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War reporting documentary wins prestigious Peabody Award

Reuters photographer Finbarr O'Reilly on assignment in Libya. Courtesy: Under Fire Journalists in Combat

A documentary about the dangers journalists face in war zones has won the prestigious Peabody Award.

Toronto filmmaker Martyn Burke's Under Fire: Journalists in Combat examines how reporting on war has becoming increasingly dangerous over the last 10 to 15 years. Renowned psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Feinstein who treats journalists suffering from the stress of war reporting also worked with Burke. The CBC commissioned the documentary.

Among those interviewed was The Toronto Star's veteran war reporter Paul Watson who talks about the guilt he felt over his photograph of an American soldier's body being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993 which won him a Pulitzer prize. 

Watson said: "Martyn Burke has the interviewing skills of a superb psychiatrist. He took me to a dark place where I didn't want to go and anyone who sees the film can see the re-telling was traumatic for me. But I'm glad he took me there. I'm an idealist who believes that if enough people fully grasp the corrosive effect that war has on all of us--whether we're fighting, caught in the middle, merely observing, or feeling safe back home--we'll do more collectively to end war forever."

The Star's national security reporter and author Michelle Shephard who has spent years reporting from conflict zones including Yemen, Somalia and Kenya was an associate producer.

The Peabodys celebrate some of the world's best journalism and winners were announced on Wednesday at the University of Georgia’s journalism school.  

Burke told the CBC: "In some of them (journalists), not all, but some, there is just this level of submerged trauma that just kind of bubbles up. The second thing that surprised me is that in amongst all these people, there's a residual humanity [despite] all the depravity and killing they've seen. I actually liken it to flowers coming out of concrete. You can't keep that humanity down."

Read Michelle Shephard's dispatches from Kenya's troubled election

Read Paul Watson's reports from Syria on factions in the civil war

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at the Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour


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Congratulations! The award is richly deserved.

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