Al Jazeera English channel won a prestigious 2021 Royal Television Society (RTS) award in the Breaking News category for its reporting of last year’s Beirut explosion.
The awards were announced at an online ceremony from London on February 24. Other nominees in the category included the BBC and ITV.
Al Jazeera English’s correspondent Zeina Khodr was out with her three-year-old son when the blast happened shortly after 6 p.m. local time on August 4, 2020 at Beirut’s port. They were thrown to the ground by its force. Zeina immediately left her child with his grandmother and rushed to the scene through debris and chaos in the streets. It took time to contact the rest of the team as her cameraman Ali Abbas was injured and initially trapped in a lift at the Al Jazeera bureau that had fallen as a result of the explosion. Zeina reported live on air via phone, describing the destruction in the Lebanese capital.
The RTS judges described the reporting as a ‘journalistic tour the force’. Zeina spent the following two days reporting live from a devastated Beirut, recounting the effects the explosion had in a city already on its knees due to a deep economic crisis.
“In a matter of seconds, neighborhoods and homes were destroyed, it was like nothing I had ever experienced,” said Zeina, who received the award online on behalf of the team. “But we didn’t have time to think about it, we had to get out and report.”
“This is a great recognition of AJE’s teamwork and journalistic dedication,” said Salah Negm, Director of News at Al Jazeera English. “Congratulations to the team and to Zeina Khodr, who stood up to tell the story despite personal risk and the overwhelming emotion of seeing her city torn apart.”
Al Jazeera English’s work has been recognized before by the RTS, with awards for Channel of the Year in 2012 and Interview of the Year in 2019. Al Jazeera English’s Baher Mohammed was also awarded with the Judges’ Award in 2015 while under strict bail conditions in Egypt.