Cockburn wins top journalism award

The Independent's foreign correspondent Patrick Cockburn has won the 2009 Orwell Prize, the most prestigious award for political writing in British journalism. His reports from Iraq in both The Independent and the London Review of Books were hailed by the judges as "an exemplary untangling of the political and social complexity that lies behind one of the world's great crises". They praised the manner in which Cockburn's work "enriches our understanding".

Their citation said: "Patrick Cockburn reminds us that reporting is the foundation stone of good journalism, and that there's no substitute for intimate knowledge when it comes to describing a country and its conflicts... He writes fairly, compassionately and clearly, with a steady and knowledgeable eye and without any self-dramatics."

Cockburn, born in Co Cork, Ireland, in 1950, has been reporting from the front line in the Middle East and beyond for nearly three decades. As a biographer of Saddam Hussein, his work has become a reference point for readers sceptical of the conventional or official line on events in Baghdad.

The Orwell Prize honours journalists who are deemed by the judges to have best achieved George Orwell's aim of "making political writing into an art". Cockburn won it not only for his contribution to illuminating the situation in Iraq but for a piece which documented his son's slide into mental illness.

This is the second year in a row that the Orwell Prize has gone to an Independent writer: Johann Hari being last year's winner. Patrick Cockburn's book Moqtada al-Sadr and The Fall of Iraq was also longlisted for the 2009 book category.

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