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Investigative Reporter Given 2nd Daniel Pearl Award - 2003-06-21


An investigative reporter who detailed extremist activities in Pakistan after Sept. 11, 2001, has become the second recipient of the Daniel Pearl Award, named in honor of the slain journalist.

For journalists around the globe, the name "Daniel Pearl" has come to symbolize bravery and enterprise in reporting, and the grave dangers that come with covering risky stories.

In January, 2002, The Wall Street Journal reporter was following a story in Pakistan, on the trail of terrorist links to al-Qaida there, when he was kidnapped and murdered.

For Mitra Kalita, president of the New York-based South Asian Journalists Association, or SAJA, Mr. Pearl's death was a particular loss. Pearl was a member of the organization for several years, and an avid contributor who sent regular e-mail messages to those in the group. "Danny was actually a member of the e-mail listserv that the South Asian Journalist Association runs and had been quite active in it. He was also friends with a lot of members of SAJA," she said.

So last year, shortly after Mr. Pearl died, the organization created the "Daniel Pearl Award." It's the association's most prestigious honor, given to a reporter of any ethnic origin for an outstanding piece of reporting about South Asia.

This year's winner is Richard Behar, a senior writer for Fortune magazine. He won for his article, titled "Kidnapped Nation," which appeared in Fortune's April 29th issue last year.

Mr. Behar and Mr. Pearl were in Pakistan at about the same time, both writing about extremism and terrorism in the troubled country in a post-September 11 world. Mr. Behar left Pakistan a few weeks before Mr. Pearl was abducted, and did not know him personally. But Mr. Behar, who lives in lower Manhattan and also reported on the collapse of the World Trade Center, says Mr. Pearl's death affected him deeply.

He knew other journalists who lost their lives abroad during the months after September 11, and he returned from Pakistan rattled by the experience. "One of the more memorable moments was this riot I found myself in, in the city of Rawalpindi, a riot against America. I had to dodge a lot of rocks being thrown and water got dumped on me from a rooftop and there was a lot of tear gas and fires. It was pretty rough," he said.

In his article, Mr. Behar describes eating curry with a guerrilla commander who tells him, "Today you are my guest, my brother! But you belong to the enemy side. If I see you at the war field, I will just kill you."

Mr. Behar said he is honored to receive an award that honors Daniel Pearl. "I think in reporters like Danny, there is a flame that burns. And they're just not going to shy away from a story. I mean, Danny's a first Amendment patriot who made the ultimate sacrifice with his own life and his name will be remembered," he said.

Richard Behar's piece was chosen from more than 100 entries. He has won several awards for business and investigative journalism. In 1991, the American Society of Journalists and Authors gave him its "Conscience in Media" award for his "singular commitment to the highest principles of journalism at notable personal cost."

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