Radio Free Asia (RFA) online affiliate BenarNews today(Tuesday) was named a National Murrow Award winner by the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) for its incisive journalism on the impact of COVID-19 in Bangladesh — one of the pandemic’s hardest-hit countries. BenarNews’ “Bangladeshi volunteers help bury abandoned COVID dead” won in the international juried competition’s category for Small Digital News Organization.
“For millions with little or no access to uncensored local news, RFA-affiliate BenarNews is a crucial conduit for reliable, timely information,” said Bay Fang, RFA President. “This award is a testament to the vital role of responsible journalism, especially for those around the globe struggling through the nightmare scenario of a deadly pandemic.”
“BenarNews Bengali has done outstanding work highlighting the heroism of regular people during a crisis. Their compassion and their courage amid the pandemic’s uncertainty are front and center in this report, for which our journalists deserve full credit,” said BenarNews Managing Editor Kate Beddall.
BenarNews’ video was filmed in June 2020, shortly after the Bengali government reopened the economy and mosques after a two-month nationwide lock-down. While putting their own lives at risk, volunteers transported hundreds of bodies to burial sites, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to ancestral homes to honor the deceased. BenarNews used Skype interviews and amateur footage to provide intimate coverage of people on the front lines of the pandemic. It provided a platform for them to tell their own stories, too, inviting them to submit their own video while coaching them on respecting the privacy of people around them. At the time, Bangladesh had nearly 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 1,200 confirmed deaths. Today those numbers exceed 1.4 million and 24,000 respectively.
Despite its critical coverage, BenarNews’s website remains blocked by Bengali authorities since April 2020, when the government clamped down on the free-flow of information amid the pandemic. BenarNews provides audiences in Southeast and South Asia with credible news, in context and clearly explained, about security, politics, geopolitics and human rights. With home pages in Bengali, Thai, Bahasa Malaysia, Bahasa Indonesia and English, BenarNews focuses on the big picture, cross-border issues, and topics that are censored or overlooked. This year, RFA joins NPR, ABC News, and CBS News Radio among others, as winners of the 2021 National Murrow Awards.