WASHINGTON - A Voice of America reporter for VOA’s Kurdish service was awarded the 2019 David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award this week. The Burke Award is annually given by the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) to honor the “courage, integrity and professionalism” of its recipients.
This year’s winner is Zana Omer, who began working with VOA in 2014 and has spent much of his time covering conflict in Syria and neighboring regions.
Over the years Omer repeatedly has put his and his family’s lives on the line working as a journalist in Syria. He’s has been 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.
His home was completely destroyed and his wife and two children injured in a bombing by IS militants in 2016. In spite of this, Omer continued to file stories with VOA.
“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.”
A well-seasoned war correspondent, Omer is accustomed to working in dangerous conditions. Most recently, covering the conflicts in Syria, Omer’s equipment was destroyed during bombings. Regardless, his work covering the Syrian conflict continued.
The USAGM oversees five US international broadcasting outlets including VOA.
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.