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Internet Reporter Wins Daniel Pearl Award for Courage


Daniel Pearl, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was kidnapped and murdered by Islamic militants in Pakistan in 2002. One week after his death, Pearl's family established a foundation to preserve his legacy. Each year, the foundation honors courage and integrity in journalism. This year's winner of the Daniel Pearl Award, Internet journalist Kevin Sites, works in some of the world's most dangerous places.

Kevin Sites is the reporter behind the feature called "In the Hot Zone" on the Internet site Yahoo! He works alone in the field in some of the world's most perilous disaster scenes and war zones. Using a digital mini-camera, laptop computer and satellite phone, he posts television spots and print reports, photo series, and a weblog that takes readers behind the scenes of the story.

SITES: "As far as misery is concerned, Somalia has had more than its fair share, as their refugee camp can attest to…"

Sites received the Daniel Pearl Award from the Los Angeles Press Club, which made the selection with the Daniel Pearl Foundation. Judea Pearl, Daniel's father and the foundation president, says the Internet journalist carries on the tradition of his late son.

"We were very impressed with his website on Yahoo! And the kind of work that he's doing, which reminds us very much of the kind of solitary commitment to truth that Danny exhibited in his focus on the human face behind the news," he said.

Sites has reported on strife in Sir Lanka, Kashmir, Burma and other hot spots, always looking at the impact of conflicts on the region's people. He is traveling now through Asia, and coworkers from his Yahoo! site accepted the award for him.

Judea Pearl, who has become an activist on issues of press freedom, says the danger is intensifying for journalists who report from conflict-ridden regions.

"Danny was the first that was abducted and targeted not for what he wrote or what he intended to write, but for what he represented in the eyes of these extremists. And then that started a trend," he added.

Last year, at least 47 journalists died in connection with their work, according to one count. At least 63 were killed, in another tally. A third assessment, which also includes staff members such as translators, puts the number of slain media workers at nearly 90. The most dangerous place for reporters today is Iraq.

Judea Pearl says the foundation has started an initiative to make the targeting of journalists an international crime.

"And the idea is that when a journalist is sent to cover [an] area of conflict, he is representing not merely his newspaper, or one network, but he represents the public," he explained. "And targeting such a journalist amounts to violating the public right to know. Therefore, it is a crime against the public."

The father of the late Wall Street Journal reporter says the Pearl foundation promotes cross-cultural understanding through three areas in which his son excelled - journalism, music, and sharing ideas through dialogue. Judea Pearl says the non-profit organization is fighting the hatred that took his son's life, a hatred he says is not between Muslims and Westerners.

"It's not between Jews and non-Jews or Muslims and non-Muslims," he noted. "The fault line does not go along geographical, nationality or religious lines. It goes between those who boast in killing innocent persons for the purpose of transmitting a political message, and those that are repelled by such a practice."

To counteract the hatred, he says the foundation is building what he calls a "coalition of decency" across geographical and religious lines.

One foundation initiative involves a series of public discussions between Pearl and a Muslim scholar throughout North America. His partner in the project is Akbar Ahmed, a former Pakistan official and diplomat. They freely probe areas of disagreement, but Pearl says it is always done in a spirit of respect.

Another partnership brings journalists from Arab and Muslim countries into US newsrooms, including that of the Wall Street Journal, for a five-month period. He says the foreign journalists get a first-hand view of how reporting is done here. Yet another initiative involves a student news service distributed over the Internet. The service accepts articles from student-reporters and offers the stories for publication in student newspapers in more than 100 countries.

Judea Pearl says the work is all part of his conception of revenge, spreading friendship to overcome those who spread division.

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