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Al Jazeera wins two Webby awards

Al Jazeera Digital has won two Webby awards – a People’s Voice and a Webby jury award in a competition that the New York Times has called ‘the Internet’s highest honor.”

The announcements were made May 19 from the Webby Awards headquarters in New York City.

Al Jazeera English Online’s Newsfeed emerged with a People’s Voice award in the Social, News & Politics category for Rohingya crisis through the eyes of Al Jazeera’s journalists. The short film, produced in with Al Jazeera English TV and AJE Online correspondents, commemorated the two-year mark of 700,000 Rohingya being driven from their homes by the Myanmar military in 2017. The Rohingya remain in overcrowded, poorly sanitised camps in Bangladesh, susceptible to disease, malnutrition and human trafficking.

“I have covered war. I have covered violence throughout my career,” said Al Jazeera English Senior Correspondent Mohammed Jamjoom in the film, “but I have never heard of anything like that happening to human beings,” he said recalling his interview with Rajuma Begum, a young mother whose baby was taken from her arms and thrown into a fire before being gang raped by Myanmar army soliders.

With journalists, NGO’s and human rights influencers petitioning their followers to vote, the story surged from second place to overtake its nearest rival, Washington Post TikTok, in the final days of voting. Rohingya through the eyes of Al Jazeera’s journalists also won against fellow nominees CBS and Mother Jones and CNN Climate.

I’m proud of our teams who have worked tirelessly to bring news of oppressed communities to our global audience,” said Carlos van Meek, director of Digital Innovation and Programming. “We especially appreciate the collaboration with our colleagues at Al Jazeera English TV whose coverage of the Rohingya crisis – from day one – has set a model for crisis reporting. This win is a powerful example of teams coming together to ensure ongoing coverage of an important global story.”

Nominees were selected across dozens of categories by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), which activated eligibility to participate in audience voting whilst judges deliberated on – separate – jury awards for each of the categories.

Al Jazeera Digital’s virtual reality documentary boutique, AJ Contrast, emerged with a jury win for My People, Our Stories: Homelessness in Los Angeles. Produced in partnership with the University of Southern California’s JOVRNALISM program, the series won in the Video: Reality category, beating out competition from the Crackle’s Going From Broke, with Hollywood A-lister Ashton Kutcher.

Always at the nexus of documentary filmmaking, technology and empowerment through storytelling, AJ Contrast worked with Professor Robert Hernandez and USC JOVRNALISM students to train five men and women in the use of 360º cameras. The participants then documented their daily lives as they navigated the challenges of holding jobs while homeless, living in their cars, constantly being on the move and maintaining love relationships.

My People, Our Stories: Homelessness in Los Angeles also won in the 360 Video category at the 2019 Shorty Awards in New York City; and AJ Contrast premiered it’s latest immersive installation, Still Here, at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.

“We’re proud of AJ Contrast for their second Webby win in as many years,” said Dr. Yaser Bishr, Executive Director of Digital at the Al Jazeera Media Network, “and of AJE Newsfeed whose social videos feed our online platforms, day in and day out. These awards are confirmation that our teams are combining their best journalistic instincts with the most innovative tools to not only inform but also to give a voice to those who have traditionally been forgotten.”

The Webby live awards gala, normally held in New York City with media industry leaders and celebrities in attendance, was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Re-branded as the Webby’s From Home (WFH), pre-recorded celebrity messages and 5-word speeches from the winning teams were hosted on the Webby site and related social platforms instead.