Richard Beeston Bursary 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 12.34.41I’m thrilled to have been awarded the 2015 Richard Beeston Bursary. Set up last year, the award is for a young British journalist to spend six weeks abroad, researching and reporting on a foreign news story for the Times newspaper. The bursary was set up to further the legacy of Richard Beeston, the distinguished and much-loved foreign editor of the Times, who passed away in 2013. As the Times’ report on the bursary award this year says:

Richard Beeston, known as “Rick”, was a much-admired foreign editor of The Times from 2008 until his death, aged 50, in 2013. He was passionate about encouraging correspondents at the beginning of their careers and the bursary set up in his name addresses his belief that reporters are made in the field – not the classroom.

His own career began aged 21 when he moved to Beirut during the civil war to work for The Daily Star. He was forced to move back to London after a series of kidnappings of foreign journalists and joinedThe Times in 1986. Rick earned the reputation of being the “fireman” on the foreign desk – the reporter sent to war zones and natural disaster areas at a moment’s notice.

More information on the award, and on the project I plan to report on, can be found at the Richard Beeston Bursary’s website. I’ll be posting links to my stories when I start reporting, probably early next year.

A deadly battle of ideas

The cover of the Autumn 2015 New Humanist.

The full length version of my report on the violence against atheists in Bangladesh, which appeared on the cover of the Autumn New Humanist, is now online. A shorter version appeared in the Guardian in September (see previous post) but this original article goes into greater detail about the historical factors, as well as including more from my two incredibly brave interviewees. You can read it online here, and the clipping (all six pages of it) is below.

bangladesh new humanist image

Recent work

bbc2On 14 January, I appeared on the BBC News Channel’s paper review, with Oliver Wright from the Independent. A short write up is here.

I’ve also written various shorter pieces recently:

“Benefits tourism”: myth or reality? (New Humanist)

Iain Duncan Smith claims that new restrictions on EU migrants claiming benefits will stop benefits tourism – but do people really cross borders to get better pay-outs?

Future looks fraught in polarised Bangladesh (Index on Censorship)

This year’s elections were the most violent in the country’s short history. What next?

The case of Masood Ahmad reveals how blasphemy laws in Pakistan are used to persecute minorities (New Humanist)

The Ahmadi sect in Pakistan have been persecuted for generations, and now a British citizen has been imprisoned.

Acid attacks: showing my face, raising my voice (Open Democracy)

Earlier this year, I met victims of acid attacks in Islamabad. This piece looks at the phenomenon across South Asia.

Nigeria’s gay community needs our help (New Humanist)

This blog asked how effective western threats of withdrawing aid are in preventing repressive legislation abroad.

Recent work

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

I thought I’d share some links to some of my recent work.

I’m still blogging regularly for the New Humanist. My recent posts include this one on breastfeeding and whether state-funded bribery is the best way to encourage it; this post on the shocking conditions for migrant labourers in Qatar and other Emirate states; this on the National Sex Survey and our continued failure to have a grown up public discussion of sex; and this blog on the disturbing report that budget cuts are pushing domestic violence services into a “state of crisis”.

I also recently wrote a piece for Index on Censorship about declining press freedom in Bangladesh, a country I’ve visited many times in the past:

Journalists in Bangladesh face a double threat: Violent retaliation from Islamist groups on the one hand, and official repression on the other.

I’ve appeared on numerous Monocle radio shows, including a discussion of the new head of the Pakistan army on 27 November (podcast here), and of the new Pakistan Taliban chief on 8 November (podcast here). I’ve also continued to blog regularly for Middle East Monitor on various issues affecting the Arab world.