Al Jazeera wins prestigious UN prize for reports on UNRWA

Stories on allegations of ethical misconduct in UNRWA among winners at UN Correspondents Association awards.

Al Jazeera''s Ian Williams poses with UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres at the United Nations Correspondents Association Awards.
Ian Williams poses with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the UN Correspondents Association awards [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera Online won a Silver Medal in the Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Prize at the United Nations Correspondents Association’s (UNCA) gala dinner in New York on December 6.

The prize was conferred to Ian Williams’ two winning stories: Ethics report accuses UNRWA leadership of abuse of power and UNRWA chief of staff leaves over ‘unacceptable email’.

Both pieces probe allegations made by the UN’s internal ethics committee of ethical misconduct within the UN Palestinian refugee agency, or UNRWA.

The confidential report detailed alleged abuses of power among UNRWA’s senior management team, including “misconduct, nepotism and retaliation” for “personal and political purposes as well as to pursue professional objectives in a detrimental way”.

The second story focused on a pseudonymous email Al Jazeera received from a source claiming to be from UNRWA. Al Jazeera received the email after contacting UNRWA for details regarding the allegations.

A UNRWA spokesperson later issued a statement confirming the email prompted “an immediate review and subsequently, one of its senior staff members was separated as a direct response to that breach”.

The spokesperson later confirmed the senior staff member was the UN Palestinian refugee agency’s chief of staff Hakam Shahwan.

“We are proud to have collaborated with Ian on this project,” said Carlos Van Meek, Al Jazeera’s Director of Digital Innovation and Programming.

“Both he and Nigel Wilson, who was the editor on these reports, ensured we were relentless in our reporting. What we don’t see here is the number of challenges involved, but the guys worked hard and their efforts paid off. It’s a credit to them.”

The annual UNCA Awards honour reporters from the print, broadcast and the electronic media industry for their coverage of the UN. Other UNCA award recipients included Bloomberg, Deutsche Welle and PBS.

The prize was established in memory of Boston Globe journalist Elizabeth Neuffer, who was killed in 2003 while reporting in Iraq.

Source: Al Jazeera