Nieman Fellows honor Somali journalist for courage and integrity

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The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard will present the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism to Somali reporter Mohamed Olad Hassan on Thursday, Nov. 18, 2010. James Fallows, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, will deliver the keynote address during the ceremony.

Nieman Fellows in the class of 2011 selected Hassan, a senior correspondent and writer for the BBC World Service and The Associated Press, in recognition of his courageous reporting from a perilous region and for his enduring commitment to the people of Somalia.

In choosing him, the Nieman Fellows said: “Journalists face increasing pressures in many parts of the world, but Mohammed Olad Hassan stands out in a crowd of worthy candidates. We admire his intrepid reporting in the face of mortal danger. We appreciate his determination to carry on in an environment so hostile that almost no else will. He has become the world’s eyes and ears in Somalia, and in a real sense the voice of the country. For that we honor him.”

Hassan has endured repeated death threats, intimidation and a shrapnel wound from a mortar explosion near his home in 2007. In December 2009, he narrowly escaped with his life when a bomb exploded at a graduation ceremony he was covering, killing two dozen people, including a colleague who had just taken Hassan’s own seat.

While a number of journalists and media professionals have been killed on the job in Somalia and others have been forced to flee the country, Hassan has persevered. Despite efforts by the government and radical insurgent groups like Al Shabab to silence the media, he has chosen to stay, citing his “desire to inform the world, to tell the truth and help bring peace and democracy to my own country.” Hassan’s peers recognize him as the voice of the voiceless in Somalia.

The Nieman class of 1964 established the Louis M. Lyons Award in honor of the Nieman Foundation curator who retired that year after leading the institution for a quarter of a century. The award honors displays of conscience and integrity by individuals, groups or institutions in communications.