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Jon Stephenson Wins Bruce Jesson Media Award

Bruce Jesson Foundation

A New Zealand journalist who reported on the US invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq is this year's winner of the Bruce Jesson Foundation's Critical Writing Award.

Hamilton-born Jon Stephenson, 42, has won the $3000 award to return to Iraq this month to report for Auckland's 'Metro' magazine on the political, social and economic position of the country two years after US forces chased Saddam Hussein out of Baghdad in April 2003.

The award is given once a year to fund "critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues". The inaugural winners last year were Wellington writers Nicky Hager and Tina McIvor.

Bruce Jesson Foundation chair Professor Andrew Sharp said Jon Stephenson had already made an impressive contribution towards raising New Zealanders' awareness and understanding of both Afghanistan and Iraq from the perspective of the people of those countries.

"Without his reports, we would have been almost totally dependent on news organisations based in the United States and Britain, which were direct participants in the wars," Dr Sharp said.

"Jon Stephenson has risked his life to report in depth from Iraq at a heavy personal and financial cost. We hope his work will inspire others to do similar in-depth work on important issues for New Zealanders, with our support."

Jon Stephenson reported for the Sunday Star-Times from Afghanistan in December 2001 and has made five trips to Iraq since April 2003, most recently in January when he covered the Iraqi elections with TV3's Mike McRoberts. He leaves for Iraq later this month.

He had a varied career as a labourer, freezing worker, public servant, and in the arts before training as a journalist at the Auckland University of Technology in 2000. Since then he has worked for The Independent business weekly and for the past three years as a freelancer.

He has received three fellowships from the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism in the United States in 2003-04 to attend seminars in Washington and at Berkeley, California, on the "War on Terror", "Covering Conflict" and US foreign policy.

Applications for next year's Bruce Jesson Critical Writing Awards close on 20 January 2006. Details are at: http:www.brucejesson.com.

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