3 Feb 2011

Channel 4 News Afghanistan coverage awarded

A Channel 4 News portfolio of reports on the war in Afghanistan – “Our war, their war” – wins the Broadcast television award for news and current affairs coverage.

An Afghan girl looks at the camera in the Arghandab valley in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan (Reuters)

The reports tell the story of the war through the eyes of those most closely involved – from British and US troops, to Taliban fighters and refugees fleeing the conflict.

Our Chief Correspondent, Alex Thomson, along with cameraman Stuart Webb, was given unique access to a British army bomb disposal unit in Helmand province – exploring the psychology of the soldiers tasked with the most dangerous task of all – defusing the deadly bombs which have killed and maimed so many allied troops.

He called it the loneliest of lonely walks – men walking deliberately into the death zone. It was, he said, no place for heroes – as the soldiers themselves say: “It’s just what you do”. Stuart even managed to rig up the main defuser with a helmet camera, which made it possible to witness his dangerous work up close.

Nick Paton Walsh was embedded on the front line in Helmand with American soldiers – where he captured the sense of futility and weariness on the ground. Together again with cameraman Stuart Webb, he talked to soldiers trying to cope with the loss of a colleague who’d been killed by an IED – who spoke in compelling and highly personal terms about their feelings.

The voices of the Afghan people themselves were not ignored. Our reporters spent time talking to those fleeing the conflict – and in an extremely rare piece of television, an intimate portrayal of the Taliban. Interviews were gathered by fixers in Pakistan, and produced by Nevine Mabro, edited by Matt Jasper, and narrated by Nick Paton Walsh.

Channel 4 News was also the first to broadcast in the English-speaking world Paul Refsdal’s remarkable film of his two weeks with the Taliban, which showed them on the battlefield and with their families; most poignantly playing and comforting their children. This was voiced and produced by Alex Thomson and Ben de Pear and edited by Dini Patel.

Finally our International Editor, Lindsey Hilsum, along with her team of camerawoman/editor Philippa Collins and producer Sarah Corp produced a memorable piece about the challenges facing Afghanistan’s only female governor of Bamiyan province. Poverty in the area was desperate but they managed to find hope amid the ruins – with girls flourishing at school – and local people determined to overcome the legacy of war and neglect.