Journalist Samira Ahmed awarded honorary doctorate
The City alumna was recognised for her contributions to journalism
Samira Ahmed has been awarded an honorary doctorate by City, University of London in recognition of her outstanding contribution to journalism.
The presentation was made to the City alumna during the University’s winter graduation ceremonies. Those nominated for honorary doctorates have achieved distinction in their fields and are considered to be excellent role models for students.
An award-winning journalist and documentary maker, Samira has worked in the news industry for more than 25 years and become one of Britain’s best-known broadcasters.
She was born in London, in 1968, and from a very young age wanted to be a journalist, making her own newspapers and radio reports at home with a tape recorder.
Samira attended Wimbledon High School before going on to study English at St Edmund Hall, at the University of Oxford.
While at university, she edited The ISIS, England’s longest-running independent student magazine, as well as the magazine for the prestigious Oxford Union debating society.
These endeavours earned Samira her first award: the Philip Geddes journalism prize.
“I grew up in the ‘70s fascinated by the juxtapositions of real life on the news,” she says, “terrorism, the battle against police corruption, racism and brutality, the violence of apartheid and misogyny.
“But there was equally wonderful entertainment on screen, and the example of bright, talented journalists such as Lucy Mathen and Shyama Perera who inspired me.”
In 1990, Samira completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Newspaper Journalism at City, University of London. Addressing this year’s graduating cohort she said:.
I learned from the experience of wise older journalists who taught at City, including those who had witnessed first-hand the horrors of the Second World War and the coming of the Iron Curtain. I learned from one particular visiting woman speaker from the Planned Parenthood Federation the power of speaking your mind based on your own evidence and assessment, and defying consensus or assumed truths."
On leaving City, Samira quickly moved into her first job in journalism: a graduate news trainee at the BBC.
Over the next eight years, she progressed to a succession of exciting roles within the corporation: from a reporter on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and Newsnight, to a foreign correspondent in Los Angeles and a television presenter on BBC News 24.
Then, in 2000, Samira joined Channel 4 News, where she was to work for more than a decade, first as a reporter and then a presenter.
During this time, Samira won the Stonewall Broadcast of the Year Award for her film on so-called "corrective" rape of lesbian women in South Africa. She also made the acclaimed Channel 4 documentary series Islam Unveiled.
Samira left Channel 4 News in 2011 and began her career as a freelance journalist, working for various broadcasters on a broad range of programmes and writing for the national press.
Now, she presents Newswatch on BBC One and Front Row on BBC Radio 4 and makes documentaries for Radio 3 and 4.
A widely respected figure in many walks of life, Samira is also a trustee of three charities: Action for Stammering Children, the Centre for Women’s Justice and UK Feminista. She is also on the associate advisory board of the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.
“All the charities I work with are attempting to improve the situation for the most vulnerable in a practical measurable way - invoking the protection of the law to end misogyny and violence against women, championing access to the riches of art and scientific culture, and the liberation for young people who stammer through life-changing therapy and support.”
Outside of her professional activities, Samira’s interests include literature and film, particularly Westerns and comics. She is married with two children.
Samira drew on her experience to offer some advice for the graduating students.
I honestly had no idea in 1989 that 30 years later we’d uncover such shocking levels of unequal pay including at the BBC. That battle is continuing, believe me. But I accept this honour with delight as a recognition for my enduring belief in the value of ethical journalism.
The truth is still out there and it needs all the help it can get."