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Pakistan journalist wins AFP's Kate Webb Prize

Freelance reporter Asad Hashim was named as winner of the 2018 Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize on Monday for his coverage of the plight of ethnic Pashtuns and blasphemy issues in his native Pakistan.

The award, named after one of AFP's finest correspondents, recognises journalism by locally-hired reporters in Asia operating in risky or difficult conditions.

Hashim, 33, was honoured for a series of articles on ethnic Pashtuns and other minority groups caught in the crossfire of Pakistan's fight against militants.

These included an investigative report into enforced disappearances allegedly conducted by the country's powerful military and a reporting mission to the South Waziristan tribal region –- birthplace of Pakistan's Taliban –- to look into the civilian toll from landmines.

Pakistan has battled homegrown militancy for nearly 15 years, with tens of thousands of people killed, and insurgents retain the ability to carry out devastating attacks despite recent improvements in security.

"These are challenging times for journalists in Pakistan, and Asad Hashim's work stands out for the kind of courageous, independent reporting the Kate Webb Prize was created to recognise," said AFP Asia-Pacific regional director Philippe Massonnet.

"His deeply-researched articles tackle sensitive subjects with an admirable balance of passion, commitment and journalistic detachment."

The award also recognised his work on other highly sensitive issues, such as Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the country's judicial system.

"I am honoured by the jury's decision to select my work this year," Hashim said after learning he was the winner of the 2018 prize.

"I consider the award not just a recognition of my work, but of all Pakistani journalists, who have been working in an increasingly restrictive reporting environment over the last year."

The Kate Webb Prize, with a 3,000 euro ($3,400) purse, honours journalists working in perilous or difficult conditions in Asia, and is named after a crusading AFP reporter who died in 2007 at the age of 64, after a career covering the world's troublespots.

The award, which in 2017 went to Myanmar journalist Mratt Kyaw Thu for his brave coverage of ethnic and religious conflict in his homeland, is administered by AFP and the Webb family.

The prize will be formally presented at a ceremony in March.

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