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Matthieu Aikins is 2014 Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism Winner

Writing for Rolling Stone, reporter exposes alleged war crimes by U.S. Army Special Forces

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June 5, 2014 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Matthieu Aikins has been named the winner of the 2014 Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism for a story exposing alleged war crimes by U.S. Army Special Forces in Afghanistan. The medal is awarded yearly by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.  

The Medill medal recognizes an individual or team of journalists working for a U.S.-based media outlet and best displaying moral, ethical or physical courage in pursuit of a story or series of stories. A team of judges on behalf of Medill selected Aikins for “The A-Team Killings,” published late last year in Rolling Stone.

In that article, Aikins makes the case that a 12-man U.S. Army Special Forces A-Team and an Afghan translator committed war crimes in Wardak Province that included extra-judicial killings, torture and kidnapping. Not long after Afghan President Hamid Karzai forced the A-Team to leave the area, human remains -- remains that locals said belonged to men taken by the Americans – were discovered.

Working independently on behalf of Rolling Stone, Aikins spent five months on the ground in the volatile Wardak area interviewing eyewitnesses, victims, family members, local officials and an imprisoned translator who accused his American employers of the killings.

Impressed by Aikins’ exceptional courage and integrity in reporting, Medill Professor Donna Leff and Medill Board of Advisers members Richard Stolley and Ellen Soeteber unanimously voted Aikins the Medill medal winner.

The judges also commended finalists Rukmini Callimachi, for her Associated Press reporting on al-Qaida’s papers in Mali, and Alfred Corchado, for his reporting for the Dallas Morning News on Mexico’s violent drug cartels.

Aikins’ investigation spurred calls for a thorough investigation into the allegations by the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

For more details about Aikins, his award-winning article and the Medill Medal for Courage, visit Medill’s website at http://www.medill.northwestern.edu.

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