Well-deserved: Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Bin Sultan Al Qasimi presents inaugural Best Investigative Report Award to Mazhar Farooqui, XPRESS Deputy Editor, on Sunday Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/XPRESS

Dubai: An exposé by XPRESS was declared the best investigative report at the inaugural Sharjah Government Communication Awards on Sunday.

Deputy Editor Mazhar Farooqui’s report last year in the October 4 edition had revealed how schools in Dubai go to extreme lengths to get top ratings from education regulator Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). These ratings determine the percentage of fee hike a school is allowed. Farooqui’s story ‘The shocking truth about school inspections’ detailed how several schools stage shams involving all – students, teachers, parents and even bus drivers – during the KHDA inspections.

The awards’ judging panel had recommended the submission of an “investigative report” instead of a “news report” for the category after they felt a large number of initial submissions lacked fact-finding or collecting opinions. Farooqui’s story, however, was hailed for all the elements that the category demanded.

“It’s a real honour to be named amongst the winners and this will surely act as a great motivation for me to delve deeper for such issues that affect the wider society,” said Farooqui.

He accepted a plaque and a certificate honouring his work from Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Executive Council. The red carpet ceremony was held at the Al Jawaher Hall.

Abdul Hamid Ahmad, the Editor-in-Chief of XPRESS and Gulf News, said: “The award is a recognition of our commitment to free and fair journalism. It also shows that the UAE authorities strongly believe in the independence of the media.”

Bobby Naqvi, Editor of XPRESS, said: “This award is proof that investigative journalism is recognised, understood and appreciated in the UAE. I thank the Sharjah award jury for selecting this XPRESS report. We at XPRESS have a responsibility towards our readers to go beyond the news, highlight issues that are relevant to the readers and publish reports accurately without fear or favour.”

Farooqui shared the prize with Ahmad Mohammad Morsy of Al Ittihad newspaper.