Prison exposé wins journalist top award

A television exposé of horrific conditions in South Africa’s prisons has earned Hazel Friedman this year’s prestigious Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award.

The national winners in various categories were announced at a ceremony held at Vodaworld in Midrand on Sunday evening.

Of Friedman’s feature, filmed for the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Special Assignment and titled For the Boys, the judges said it ”shone a light in the cracks when most of us would prefer not to look, showing how the innocent and juveniles are thrown into holding cells and the extent of the collusion between prison gangs and warders who turn a blind eye on rape, drugs and violence that is life in prison today”.

An emotional Friedman walked away with a R10 000 prize for being the winner in her category, as well as R100 000 for being chosen as the overall winner. ”I did not tell the story; the story told me,” she said, also thanking those who had the courage to speak out on their experiences in prison.

The national awards followed regional rounds held earlier in the year around the country, and the national winners were chosen from those awarded on regional level.

Overall, the judges praised entries in the print news category, saying the number of entries in this category had almost doubled from the previous year. It was indicative, they said, not only of the confidence of the journalists wanting to compete on a certain level, but also the South African news environment in which they operate. In particular, the investigative nature of the entries was impressive.

Other winners on the evening were:

Print feature

Tanya Farber of the Star for a series of three articles published on the anniversary of the Sharpeville massacre — ”executed in a highly unusual fashion”, according to the judges.

Print news

Simpiwe Piliso of Sunday Times for a report on the Elephant empowerment consortium’s purchase of Telkom shares, which sparked a national outcry. ”This journalist was fearless in reporting the facts on what the consortium wanted to hide,” the judges said.

Financial/economic

Bruce Cameron of Personal Finance for his ”well-written, -researched and -presented” reports on the Fidentia scandal and J Arthur Brown. ”The ramifications of the investigations undertaken were immense,” the judges commented.

Sport

Carlos Amato of the Sunday Times‘s Soccer Life, who reported on the way in which soccer players are remunerated at Premier Soccer League clubs and the ongoing battle to create a fair deal for them by the South African Football Players’ Union.

Cartoonist

Yalo of the Sowetan newspaper, for a cartoon juxtaposing a famous image of the June 16 1976 events with a modern interpretation thereof.

Television feature

Friedman for her feature For the Boys.

Television general news

Robyn Smith of e.tv for a report on the myriad social problems that beset the children of some working-class mothers. ”This piece exposed the vulnerability of young children being exploited by the very people who should be protecting them by offering them for sex work. The news value was high, the piece technically proficient and the content well researched and gripping,” the judges said.

Columnist

Paddi Clay of the Herald, who ”tackled her topics in a humorous, amusing, witty and incisive manner”, according to the judges.

Community media

Mandla Khwela and Sandile Nzama of Ikhwezi Radio, whose radio shows ”chronicle stories about people, progress and problems and look for unique insights or perspectives on life in communities”.

Radio news

Mandy Weiner of Talk Radio 702 for her reports on the death of a 15-month-old baby, hit by a stray bullet during a shootout in the Johannesburg CBD.

Radio feature

Mabutho Ngcobo of Health-e News for a story on circumcision and the risk of HIV infection. The judges said the story was ”not only very well researched, but it dealt with a subject that affected everyone and told in a manner that effectively drove the point home”.

Photography

Greg Marinovich and James Oatway of the Sunday Times. The judges said the pictures submitted had been of a high quality and it had been difficult to choose a winner. ”Both winning entries were well researched over a period of time and the depth of understanding of the plight of the subjects told a visual and necessary story that we need to know and understand.”

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