BBC's Lyse Doucet to receive 2023 Zenger Award

Sept. 1, 2023
Lyse Doucet

For her international reporting on human rights, journalist Lyse Doucet will receive the 2023 Zenger Award for Press Freedom from the University of Arizona School of Journalism.

Doucet, the BBC's chief international correspondent, will be honored at a gala dinner next year.

The Zenger Award, given by the school since 1954, honors those who fight for freedom of the press and the people’s right to know. The two previous recipients were the Committee to Protect Journalists and Yamiche Alcindor of PBS and NBC.

“For decades Doucet has done an exceptional job reporting from all over the world, obtaining prestigious recognitions for her contributions to journalism,” Director Jessica Retis said. “Her inclusive and diverse perspective on news coverage inspired the journalism school to choose her as recipient of the Zenger Award.”

Doucet has a long history of international reporting with the BBC. She began as a correspondent in 1983 reporting from West Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East. She became a presenter in 1999, spending more than two decades reporting on wars across Africa, Asia and Europe.

Lyse Doucet

To me, Doucet has always been the voice of reason on BBC News, first as presenter and now as chief international correspondent,” Graduates Studies Director Monica Chadha said. “You will find her rushing into places from where people are usually rushing out, and reporting stories that are crucial to bring about even a semblance of political or social change.”

Doucet is known for her fearless war coverage as well as her reporting on drought, famine, refugee crises and assassinations. Doucet was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award in 2002 for her coverage of the attempted assassination of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Doucet’s team won a Peabody in 2009 for their report, "Where Giving Life is a Death Sentence.” Doucet covered the extremely high maternal mortality rates in Afghanistan.

She also played a key role in the BBC’s coverage of the Arab Spring during the early 2010s. Doucet’s team won an Emmy in 2014 for their coverage of Syria.

Doucet covered these historic events with careful consideration of the everyday people experiencing the unintended consequences of conflict.

“I look at war as relationships among people, relationships between neighbors, friends, mothers and fathers and children,” Doucet told The Guardian in 2015. “I’m a big believer in the small story telling the big story.”

Shilpa Kannan, former producer and business correspondent for BBC News, said Doucet has an amazing ability to connect with people from different cultures.

“She once said that being a journalist is a huge privilege because people open up their homes and hearts to you and let you tell their stories,” Kannan said.

Arguably, the most notable characteristic of Doucet is that she shows no signs of stopping. In 2021, Doucet reported from Kabul after the Taliban takeover and wrote a love letter to the city she reported on for many years. She wrote about the broken dreams and challenges ahead once the Taliban took over and recorded interviews for the podcast, “A Wish for Afghanistan.”

This year, she continued to ask world leaders the hard-hitting questions, “Should world leaders start talking to the Taliban?”

Her continued fight for the people’s right to know and freedom of the press in international countries makes her the obvious choice as the School of Journalism’s Zenger Award for Press Freedom 2023 recipient.

Follow our coverage of the Zenger Gala @uazjschool on all channels and follow Lyse Doucet @bbclysedoucet.

*Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the postponement of the 2023 award dinner.