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Geoffrey LeanGeoffrey Lean, the External Editor of Our Planet, was presented with a special award for life-time achievement in environmental journalism at the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of IUCN-the World Conservation Union, in November 1998.

The award, presented by Queen Noor of Jordan at Fontainebleau Palace, France, was made to launch a new series of prizes established by IUCN and the Reuters Foundation, 'to promote excellence in environmental reporting.' The organizers decided to mark the start of the scheme, the first global programme of its kind, by giving two one-off world-wide 'Foundation Awards', one for lifetime achievement and one to a promising young environmental journalist 'as an incentive to those embarking on a career in this important field.'

Longstanding Contribution

The presentation took place at the official opening ceremony of the anniversary celebrations, which were addressed by President Jacques Chirac of France, President Blaise Campaor of Burkino Faso, President Omar Konar of Mali, and President Flavio Cotti of the Swiss Confederation.

Lean - who is also the Environment Correspondent for The Independent on Sunday in London, United Kingdom - was chosen for the premier prize by Reuters, after consulting leading scientists and authorities around the world.

Presenting the award, Queen Noor praised Lean's 'longstanding contribution to the highest standards of environmental reporting,' and said he had 'contributed significantly to bringing environmental issues to the general public.'

She added: 'Journalists and the media have played a critical role in generating and sustaining public awareness of the growing environmental threats to our planet. Considering the major challenges that we face in the next century, it is imperative that conservationists learn to communicate their knowledge to the media in a topical and non-technical manner and, in turn, that journalists help draw the links between environmental issues and people's daily lives.'

The young journalist's award was presented to Busani Bafana, 27, of the Zimbabwe Independent, whose stories have included coverage of a spill of cyanide-tainted sludge in a large goldmine, which created a water contamination panic in the city of Bulawayo.

A New Scheme

The new awards scheme, which will start this year, will promote the coverage of environmental issues in the context of mainstream social, political and economic affairs. They will comprise eight regional awards and one global prize each year. Winners will be offered fellowships and training opportunities organized by the Reuters Foundation, the educational arm of Reuters news and information group.

'Public concern about the environment is increasing everywhere and the handling of this complex subject matter is one of the biggest challenges to today's media,' said Mark Wood, Editor in Chief of Reuters. 'Reuters is keen to promote the highest standards in environmental reporting, based on impartial journalism and sound science.'

Greater Prominence

Javad Ahmad, IUCN Director of Communications, added: 'The stories are out there, and they often relate to front page news. This award will give journalists and their editors an incentive to give greater prominence to environmental reports that provide new insights and bases for action.'

Geoffrey Lean - who has been responsible for commissioning and editing the articles for Our Planet since its relaunch five years ago - has been covering environment and development issues for 29 years, and has won many awards for his work. In 1987 he became a Global 500 Laureate, and his other awards include the Communication Arts Award of Excellence, the Schumacher Award, the World Environment Festival Award and a Glaxo Science Fellowship. He is consistently voted 'most impressive environmental journalist of the year' in an annual poll of his peers in the United Kingdom, and is the only newspaperman to have won the British Environment and Media Award's lifetime prize for creating awareness about the environment: subsequent winners have been Prince Charles, United States Vice-President Al Gore, broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.

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