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Campaign to free Bay detainee wins plaudits

A local paper’s successful campaign to free a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay has been recognised at a prestigious human rights award ceremony.

The Willesden and Brent Times’ Justice for Dad Campaign helped free detainee Jamil el-Banna and reunite him with his family in Dollis Hill, North London.

It earned the paper a commendation at the recent Amnesty International Media Awards.

Senior reporter Jenny Engstrom and Times Editor, Tim Cole, were praised in the Gaby Rado Memorial Award category, which was set up in memory of BBC journalist Gaby Rado, who died in Iraq while covering the 2003 invasion.

The award, which is presented to a journalist who has covered human rights issues for less than five years, went to Xan Rice of the Guardian for his coverage of Africa.

But the judges, who included Channel 4 News presenter, Jon Snow, praised Jenny for putting together a “strong, thorough, and well-written piece which took dogged determination to get, and to Tim for commissioning it.”

They added: “It is heartening to see a local newspaper highlighting an important human rights issue and giving it such prominence.”

The special commendation is the second accolade awarded to the campaign, which has followed the el-Banna’s plight since February 2006. In April, Jenny saw off fierce competition to win Scoop of the Year at the Newspaper Society’s Circulation, Editorial and Promotions Awards.

The prize recognised Jenny’s world exclusive interview with Mr el-Banna after his release from the US prison camp in December, last year.

Tim said: “It was a huge honour to be recognised for our work alongside those filing reports from places like Iraq, Congo, Laos and Haiti for the top national news organisations including the BBC, ITN, Channel 4 News, The Times and The Guardian.”