Using a grant from the Pulitzer Center, Urooj Kamran Azmi and Shakeeb Asrar traveled across Pakistan interviewing convicts, human rights leaders, former prisoners, and lawyers familiar with changes made to that country’s death penalty.
After a Taliban attack in 2014, the government lifted its moratorium on the death penalty in response to terrorism. Pakistan currently has one of the highest number of death row inmates in the world.
“We had both undertaken so much research on this issue and were hoping to find a way to tell this story for more than two years. We just needed the right opportunity,” Azmi said of receiving the Pulitzer Center’s Campus Consortium fellowship. “We also didn’t fully realize how powerful our documentary would be until we shared it at the event.”
The documentary, Convict of 302, investigates the impact of the country’s recently changed death penalty and anti-terrorism laws. It was shared with more than 30 fellow students from universities across the U.S., all of whom traveled to 24 countries to report on issues of human rights and global crises.
As student fellows with the Center’s Consortium, Azmi and Asrar received a reporting grant as well as one-on-one mentoring from members of the Pultizer Center.
“The grant is especially useful in this region as there are so many topics that the Western media have reservations in addressing. The Pulitzer Center gives you a lot of liberty in choosing a topic you’re interested in with professional support from experienced journalists,” Asrar said.
According to the Pulitizer Center, Azmi and Asrar’s reporting “delves into alarming trends. Many who were executed as terrorists did not receive fair trials and were sometimes tried in terrorism courts for criminal activities that weren’t considered terrorism. The country’s execution laws are also unclear as to the treatment of people with mental and physical disabilities or illnesses, a focus of the documentary.”
Convict of 302 was screened as part of the Center’s Campus Consortium Student Fellows Washington Weekend. Northwestern University in Qatar is a member of the Center’s Campus Consortium. Each year, NU-Q also hosts a visit by the Center and one of its professional fellows.
“Our partnership with the Pulitzer Center is built on a shared belief in the power of learning outside the classroom; this is especially important in the rapidly changing field of media and communication,” said Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q. “Access to organizations like the Pulitzer Center is an important element of our students’ undergraduate experience.”
About Northwestern University in Qatar:
Northwestern University in Qatar draws from its parent organization, Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois), a distinguished history, famous programs and an exceptional faculty. Founded in partnership with Qatar Foundation, NU-Q provides a framework through which students explore the world and, ultimately, shape its future through its distinguished schools of communication, journalism, and liberal arts.