The News Room team on Sunday evening copped four awards at the Pan-American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Clare Forrester Media Awards held at the Marriott Hotel, Kingston, Georgetown.
The awards are presented for best coverage of health-related issues throughout the year.
News Room’s senior journalist Bibi Khatoon copped two awards – second place for Best News story in the online category and second place for Best Feature in the online category.
Isanella Patoir copped second place for Best Television News story.
Devina Samaroo, a former employee of the News Room achieved third place for Best television news story she wrote for the News Room during her time with the company.
The overall winner of the awards was Vanessa Braithwaite of the Guyana Chronicle, who won second place for best radio feature, winner for best radio story and online story and third place for online feature.
Braithwaite also won the special award for coverage in the mass drug administration Filaria campaign and is expected to attend a two-week internship at PAHO’s office in Washington DC.
Sharda Bhaccus from the Stabroek News won the first place award for best print news story; Tajeram Mohabir (Guyana Chronicle) won best print feature/documentary; Tracy Ramalho (NCN) won the best TV news story; Devina Samaroo (Guyana Times) won the best TV feature/documentary and best online feature categories; Loreen Warde (NCN) won the best radio feature; Aubrey Odle won the best photography while Patrick Ramsammy won best videographer.
The National Communications Network (NCN) captured the award for the media house with the most nominations.
Meanwhile, Hadiyyah Mohamed was also recognized and awarded for her outstanding contribution to the establishment of the Precious Angels Rett Syndrome awareness charity.
Chief Judge for the awards, Professor Paloma Mohamed-Martins said young journalists and females dominated the competition this year.
This year saw 132 entries from 11 media houses, however, only 122 were processed as others had to be disqualified for various reasons.
It was noted that print media saw the largest number of entries followed by online.
This year there were 56 news stories across the different mediums, 70 features, three edutainment features and three videography and photography entries.
With so many features entered in the competition this year, Mohamed-Martins noted that there is more effort and time being placed on the vision of health in the news.
“We are seeing a much more in-depth, investigative and broader range of efforts in this area and this is a very good thing,” Mohamed-Martins said.
Meanwhile, in his remarks, Executive Member of the Guyana Press Association (GPA) Denis Chabrol pointed out that while the awards continue to enrich the competency skills of journalists, the Association was informed by a number of participants in this year’s awards that they have experienced grave difficulties in accessing information from the relevant government agencies despite repeated efforts.
“In this regard, the Press Association urges those who have been refusing to speak with members of the media from certain media houses to take corrective action and be open and accessible for the greater good.
“Put aside your differences and preferences of media houses over others and help to level the playing field for health and the other social sectors. We must find a way to break the cycle of limitations on or preferential media access when one party or the other is in government or the opposition,” the GPA Executive said.
The PAHO/WHO Award for Excellence Health Journalism in the Caribbean was spearheaded by Clare Forrester who was the advisor for media and communication for PAHO.
It was named in her honour following her death in 2014. She is best known for creating opportunities to enhance regional journalists in the health sector.