– A Guyanese journalist, Robert Bazil, is the winner of the "Biodiversity Reporting Award 1999" with his article "Millennium Watch: Fresh Hope for the Sea Turtle" published in the Chronicle. The First Prize winner, Mr. Bazil will be invited and fully sponsored to travel in October to Bogota, Colombia, to participate in the 7th annual conference of the International Federation for Environmental Journalists (IFEJ). There he will be acknowledged during a special ceremony. The environmental journalist contest was organized by Conservation International (CI) in collaboration with IFEJ and ICFJ (International Center for Journalists).
The annual IFEJ conference gathers environmental journalists from around the world to improve international networking, provide access to information and offer global support to journalists. Currently 40 member associations are affiliated with IFEJ, representing over 6,000 individuals in more than 60 countries. It will be the first time that a Guyanese journalist will be able to participate in this prestigious professional meeting.
Four other Guyanese journalists have been recognized for the quality of their reporting in the "Biodiversity Reporting Award." Nivedta Kowlessar, with the article "Living the Research" published in the Chronicle, and Andrew Richards, with "Government Moving ahead with NPAS" published in the Starbroek News, were awarded second and third prize respectively. They will receive a cash award of G$40,000 (2nd prize) and G$20,000 (3rd prize) as well as a two-year honorary membership to IFEJ and a journalism resource kit from ICFJ. Miranda La Rose and Linda Rutherford have both received an Honorable Mention from the judges.
All 25 articles, submitted by 15 journalists, were carefully judged by a panel of five individuals, representing international journalism organizations such as IFEJ, ICFJ, and ANPA (the hosting Colombian organization for the upcoming IFEJ conference), as well as Mr. Phillip Da Silva, currently Assistant Dean at the University of Guyana, and a CI communications specialist.
"These awards have great potential. They can encourage more and better reporting, that means a better informed public and that, in turn, leads to more enlightened decisions by officials and governments. Journalists can make a real difference by educating themselves and others. I am delighted to see the process begin and I congratulate the winners and their publications," expressed David J. Anable, President of ICFJ and one of the judges of the contest.
Since April 1999, when the contest was launched, CI has maintained updated information about the "Biodiversity Reporting Award" on its web page, where all entries were published. CI also used the web technology for all aspects of the judging process, from posting of articles to judging criteria and forms. This process allowed members of the jury around the world, including countries such as Colombia, India, and the US, to participate easily in the contest. The winning articles are presently linked from the front page of CI's website at www.conservation.org.
"The contest was created to generate new incentives for and to engage journalists in the coverage of biodiversity related themes" says Haroldo Castro, Senior Director for CI's International Communications. "As Guyana is known to hold one of the most remarkable remaining wilderness areas of the world, reporting on the country's natural heritage is an essential means by which to increase awareness about its uniqueness and importance."
The "Biodiversity Reporting Award" was also organized in Guatemala this year and was made possible through the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Marian S. Heiskell Charitable Trust.