A young Egyptian photojournalist whose work documents sexual harassment and attacks against women in her country has won the Portenier Human Rights Bursary for 2016.
Eman Helal, 30, was selected by a jury from applications received from freelancers and independent documentary-makers in 25 countries. The $3,000 bursary will help to protect her in her work by giving her access to hostile environment training, a type of defensive training more commonly given to war correspondents.
The Portenier bursary is offered annually by the Canadian Journalism Forum on Violence and Trauma. It is sponsored by Giselle Portenier, a Forum board member and internationally-renowned producer of documentaries exposing human rights abuses. The annual competition is organized in cooperation with the UK-based Rory Peck Trust.
Portenier said, “I could not be more delighted with the judges’ choice. Eman Helal is exactly the kind of journalist I set the Portenier Bursary up for. She is an excellent journalist, has a proven track record in tackling human rights issues, and has a great future ahead of her. “It’s wonderful that with this bursary she will be able to get the hostile environments training that she truly needs to keep herself safe. I know how much it meant to me when I took it.”
“I am surprised and very proud to be selected. It gives me a sense both of responsibility and of confidence to be recognized in this way. I want to thank the Portenier jury for giving such support to my work,” Helal said.
Helal’s work, including coverage of the Egyptian uprising in 2011, has appeared in a number of major media titles around the world, including The New York Times, The Guardian, Time and Stern magazines, Associated Press and Al Jazeera. She won first place in the multimedia section of the Egypt Press Photo Awards in 2014.
James Estrin, Lens Blog co-editor and senior staff photographer at The New York Times, said: “Her photo essay on physical abuse and harassment of women in Egypt is an extremely important document. She is an excellent journalist, a fine photographer and a brave woman who has covered very dangerous situations in Egypt.”
Helal, based in Cairo, has already covered assaults on women there for three years. She plans now to expand that work.
The Portenier bursary was inaugurated in 2015 and won that year by Toronto-based film-maker Jason O’Hara, working on a documentary about the forced clearance of favelas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ahead of the World Cup of Soccer and the Olympic Games.