America Abroad Media (AAM) is a D.C.-based non-profit organization that aims to encourage free international media. On November 15, 2015 AAM gathered to honor media leaders that have made contributions to Middle Eastern media at its fourth annual Power of Film awards dinner. Honorees were recognized for contributing thoughtful, informative, and free media in spite of challenging circumstances.
The AAM Partner Award was presented to Tolo TV. Tolo TV is Afghanistan’s largest independent media channel with an audience of over 13 million people. The channel provides a wide range of programs including entertainment, drama, and political news coverage. This coverage came at a high price. In January 2016, a bus carrying Tolo TV employees was targeted by a Taliban suicide bomber. The attack killed 7 employees and injured 26 others.
Nasser Al Qasabi, a nationally beloved comedian and TV-satirist was presented with a Power of Film award. Qasabi is known for his comedy skits, where he makes fun of Arab social norms. His most recent comedy show Selfie became one of the most popular shows in the Middle East by lampooning ISIS through comedy. His show earned him a spot on ISIS’s hit-list.
Awards were also presented to congressmen Ed Royce and Eliot Engel. Royce (R-California) and Engel (D-New York) have crossed partisan lines to help make United States broadcasts more accessible to audiences in the Middle East. Their efforts to allow media access to Middle Eastern viewers been seen a large step towards preventing a Middle Eastern iron curtain, similar the iron curtain that occurred in Europe during the Cold War.
Journalist Steven Sotloff, was honored in memoriam. During his career he covered topics such as the Benghazi embassy attack, the Arab Spring, and the foreshadowing of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. He was kidnapped by ISIS and beheaded in 2014. His death sparked a complete overhaul of how U.S. hostage situations will be handled abroad.
The hit television series Homeland was also recognized during the ceremony. The show was praised for shedding light on the complex issues of the Middle East and U.S. National security. Homeland was also praised for giving human faces to the people involved in these current issues.
People in attendance of the event include retired General John Allen, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador of Afghanistan Hamdullah Mohib, and Ambassador of Kazakhstan Kairat Umarov.