Reuters' Nakhoul feted in Abu Dhabi April 30

Leading pan-Arab satcaster MBC has launched an award to recognize femme journos across the region. The Atwar Bahjat Award — in memory of the slain MBC Al-Arabiya presenter who was abducted and brutally murdered in February 2006 in Iraq while covering a story — was given to Reuters journo Samia Nakhoul in a ceremony in Abu Dhabi April 30.

Nakhoul narrowly avoided death herself in 2003, when the Baghdad hotel in which she was staying came under fire.

“The award comes as a symbolic gesture to the living memory of Atwar Bahjat, who sadly made the ultimate sacrifice while covering her beat in Iraq,” says MBC chairman Sheik Waleed al-Ibrahim. “I hope this award will help recognize and stimulate the efforts of female journalists all over the world, especially those covering the region’s hot spots.

The Mideast remains a perilous place to work for reporters. The fate of BBC journo Alan Johnson, who was abducted March 12 from his car in Gaza, remains uncertain despite the concerted efforts of the U.N., EU and Palestinian leadership to obtain his release. Numerous pleas from execs at the BBC and fellow journos across the Middle East have been ignored. Johnson was the only Western journo to remain stationed in Gaza full time. He had been due to finish his posting in Gaza at the end of April.

MBC Al-Arabiya has also suffered heavily in Iraq. The pan-Arab newscaster has seen eight staff members killed in the violence-plague country, the highest number for any non-Iraqi media outlet. Despite the ongoing situation and repeated threats from the Iraqi government to shut down the satcaster’s operation in the country, MBC execs confirmed they would continue to cover events there.

“This award will serve to encourage more such professionalism, and we look forward to reaping the benefits of objective, rigorous journalism that exposes the truth no matter the consequence,” al-Ibrahim says.

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