AFP journalist Pacôme Pabandji wins award for C.Africa conflict footage

Pacôme Pabandji, an AFPTV video journalist, from Central African Republic on Wednesday won the Rory Peck Award for News from a British media group that highlights the work of freelancers and campaigns for their safety.

Pacome Pabandji, 23, was picked for his extensive coverage of the brutal civil conflict that has ravaged his country over the past year, illustrating both the horrific sectarian violence and individual stories of suffering.

"He achieved one of the most difficult things in journalism -- to be an objective observer inside a civil war," the Rory Peck Trust judges said when he was shortlisted for the prize.

"Some journalists can go to cover a story then leave again. He can't. The conviction he must have to keep going -- to keep telling the story of his country -- is admirable," they said.

Pabandji grew up in Cameroon, where his mother is from, and the Central African Republic, the country of his father.

He completed a Bachelor's degree in humanitarian law at Bangui University in September 2013 and became a freelance contributor for Agence France-Presse the same month as the country plunged into chaos and violence.

A second AFPTV video journalist, Nichole Sobecki had also been nominated for her exclusive footage inside the Westgate Mall in Nairobi during an attack by Somalia's Shebab militants in which dozens of people were killed last year.

The third runner-up was Reuters cameraman Andriy Perun, who was praised for his images of the protests in Ukraine including one that captured the moment a Molotov cocktail set several police officers alight.

AFP chairman and chief executive Emmanuel Hoog praised the Rory Peck Trust which he said "seeks to highlight the work of freelance journalists and defend their working conditions, while our profession is tragically hit by the recent incarcerations and murders of several of our colleagues."

The trust was set up in memory of freelance cameraman Rory Peck, who was shot and killed while covering the armed confrontation during Russia's constitutional crisis in 1993.

It is the only organisation dedicated to the support, safety and welfare of freelance newsgatherers around the world.

"Without the work of freelancers, our understanding of the world suffers. They deserve our recognition, support and protection," the Trust's director, Tina Carr, said in a statement.

Video: Conflict in Central African Republic by Pacôme Pabandji