“That’s my boy: kids witness war’s horror”

“Plotter’s nephew in Syrian combat”

 “Aussie fighters leading extremist PR: ASIO”


The Australian




Print/Text: News Report

The picture of Khaled Sharrouf’s son holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier was described by US Secretary of State John Kerry as the “iconic image” of Islamic State’s brutality. Paul Maley and Greg Bearup came in to work on their days off to uncover the story behind the photo. The follow-up was a second shocking exclusive: footage of Sharrouf and his friend Mohamed Elomar participating in mass executions in Iraq. 

Maley and Bearup scoured social media for the terrorists – even as their accounts were being shut down by Twitter and Facebook – and spent hours door-knocking in Western Sydney. They then worked high-level contacts in the police and security services to confirm what they had found. The pair endured death threats, dealt with a torrent of gruesome images, and made the hard calls about taste versus the public’s need to know. Together, their articles gave names and faces to the young Australian jihadis fighting with Islamic State forces and revealed to the world the horror of their deeds.

Paul Maley has been The Australian’s national security correspondent since 2010. In his earlier posting to The Australian’s Canberra bureau, he covered the asylum-seeker issue, travelling to Sri Lanka, Nauru, Timor, Malaysia and Indonesia to report on the plight of refugees in the region. In 2009 he was nominated for a Walkley for his exclusive interview with Godwin Grech, the public servant who sent faked emails to Malcolm Turnbull.  

Greg Bearup has worked as a journalist on the Armidale Express, the Newcastle Herald, The Sydney Morning Herald and the Good Weekend Magazine. Two years ago, he moved to The Weekend Australian Magazine, where he is a feature writer. He has also written two books. This is his third Walkley win.

Judges’ comments:

It was an image that stunned a nation – Khaled Sharrouf’s son, a child raised in the suburbs of Sydney, holding the severed head of a Syrian soldier. This set of powerful, well-researched stories and pictures graphically demonstrated how Australian jihadis were using social media to promote their cause, and detailed how they had joined the bloody fight on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq. Outstanding journalism.”