We invited journalists and photographers to send us a proposal, outlining an important but under-reported development story from Afghanistan. We were delighted with the response. A total of 36 individuals made the effort to research and develop their story ideas, often in paired entries between a journalist and photographer. Their story suggestions were wide-ranging and inspiring - including how circus programmes develop critical coping mechanisms for Afghan children and their communities, how Afghan women are leading in sports and breaking down social barriers, how Afghans have developed innovative and effecting treatment programmes for drug addicts... all were fascinating stories, all deserved to be told.
The BAAG team and our Media Adviser reviewed all the entries, to create a short-list of 6. We considered the originality and appropriateness of the story, the experience of the journalists in this subject area and in reporting from conflict-affected countries, the feasibility of gathering source material in Afghanistan during a 7 day trip. We had hoped to include a leading Afghan photographer, Zalmai, in this stage of the reviewing, but unfortunately he was held up in Istanbul and only able to see a few entries by email before leaving for an assignment.
BAAG gathered together a panel of media experts to judge the shortlisted entries. Our judges were: leading Afghanistan-focused journalists Emma Graham-Harrison of The Guardian and Ben Anderson of VICE News, award-winning photographer Nick Danziger and founder of the fantastic Kabul at Work multimedia project David Gill, and leading development communications expert and ex-journalist/editor Mark Galloway of the International Broadcasting Trust.
Over a lively discussion the judges considered a short list of the leading six entries and eventually agreed on our winners. Mark de Rond and Magda Rakita proposed a moving and interesting story that explores the issue of PTSD amongst Afghan civilians. PTSD is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Much has been written in the Western press about the terrible impact the Afghanistan war has had on the NATO soldiers who have served in the country, and the support they receive back home should they be diagnosed with PTSD. In comparison little is reported on how 30+ years of continuous conflict, instability and horrific human rights violations have affected the civilian population. Whilst some excellent work is being delivered in mental health treatment in Afghanistan, these programmes are few and far between.
BAAG are now working with Mark and Magda to plan their trip to Afghanistan later this year. We're working with our own Member organisations (NGOs who run programmes in Afghanistan) and with Afghan civil society and media contacts. The aim is for a 7-9 day trip to Afghanistan for both winners, supported by BAAG staff, in early December - this will be to gather the required interviews, research and photographs for a final piece of development journalism to be published by end of 2015. We're looking forward to Mark and Magda telling their important story to the European public, and in doing, raising the need for continued support to Afghanistan and it's battle-scarred but resilient and hopeful people.
Our other activity in the last month or so has been planning BAAG's 2nd policy-maker round table of the year. We approached RUSI, ODI and Chatham House over the summer to see if they would partner with us, and in October we agreed to partner with RUSI. We have been considering the theme of the event. Given the increasingly difficult migrant and refugee crisis in Europe, we have decided to focus the event on this. The precise theme and question is still being developed, by the BAAG team and RUSI and we'll consult with migration and development experts to finalise that.
The policy-makers round table will be held in London on December 16th, from 9am to 12.30pm. We aim to have 10 policy makers (civil servants and MPs) present, along with development and migration experts. One attendee will be an Afghan who we will bring over to London for the event.