The Daniel Pearl Foundation selected a distinguished reporter from Afghanistan, Humayoon Babur, as its 2019 Fellow for the Alfred Friendly Press Partners program.

Babur, who works for Pasbanan Media Group in Kabul, has written about a wide variety of topics in the war-torn country, from combat and car bombs to corruption and the effectiveness of foreign aid. He writes in the languages of Pashtu, Dari as well as English. He’s written extensively on environmental issues, including recent stories on groundwater contamination and disputes over water, one of which won an award from the International Water Management Institute.

In March, Babur joined the other Fellows at the Missouri School of Journalism learning from more than a dozen faculty, all professional journalists with extensive experience. He spent the spring and summer working in Pittsburgh, getting hands-on experience as a staff reporter for the Post-Gazette newspaper and  at Park Point University’s Center for Media Innovation. (See links to articles below) In August, he participated in two “boot camps” on data journalism and data visualization run by Investigative Reporters & Editors at the Missouri School of Journalism.

He was to also spend a week at the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles and share his experiences at a public event hosted by the Daniel Pearl Foundation in Los Angeles on Aug. 15 at the Museum of Tolerance. 

The Daniel Pearl Foundation and Alfred Friendly Press Partners have partnered since 2003 to provide fellowships to journalists from South Asia and the Middle East to work in U.S. newsrooms and experience the dynamics of a free press environment first hand.

Babur will be the 29th Daniel Pearl Fellow, continuing the legacy of the Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in Pakistan in early 2002 and is remembered as a symbol of hope: a man who built bridges between diverse cultures.

Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest country for journalists in 2018, with 15 killed.

The war imposed by the Taliban and Islamic State and abuses by warlords and corrupt politicians now permanently threaten journalists, the media and press freedom in Afghanistan, according to Reporters Without Borders.

While growing up during the civil war, Humayoon’s family was displaced a dozen times, fleeing conflict from province to province. He had to drop out of school for several years because of the war. But he never left Afghanistan as a refugee or asylum seeker.

Shortly before the fellowship in the U.S., Humayoon did field research for the Afghanistan Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee on a corruption vulnerability assessment of the government.

He completed an online training course about climate change, adaptation and mitigation from the International Water Management Institute. He and others at Pasbanan Media Group invited dozen of the Afghan reporters from five major cities for a one-day training, where Humayoon talked with them about reporting on climate change-related topics in their own provinces.

Babur, who is a deputy and instructor for the Afghanistan Journalists Council, will return to Kabul with the skills and knowledge to become a more effective journalist and a leader in the profession.

The CEO/Founder of Pasaban, Sher Shah Nawabi, wrote in his recommendation letter that Babur “has donated countless hours of his time training hundreds of Afghan youths on the fundamentals of journalism and reporting.”

“I will hone my craft as a journalist,” Babur wrote in his application, “proudly serving to uphold responsible and balanced journalism, equipped with the leadership skills to make a lasting impact.”  

Before joining Pasbanan Media Group, Babur was a contributor for The Associated Press and a regional reporter for an Afghan news agency.

Five other journalists from India, China, Russia, Moldova and Ghana will join Babur in the six-month fellowship program.

Since 1984, Alfred Friendly Press Partners has trained more than 330 journalists from 70 countries and placed them in more than 60 news organizations across the United States, from newspapers like The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times to broadcasters including CBS 60 Minutes and affiliates of National Public Radio and PBS.

The nonprofit was founded 35 years ago by Alfred Friendly, the Pulitzer-Prize winning correspondent and former managing editor at The Washington Post.

Humayoon’s first bylined article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette…  and others including a profile on an Iranian-American,   a story related to Ramadan,  an article about the Afghan war,  and one on Afghan refugees

Humayoon’s work for the Park Point News Service through the Media Innovation Center in Pittsburgh included articles on the Afghan media,  a shopping market in Pittsburgh, and an agency that helps resettle refugees