Voice of America’s Kurdish language service Qamishli-based reporter Faheem Omer, who uses the professional name Zana Omer, received the David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award on Wednesday November 13, for extraordinary bravery and journalistic integrity in his ongoing coverage of the war in Syria and other geo-political stories in the region.
As a seasoned war correspondent, Omer has put his and his family’s life on the line repeatedly working as a journalist in Syria. Since starting work for VOA in 2014, Omer was arrested covering pro-democracy rallies in Damascus, escaped a kidnapping by an armed pro-Assad group, and forced to flee his home with his family for filming anti-government protests. In a 2016 bombing by Islamic State militants near his home in Qamishli, Omer, his wife and two sons were injured and his home was completely demolished. Despite his own personal crisis, he continued to provide reports to VOA with information that was not available anywhere else.
Omer puts immense time and effort into his reporting to deliver factual news and information to VOA’s audiences. During recent events in northern Syria, under extremely precarious circumstances, including the destruction of his equipment from bombings, Omer’s reporting was never interrupted and remained central to VOA’s coverage from the region.
“I can’t think of anyone else that is more deserving of this award than Zana Omer,” said VOA Director Amanda Bennett. “His courage, determination and dedication to the mission of the Voice of America has been exemplary and his contribution to our programming unparalleled.”
VOA’s Kurdish language service reaches its audience on radio, television and the internet. In addition to shortwave and AM, the programs air on FM affiliates in several cities in Iraq, like Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra. Audience research indicates that the broadcasts are popular among listeners in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
The U.S. Agency for Global Media presents the David Burke Distinguished Journalism Awards annually to recognize courage, integrity and professionalism of journalists working for each of the five USAGM networks.