Al Jazeera reporter Asad Hashim wins AFP's Kate Webb Prize

Hashim won the prize for his coverage of the plight of ethnic Pashtuns and blasphemy issues in his native Pakistan.

    Hashim's work in Pakistan was honoured by AFP as courageous and independent [AFP]
    Hashim's work in Pakistan was honoured by AFP as courageous and independent [AFP]

    Al Jazeera correspondent Asad Hashim has been named the winner of the 2018 Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize for his coverage of the plight of ethnic Pashtuns and blasphemy issues in his native Pakistan.

    The award, named after late AFP news agency correspondent Kate Webb, recognises journalism by locally-hired reporters in Asia operating in risky or difficult conditions.

    Hashim, 33, was honoured for a series of articles for Al Jazeera on ethnic Pashtuns and other minority groups caught in the crossfire of Pakistan's fight against the Taliban.

    These included an investigative report into enforced disappearances allegedly conducted by the country's powerful military and a reporting mission to the South Waziristan tribal region - the birthplace of Pakistan Taliban - to look into the civilian toll from landmines.

    Pakistan has battled homegrown revolt for nearly 15 years, with tens of thousands of people killed, and fighters retain the ability to carry out devastating attacks despite recent improvements in security.

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    "These are challenging times for journalists in Pakistan, and Asad Hashim's work stands out for the kind of courageous, independent reporting the Kate Webb Prize was created to recognise," said AFP Asia-Pacific regional director Philippe Massonnet.

    "His deeply-researched articles tackle sensitive subjects with an admirable balance of passion, commitment and journalistic detachment."

    The award also recognised his work for Al Jazeera on other highly sensitive issues, such as Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the country's judicial system.

    "I am honoured by the jury's decision to select my work this year," Hashim said after learning he was the winner of the 2018 prize.

    "It has become increasingly difficult to report on rights issues, particularly on the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement rights group, due to restrictions imposed by Pakistani authorities in the last year. This award is a recognition of the increasingly restrictive reporting environment all Pakistani journalists are facing.

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    "I'd like to thank Al Jazeera for consistently supporting investigative reporting on human rights issues - real stories, that affect real people. I would also like to thank Saud Mehsud, a colleague without whose guidance and help on the ground my stories would have been impossible to report."

    The Kate Webb Prize, with a $3,400 purse, honours journalists working in perilous or difficult conditions in Asia, and is named after a crusading AFP reporter who died in 2007 at the age of 64, after a career covering the world's trouble spots.

    The award, which in 2017 went to Myanmar journalist Mratt Kyaw Thu for his brave coverage of the ethnic and religious conflict in his homeland, is administered by AFP and the Webb family.

    The prize will be formally presented at a ceremony in March.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies