Texas Tech University

Women at the Forefront

Andrea Payne and Savanna Montgomery

April 3, 2024

International Journalism and Human Rights Symposium

International Journalists Honored for Rallying for Human Rights

On March 19, the College of Media & Communication honored two recipients with the Excellence in International Journalism and Human Rights Award at the Graduate Student Research Symposium. The award, presented by Lyombe Eko, Ph.D., is a token of bravery and appreciation for Saleha Soadat— award winning journalist and CoMC graduate student from Kabul, Afghanistan— and Marina Ovsyannikova— Russian journalist and former TV editor at the International News Department of Russian Television's Channel One.

As international journalists, one of the most important tasks of the job is to navigate through treacherous waters in pursuit of the truth amidst violence in their country. Despite facing threats to their safety and witnessing firsthand the brutality of conflict, these journalists remain steadfast in their commitment to reporting in the field. Their tireless efforts to uncover stories of human suffering and resilience in the face of adversity have earned them respect and admiration around the world.

No War. Don't believe the propaganda. They're lying to you here,”

During a live news broadcast, Ovsyannikova boldly took a stand against the ongoing war in her country. With unwavering conviction, she used her platform to protest the violence and propaganda in Russia in order to advocate for peace, defying the government's censorship and repression. Holding a sign that read “No War. Don't believe the propaganda. They're lying to you here,” Ovsyannikova wanted to ensure the plight of ordinary Russians caught in the midst of war is not overlooked or ignored.


“That's why I had to explain to the world what really happened— I wanted to show everyone that some Russians are completely against war,” said Ovsyannikova. “They could not believe I had so many objections to my country fighting, but I could not remain silent. I hope in the future my children will understand this sacrifice was not done in vain. My fight will always be for the freedom of speech in Russia, especially for our journalists. The first casualty of war in Russia is truth, which died a long, long time ago.”


Ovsyannikova said it was almost as though it was her calling to speak out against the authoritative rule in her home country. Knowing the potential punishment and backlash she would receive, she decided to use her voice as a weapon, which now proves she is a hero.

“During his years of power, Putin has completely destroyed independent journalism in Russia,” said Ovsyannikova. “At some point for me, it became to be a point of no return— it was impossible, and almost unbearable, for me not to speak out. I participated in the war by speaking out my truth for six seconds on the local Russian television station.”

Today, under the Taliban's rule, over 100 female Afghan journalists have been imprisoned and exiled for their work on human rights,” 

Amidst civil unrest in her country, Soadat uses her experience as a journalist to tell the stories of Afghan refugees now in the U.S. after the Taliban takeover in 2021.

“Today, under the Taliban's rule, over 100 female Afghan journalists have been imprisoned and exiled for their work on human rights,” said Soadat. “The story of the Taliban's impact has led more of us to stand up for freedom.”


With a deep sense of empathy and a desire to bearing witness to Afghan refugee stories, Soadat bravely speaks on the complexities of displacement and despair, shedding light on the struggles of those forced to flee their homes in search of safety and sovereignty.

“I have been working in this field for over a decade and it is an honor to be recognized for being a voice for other women from my country,” said Soadat. “Shifting my focus of coverage from current affairs to Afghan refugees became the birth of new life for me.”


Ovsyannikova and Soadat, along with other brave female journalists, have left an incredible mark on the industry, their contributions shaping the course of journalism and inspiring generations of future journalists. From groundbreaking investigative reporting to courageous frontline coverage, these women have been heroes in tackling some of the world's most pressing issues, bringing attention to underreported stories and amplifying marginalized voices. It is through their work that the world is able to see them giving a voice to the voiceless.

[Read more about the symposium]