Srinagar: Kashmiri photo-journalist, Showkat Shafi, has been declared winner of the ‘Best Photo-Journalist Award’ by Drum Online Media Awards.
Shafi, who is on way to Brazil from Netherlands, spoke to the FreePressKashmir expressing his “good feelings” after the award ceremony.
London based Drum Online Media Awards announced the awards at a function on Thursday and the award was received by Showkat’s colleague and Al Jazeera Twitter team head, Gehad Soliman –
As the fate had it, Showkat won award in the holy Ramzan and exactly six years ago, armed forces in Kashmir beat him up outside historic Jamia Masjid Srinagar during the same month.
Al Jazeera Media Network digital division captured six top prizes in total, which also included: the chairman’s award; best Twitter feed; best photographer for Showkat Shafi from Kashmir; and best brand development for Syhacked, the gamification of investigative journalism.
“I am so thrilled and really happy to collect this award on behalf of my colleague Showkat Shafi, who has done a tremendous job documenting the life of people in Kashmir and the suffering of the people there and telling human stories through his photography,” Soliman said in a video message posted on Twitter by Drum Online Media Awards.
“So, well done Showkat, and thank you so much for honouring his work. Thank you!”
Showkat, in his early thirties, studied Journalism from the government run Baramulla Degree College before graduating from Islamic University of Science and Technology (ISUT), Awantipora.
He later joined Al Jazeera Media Network as a photo-journalist.
“It is a good feeling and it will help me to do more and more stories, the stories which are unheard and unseen,” Showkat, who lives in Nowgam area of Srinagar, told the FreePressKashmir from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, while on his way to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Showkat shuffles between Doha in Qatar – the headquarters of Al Jazeera Media Network – and New Delhi for his work. Last time he was home was in April this year.
He is scheduled to address the students of a University in Rio De Janeiro.
Showkat, a digital journalist specialising in photojournalism for Al Jazeera, has worked extensively in the Indian sub-continent and has also covered the refugee crisis in Europe.
His stories mostly “focus on human rights, culture and religion,” reads his brief profile on AlJazeera.com.
On August 19, 2011, Showkat remembers, that he headed to the historic Jamia Masjid located in the old city of Srinagar – the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir – with a hope to shoot those who had gathered there after Friday prayers.
It was the third Friday of the holy Ramzan.
Accompanied by photojournalists – Shahid Tantray from Kashmir, Narciso Contreras from Mexico, and Rajesh Iyer from Delhi, Showkat faced wrath of the armed forces.
“I had only clicked a few pictures when a joint team of Jammu and Kashmir police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers intercepted me in a lane,” he wrote in Al Jazeera. “I’m from the press,” Showkat told the armed forces personnel.
Repeating the same words, the forces personnel – around 15 in number – started beating and thrashing him. “Some used the butts of their guns and others bamboo sticks. Those who couldn’t reach me with a weapon just punched and kicked.”
“I gripped onto my camera, but I could feel them trying to grab it from me. My vision went blurry; I fell to the ground. At some point, the camera slipped from my fingers. My laptop, too, was taken,” he adds.
The FreePressKashmir could not speak more to Showkat as his flight took off for Brazil from Netherlands.
Best of luck for your future assignments, Showkat!