Saturday, December 7, 2013

Fiji torture series wins Pacific Media Watch editor trauma journalism prize

Torture of the captured Fiji fugitive being filmed on mobile phones.
Photo: Pacific Media Watch/Freeze frame from video
A MULTIMEDIA news report series about the torture of a fugitive prisoner and his suspected accomplice by Fiji prison officers has won a Pacific Media Watch editor a coveted international prize in trauma journalism.

Daniel Drageset, a Norwegian journalist interned at the Auckland University of Technology’s Pacific Media Centre and a postgraduate student in the School of Communication Studies, won the Dart Asia-Pacific Centre for Journalism and Trauma Prize for reporting on violence, disaster or trauma in society at the 2013 Ossie Awards for student journalism in Mooloolaba, Queensland, this week.

Drageset has been contributing editor of the PMC’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project for the past year, and has also been a student intern editor on the associated independent Pacific Scoop news website.

Judge Cait McMahon, director of Melbourne's Dart Asia-Pacific Centre, said Drageset’s winning Fiji entry had showed an “impressive investigation into alleged police torture”.

“Daniel had to straddle important ethical issues and clarify potential bias of sources to produce an impressive piece of reporting,” she said.

Careful investigation
“This work carefully investigated YouTube clips, blogs and other sources to construct a series of balanced, online news stories that were eventually picked up by mainstream, international media.

“While the videos were disturbing to watch, Daniel produced a strong series of news stories that align with the principles of giving voice to victims and survivors of violence and injustice.”

The three-part series was reported by Drageset in March as PMW became the first international media outlet to break the story, which was soon also reported by news agencies and other media.

The story was developed from graphic YouTube footage captured on mobile phones of the torture of 27-year-old escaped prisoner Iowane Benedito by apparent prison and other security officers.

Another man suspected of helping the fugitive was also tortured with the help of a dog.

The Fiji regime later admitted to “corrections officers” being implicated in the torture, but rejected calls for an independent inquiry. However,  a Fiji Prisons and Corrections Service spokeswoman confirmed that three officers had been sacked over the video.

PMC successes 
Drageset worked closely with Professor David Robie, director of the PMC and managing editor of the PMW project, on the stories.

The prize for Drageset was A$200. Highly commended for the Dart award was Eliza Rugg of RMIT University in Melbourne with her article “One metre miracle”.

This is the third year running that the PMC-affiliated students have won all prizes and citations going to the NZ-based nominations.

Last year, Karen Abplanalp won awards for best feature article and the Sally A. White Prize for investigative journalism for her “Blood Money” report in Metro magazine on a West Papua mining scandal.

Former PMW contributing editor Alex Perrottet was last year highly commended in the best use of convergent media category for a multimedia report on the late King George Tupou V of Tonga.

Perrottet also won a highly commended award in 2011 for a series of reports on Samoan post-tsunami reconstruction.

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