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TOLO News wins AFP Kate Webb Prize for courageous reporting in Afghanistan

Lotfullah Najafizada, news director of Afghanistan's TOLOnews, receives the Kate Webb award from AFP Asia-Pacific director Philippe Massonnet at the FCC Hong Kong, Thursday, Jan 12,2017. Kate's brother and sister, Jeremy Webb and Rachel Miller, are also pictured. Photo: Terry Duckham/Asiapix

Lotfullah Najafizada, news director of Afghanistan’s TOLOnews, receives the Kate Webb award from AFP Asia-Pacific director Philippe Massonnet at the FCC Hong Kong, Thursday, Jan 12,2017. Kate’s brother and sister, Jeremy Webb and Rachel Miller, are also pictured. Photo: Terry Duckham/Asiapix

TOLO News, a privately run Afghan TV news station owned by MOBY Group, has won the 2016 Agence France-Presse (AFP) Kate Webb Prize for its reporting in one of the world’s most dangerous countries. 21st Century Fox invested in MOBY Group in 2012 and currently has a 48 percent ownership stake in the intrepid media company.

The Kate Webb Prize, administered by the AFP Foundation, honours journalists working in unsafe conditions in Asia and promotes press freedom through journalist training in developing countries. The prize is named after New Zealand-born Kate Webb, a fearless AFP reporter who worked across the continent and became a mentor for younger Asian journalists. She died in 2007, and the first Kate Webb Prize was awarded in 2008.

“We are recognising TOLO News for its courageous work telling the stories of the people of Afghanistan, a place that is becoming ever more hostile for the media,” said Philippe Massonnet, AFP’s regional director for the Asia-Pacific region and jury chairman. “By awarding the prize to TOLO as an organisation, we are also recognising the extraordinary work carried out by all Afghan journalists in ever-deteriorating conditions.”

Lotfullah Najafizada, director of TOLO News, called the prize a great honour. “The late Kate Webb was an inspiration to dozens of our journalists, who like Kate, have earned a reputation for being fearless in the face of adversity.”

MOBY Group launched in 2003 with one FM radio station and has since grown into Afghanistan’s leading suite of television, radio and online platforms. In addition to providing the Afghan people channels to previously inaccessible information, MOBY has put women front and center in its storytelling, a decision that runs counter to the past laws of the country forbidding women on television. It has also challenged perspectives in the country with a reality series on transgender youth in a Muslim culture.

The company’s bold decisions have come with a hefty price: MOBY’s television stations were named as “military objectives” by the Taliban, and seven of TOLO News’ employees were killed in a targeted Taliban suicide bombing in January 2016.

Saad Mohseni, Chairman and CEO of MOBY Group, praised Lotfullah and the TOLO News team on their prize: “Their dedication to free and independent reporting has contributed to building a freer, more tolerant and democratic Afghanistan.”