Māori Television's current affairs show, Native Affairs, has won two international journalism awards today at the World Indigenous Broadcasters Conference (WITBC) in Canada.
Native Affairs’ investigative report ‘Feathering the Nest’, which aired last year, has won the Best Investigative Reporting award in the World Indigenous Journalism Awards 2014.
The awards are run by the World Indigenous Television Broadcasters Network (WITBN), and recognise research and dedicated journalism that seeks out the truth; uncover or delve into government policies, social justice, and affairs important to indigenous peoples nationally and internationally.
The investigative report, by Native Affairs reporter and presenter Mihingarangi Forbes and producers Annabelle Lee-Harris, Adrian Stevanon and Richard Langston, looked at financial mismanagement at the Kōhanga Reo National Trust.
'Feathering the Nest' has been described by the awards jury as “an excellent example of the rigour with which we need to conduct ourselves as journalists to tackle such difficult legal stories and an excellent and brave investigation, which had huge consequences in the community afterwards.”
The jury said, “The journalists took care to show how important the institution is to the Māori people, what benefits it continues to provide, and furthermore, paid due result to the historical contributions of the individuals involved.”
Native Affairs reporter presenter Mihingarangi Forbes said, "The voices of the three women who spoke out against the establishment must be acknowledged in accepting this award. While we asked their questions, and told their story, it was these women who had the courage to demand democracy and fairness for our tamariki."
"When Native Affairs set out to tell this story we knew it would rock the boat,” she said. “It upset many within Māoridom who believed investigating Māori organisations was not the role of the indigenous broadcaster. However, the role of a journalist is no different whether we're brown, white or pink - we simply asked the questions of those who had no voice,” said Ms Forbes.
"This story was a game changer in the way that indigenous journalists tell stories - it polarised the nation but it also gave voice to those who hadn’t had one in the past."
Jury members noted that indigenous people worldwide face common struggles and issues of the very survival of languages, culture and identity and from reports like Feathering the Nest, “our audiences can learn the lessons of another tribe on the other side of the world.”
Native Affairs has also won the Best International Reporting award in the World Indigenous Journalism Awards for its coverage of Tongan Ferries, awarded to reporter Adrian Stevanon and producer Richard Langston.
In 2009, the small Pacific island nation of Tonga suffered its worst maritime disaster in recorded history. The passenger ferry, the ‘Princess Ashika’, an unseaworthy sea vessel, sank to the bottom of the Pacific taking 74 souls with it.
Most were women and young children and only two bodies were recovered.
Three years after the Ashika Tongan tragedy, Māori Television Native Affairs reporter Adrian Stevanon received a tip-off that the World Bank and the New Zealand Government had commissioned reports on maritime safety in Tonga.
Yet, despite the report’s disturbing findings, it was largely ignored.
Adrian, who filed the investigative story last year from Tonga, said, “Why should we care? First it is a Tongan problem, but we should care because New Zealand put $50 million worth of aid into Tonga over the last four years. So if our development programme is putting money into airports but not into fixing unseaworthy vessels, then we should say something about that.”
This is the second international award for Tongan Ferries, which received international broadcasting industry recognition at INPUT in Finland earlier this year.
Mr Stevanon says, “It’s an honour to have the Tonga Ferries investigation acknowledged as an important story with such a prestigious award. It’s not right that peoples' lives should be in danger because they need to travel to and from home. I hope the Tongan Government will continue its attempts to improve their maritime standards with better vessels.”
“The award is a testament to Māori Television and its encouragement of the brand of indigenous current affairs produced by Native Affairs. The show that continues to tell the stories that other shows won’t,” he says.
The jury said the report on the Tongan disaster “presents a shared value among Indigenous Peoples and communities around the world; it could be a domestic issue but exists in most indigenous societies.”
Māori Television CEO and Editor-in-chief Paora Maxwell, who accepted the awards today together with Native Affairs Producer Annabelle Lee-Harris, says, "This is a great achievement for the news and current affairs teams at Māori Television and we are immensely proud of their fine journalism, even more so when it is recognised internationally."
Launched in 2010, WITBN’s World Indigenous Journalism Awards (WIJA) honours excellence in audio-visual journalism that demonstrates superior journalistic skills in a form and manner best representing indigenous storytelling.
The awards especially acknowledges the significance of journalism that best delivers the indigenous perspective and contributes to a public understanding of the indigenous reality, nationally and internationally.