ATHENS, Ga. (AP) – The West Africa bureau chief of The Associated Press who uncovered a massacre in the Ivory Coast and wrote about it despite the dangers she faced has won the University of Georgia’s McGill Medal for Journalistic Courage.
The university announced Monday that Rukmini Callimachi (RUK’-mee-nee kah-lee-MAH’-kee) is to receive the medal at a ceremony in April. The medal is named for Ralph McGill, the late editor and publisher of the Atlanta Constitution who challenged racial segregation in the 1950s and 1960s.
“I am honored _ and humbled _ to have received this year’s medal, named after a journalist who stood alone among his colleagues in the 1950s and courageously denounced segregation in our country’s South,” Callimachi said.
Callimachi, who joined AP in 2003, had unearthed proof of mass killings last year in the West Africa nation. She followed a trail of corpses corroborating a massacre even though she was at risk of stumbling across the killers, wrote AP’s assistant international editor for enterprise, Mary Rajkumar, in her nominating letter.
Rajkumar added that Callimachi brought “great courage and resourcefulness to covering a war-wracked region where men get away with murder, even massacre, with impunity.”
“Soon after conflict broke out in the Ivory Coast, she set out to document mass killings” by armed men loyal to a former president of that nation, compiling a list of 113 bodies through painstaking reporting amid dangerous conditions, Rajkumar’s letter added.
At one point, Callimachi continued reporting and filing from the nation even when she and several others became trapped in a hotel in the capital of the Ivory Coast, caught amid fighting between rival armed groups before French forces eventually evacuated them by air.
“We are extremely proud of Rukmini’s courageous and gutsy reporting. Again and again, she has shown a willingness to go where few others dared to expose atrocities and uncover injustices,” said John Daniszewski, AP’s senior managing editor for international news and photos.
Callimachi won the 2011 Eugene S. Pulliam Journalism Writing Award for coverage of Haiti’s devastating earthquake earlier that year and was a 2009 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting.
She was chosen by 12 undergraduate and graduate students in the university’s McGill fellowship program.
The committee was impressed by Callimachi’s courage in pursuing stories despite the personal risks “on the principle that tragedies and disasters are important because of the people they affect,” said Satyam Kaswala, a McGill fellow who researched the nomination.
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