Embassy congratulates Sami Mahdi, winner of the International Center for Journalists' Knight International Journalism Award

Embassy of Afghanistan

Counselor Hakim Atarud (right) stands with Afghan broadcaster and Knight International Journalism award winner Sami Mahdi.

International Center for Journalists

Afghan broadcaster and Knight International Journalism award winner Sami Mahdi stands with Wolf Blitzer and Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation.

Photo: Mr. Atarud with Sami Mahdi
Photo: Sami Wolf Alberto

WASHINGTON – Embassy representatives congratulated Afghan broadcaster Sami Mahdi at the International Center for Journalists’ Annual Awards Dinner on November 13. Chosen out of 236 contenders, Mahdi received of one of the Center’s highest honors, the Knight International Journalism Award.

“The free press in Afghanistan stands as one of our nation’s highest accomplishments,” Ambassador Eklil Hakimi. “We commend the important work of Mr. Mahdi, and will be eagerly awaiting more of his courageous reporting.”

Sami Mahdi serves as a television news director for 1TV, and was selected from hundreds of applicants. He was honored for “revolutionizing his country’s media landscape” by developing programs including “Niqab” and “Kabul Debate Live.” “Niqab” features Afghan women hiding their identities behind a mask, who discuss their experiences with domestic violence and rape for a live audience.

“I am very honored by this prestigious award, but I feel happier for my country and our media environment. I think it shows the international community’s support for the Afghan media,” Mr. Mahdi said. “A decade ago, no free press existed. Listening to music, watching videos and publishing photos were major crimes. Now, there are hundreds of radio stations, dozens of television channels and thousands of publications that produce news for the Afghan people. In the last decade, a new generation of Afghan journalists has emerged. This generation challenges traditional leaders, corrupt officials, drug dealers, disagreeable traditions, violence and terrorism.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed those gathered via a prerecorded videotape, expressing support for journalists around the world who expose important stories at great personal risk. Bob Woodward, best-selling author and associate editor of the Washington Post, delivered the keynote address. Wolf Blitzer, anchor of CNN’s “The Situation Room,” served as master of ceremonies. Ann Curry of NBC also made a special appearance.

Other award recipients included Kenyan journalist Kassim Mohamed for his trailblazing stories on the wreckage caused by Somali pirates, and YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar on behalf of his company. YouTube received the News Innovation Award for its constructive role in facilitating information flow in repressive societies such as Syria.