oborne wins best commentary/blogging
Work by columnist Peter Oborne and Iraq correspondent Suadad al-Salhy has been recognised at the Drum Online Media Awards (MEE)

Middle East Eye's Suadad al-Salhy has won Journalist of the Year, while Peter Oborne took the top prize for commentary/blogging at the 2022 Drum Awards for Online Media on Friday.

Salhy, MEE's correspondent in Iraq, won the award for her exceptional reporting on the fate of kidnapped Shia Turkmen women abducted by the Islamic State group in northern Iraq in 2014.

In her reporting, Salhy found the vast majority of the women had not been registered as missing, and no official efforts had been made to locate them. She reported how Iraq's Shia-dominated political forces had invested heavily in supporting the Yazidi survivors, yet did nothing to liberate Shia Turkmen women.

Through careful research, and working alone, Salhy was able to establish for the first time, through Iraqi intelligence reports, that many of the Turkmen women were alive, along with relatives of IS members, in camps run by Kurdish and Turkish forces on the Turkey-Syria border. Her reporting was consistently challenged, including a flurry of criticism from Turkmen leaders and Shia clerics.

"Receiving this award means a lot to me. It means that the world is still interested in knowing what is happening in some forgotten areas as a result of wars and conflicts," Salhy said.

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"Winning a prize is the result of the work of an entire team. I would not have won this award without the support of the people who believed in me and in the power of words to make a difference, especially my family and colleagues.

"I present this award to them and to all the forgotten victims of this cruel world."

Salhy has been a journalist for two decades, reporting on those who don't want to be written about.

During that time, she has reported on the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003; the civil war of 2005 to 2008; the rise of al-Qaeda, then the Islamic State group; and the growing influence of Iran.

In 2021, Salhy revealed to bereaved families how the government had covered up a massacre of their loved ones, and reported on a revenge killing that embarrassed the military authorities.

Commentary award

On 26 April 2021, MEE columnist Peter Oborne was interviewed by Channel 4 News, during which he described Downing Street as "a moral cesspit" and Prime Minister Boris Johnson as "proven to be a repeated and habitual liar". 

At the time, Oborne was swimming against the tide when more people thought Johnson was doing a great job of running the country. But to Oborne, pleasing readers made no difference. He has spent the past few years in the pages of MEE forensically dissecting and criticising Johnson's leadership. 

For many years, Oborne was an admirer of Johnson. But when Johnson became prime minister, Oborne concluded that the former mayor of London was prone to frequently lie and obfuscate.

"The award is actually a recognition of the work MEE has done. We have a strong editing team which is pretty responsible for this," Oborne said. "This is a recognition of enormous strides that MEE has made to establish itself as the leading news source for the Middle East. It provides fair, accurate commentary and good news, including a range of immensely important exclusives."

In his recent essay, "Sue Gray report: If Boris Johnson survives, it will only get worse for Britain," he writes: "[T]his story is no longer about Boris Johnson. It's not even about the Conservative Party. It's about Britain. What we have become. What kind of people we are. Consider this: All previous British prime ministers, without exception, would have been driven from office some time ago if they behaved like Johnson."

David Hearst, editor-in-chief at MEE, spoke of his pride at the recognition. 

"I am thrilled that the unique journalism MEE provides has been honoured in these awards. Peter is a rare beast in British political journalism, a man of honour and morality. He was the first to call out his former mate and editor Boris Johnson for his lies and moral failures as a leader," he said.  

"Suadad has reported massacres that were covered up as well as the inner workings of the Iraqi elite. Her revelations have shamed Iraqi politicians into changing the law on improving conditions for women kidnapped by Islamic State.

"Through painstaking research and working alone, Suadad was able to establish that Turkmen women kidnapped by IS were alive and in camps run by Kurdish and Turkish forces on the Syrian border. Most journalists break stories like these from a safe distance. Suadad does this from Baghdad. She is a fearless investigative reporter who richly deserves this award."

In 2021, MEE journalist Daniel Hilton won an Amnesty International UK Media Award for his reporting on mass graves and other civil war atrocities in Libya.

In November, Middle East Eye freelance correspondent Maha Hussaini won the Martin Adler Prize, awarded by the prestigious Rory Peck Trust, for her reporting for Middle East Eye from Gaza.

And in June 2020, Shatha Hammad, a freelance journalist working from the occupied West Bank with Middle East Eye, won the prestigious One World Media New Voice Award.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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