Callimachi singled out for her exemplary dedication to exposing global atrocities
APRIL 23, 2016 – YEREVAN, ARMENIA –The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), in partnership with the Aurora Prize, has named Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times as the inaugural recipient of its Integrity in Journalism Award. She will receive the award for her exceptional contribution to exposing crimes against humanity during the inaugural ceremony of the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity on April 24 in Yerevan, Armenia.
The ICFJ Integrity in Journalism Award celebrates the courage, commitment and impact of a reporter on the front lines of the world’s crisis zones. Recipients demonstrate unrivaled courage in covering the plight of imperiled communities and an unwavering commitment to integrity, freedom and justice.
“Callimachi’s reporting is a shining example of the power of journalism to bring to the world’s attention unthinkable abuses,” said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. “Her work provides hope that the victims will be heard and protected.”
Callimachi has exposed the horrific institutionalization of sex slavery by ISIS, linked child labor in gold mines in Senegal to banks in Switzerland, and revealed massacres committed by government forces from the Ivory Coast to Mali. At a time when risks to journalists are at an all-time high, Callimachi is driven by a deep-seated motivation to tell these stories.
“As a journalist, I don’t think that you ever make a concerted decision to put yourself at risk; you are doing your job,” Callimachi said. “The reward is that journalism is like a flashlight, which beams a pool of light on an issue, a crime, a government abuse or another atrocity. I am deeply honored, and humbled to receive this award and I hope that in some small way, my work can illuminate the darkest corners of the world.”
The Integrity in Journalism Award arose from a partnership between ICFJ and 100 LIVES, a pioneering global initiative rooted in the Armenian Genocide that seeks to share remarkable stories of survivors and their saviors, as well as celebrate the strength of the human spirit. 100 LIVES and the Aurora Prize were established to express gratitude to those who put themselves at risk to save Armenians from the genocide one hundred years ago.
“Journalism is one of the strongest tools to illuminate and alleviate human suffering,” said Ruben Vardanyan, co-founder of 100 LIVES and the Aurora Prize. “Ms. Callimachi’s commitment to exposing the atrocious crimes against humanity is truly exemplary. We are proud to be able to honor journalists whose sustained commitment and coverage inspire others to act and intervene.”
A Reporter Determined to Expose the World’s Hidden Horrors
Sex slavery. Famine. Child Labor. New York Times Correspondent Rukmini Callimachi has covered the most horrifying atrocities that human beings can unleash upon each other. She has traveled to the world’s most perilous conflict zones and impoverished communities to shed light on unfathomable human suffering.
Callimachi’s relentless reporting has exposed hard truths that needed to be told. Her investigative article “ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape” provided a rare insight into the group’s horrific institutionalization of sex slavery. She showed, as never before, how sexual abuse was ingrained in ISIS ideology. Callimachi interviewed 21 victims, sifted through ISIS’s official communications, and examined reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for her article, giving voice to the abused.
She does so despite the unparalleled risks facing journalists who cover ISIS. “As the beheading of journalist James Foley showed, groups like the Islamic State have now defined journalists as ‘enemy combatants’ for the crime of reporting facts that are not agreeable to their worldview,” Callimachi explains. These days, she says, “reporters face the same risks as soldiers: We are the enemy and we are deemed legitimate targets.”
And yet, Callimachi has repeatedly ventured into enemy territory. She rummaged through overturned file cabinets to find letters written by al-Qaeda’s suspected general manager in Mali. And she spent weeks accompanying the relatives of the missing as they dug up bodies of Arab and Tuareg residents killed by Malian troops. No assignment was ever too dangerous or out of reach.
If digging up the dead didn’t scare her from covering terrorism, neither did her experience of being one of the only reporters who witnessed a massacre committed by government forces in the Ivory Coast several years ago. After hearing from survivors where the killings took place, she embarked on a trail toward the spot, traveling one step at a time, until she came to a clearing where the bodies lay.
Her storytelling technique—speaking from the victim’s viewpoint—brings harsh realities to life. She once interviewed hundreds of children in West Africa, following them day by day so she could tell their detailed first-person stories of exploitation. Her work has exposed how Islamic schools in Senegal lured children into begging through the false promise of education, linked child labor in gold mines in Senegal to banks in Switzerland, and examined child trafficking from Africa to the United States.
She exposes such human rights violations in the hopes of ultimately inspiring change. Her story chronicling the plight of the dead she saw unearthed in Mali forced the government to launch an investigation into the matter. And in the Ivory Coast, lawyers working with the International Criminal Court used her evidence for their case.
That is what fuels Callimachi’s hope for the future. “The reward is that journalism is like a flashlight, which beams a pool of light on an issue, a crime, a government abuse or another atrocity. I am deeply honored, and humbled to receive this award and I hope that in some small way, my work can illuminate the darkest corners of the world,” she says.