Witness, Al Jazeera English and Foreign Correspondent, ABC




June Andrews Award for Freelance Journalist of the Year

Yaara Bou Melhem is an intrepid independent journalist and filmmaker. Yaara’s films include exclusive reports where she crawls through Syrian rebel-held tunnels, films in remote Aboriginal communities on taboo subjects like youth suicide and reported more uplifting stories about doctors giving free health care in Nepal and conservation efforts in New Zealand. She is currently directing an observational documentary about Maria Ressa as she battles against disinformation and the undermining of democracies worldwide. Yaara has won two UN Media Peace Awards, accolades from the New York Festivals Awards, a Hong Kong Human Rights Press Award and Walkley Awards for her films.

Judges’ comments:

“Both of the films Yaara Bou Melhem submitted offer optimistic perspectives on issues that usually leave audiences in despair. The journalist intimately and sensitively captures the struggle of women in oppressive situations. In The War On Truth, Bou Melhem follows Maria Ressa’s global battle against disinformation amidst several legal challenges against her and her news organisation Rappler, whilst capturing Ressa’s humour, hope and relationships.

“In her second film, The Oasis, Bou Melhem manages to do what few journalists have done by capturing a narrative that offers hope in Syria. With almost unprecedented access Bou Melhem portrays a Kurdish-majority governance structure that gives women equal representation in areas previously controlled by ISIS. With her small team, and little security, Bou Melhem risked a lot to capture the real anxiety of the women on the ground in Syria.”