NAPLES ITALY- It started as an award to recognize law enforcement and journalists with the courage to denounce the Mafia in Italy and expose their abuses, but it has grown into something much larger. Now the annual event honors press freedom and the heroism of those who dare to cover up the atrocities of war even from the front lines.

This year’s European Investigative and Judicial Journalism Award recognized our colleagues at Fox News injured and killed in Ukraine. Correspondent Benjamin Hall was seriously wounded in March while covering the advance of the Russian army towards the capital Kiev. His cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski and local fixer Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova were killed when they all came under intense attack.

Cameraman and editor Pierre Zakrzewski, affectionately called “Zak” by colleagues, was killed while covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
(Fox News)

Pierre’s wife, Michelle Ross-Stanton, was in the imposing Castle called Maschio Angioino in central Naples to receive her award. In remarks that brought tears to some in the audience, “Mich,” as Pierre and her friends always called her, spoke of her husband’s passionate dedication to her work. While the pain of losing her is still there, reliving it in front of a crowd was very difficult, she said. But she explained why she needed to be there.

FUNERAL FOR FOX NEWS CAMERAMAN PIERRE ZAKRZEWSKI IN IRELAND

“I knew how important it was,” Michelle said after the awards ceremony, “because it’s about journalism. It’s about injustice in the world. It’s about human rights. And I think it’s so important that we have to continue. I know that Pierre is dead doing what he loved, and lived the way he died. With courage and grace, i.e. Pierre’s death forever leaves a void in the hearts of many in the international press community who knew him, not to mention family and friends.”

Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall was injured outside Kiev while in the field covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Fox News reporter Benjamin Hall was injured outside Kiev while in the field covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
(Fox News)

Benjamin Hall’s courage was also awarded in Naples. He plans to continue the fight to shine a light where there is darkness and beyond. In the remarks I prepared before accepting Ben’s award on his behalf, as I am located just above the long boot of Italy in the city of Milan, I noted that he is an amazing communicator and storyteller on so many topics, not just about conflicts. He has the ability to make you laugh at some of life’s absurdities with his deft turns of phrase as much as he can capture the essence of horror and injustice.

“I want to begin first by paying homage to Pierre, to Sasha and to all the journalists who lost their lives covering the war,” Benjamin said in a video message to the organizers of the event which also celebrated the Italian war correspondents and military police who denounced a mafia operation. “But I think it’s essential that we continue to do this work, which is so important to telling the truth. I think without journalists on the ground, you wouldn’t know the horrors, the murders, the atrocities that take place. Nor would you know the strength, the courage , of the resilience of all those people who are fighting for good”.

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The award was founded by a man named Massimo Scuderi who began his career in his native Sicily as part of the “Guardia di Finanza,” those who track everything from tax evasion to international trafficking. He was honored for his courageous work by the Italian government and saw a lot in his life. But the story of Pierre, Sasha and Benjamin hit him hard.

“I’ve read so much about it. I’ve also seen the videos on your channel. It touched me, because I imagine three friends, in a car, talking and then in an instant they’re not talking anymore.”

Alexandra "Sasha" Kuvshynova was serving as a consultant for Fox News in the field during the Russian invasion.  She was killed when her vehicle was hit by oncoming fire.

Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova served as a consultant for Fox News on the ground during the course of the Russian invasion. She was killed when her vehicle was hit by oncoming fire.
(Instagram – Merger)

The memory of Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova was also honored again and again throughout the evening. She had worked as a local “fixer” or a competent pair of hands on the field for the Fox Ukraine team. An aspiring young journalist and someone who, according to a Fox colleague, “lit up every room she walked into” with her own energy and positivity, she was much adored by all who worked with her. Michelle says she will dedicate her life to keeping Pierre and Sasha’s legacy alive. And Massimo Scuderi says she will do her best to locate Sasha’s family in Ukraine and eventually bring her to Italy to commemorate her in their presence.

OLEKSANDRA ‘SASHA’ KUVSHYNOVA’S FOX NEWS COLLEAGUES REMEMBER HER LIFE: ‘HE HAD A SPECIAL PRESENCE’

And Michelle meanwhile shared a Zakrzewski family mantra that helps everyone get over their nightmare. It’s a hashtag. #BemorelikePierre. And it’s simple, she said:

Helping others.

Be brave.

Love your family.

Love your friends.

Travel.

Speak out.

Do what you love.

Take risks.

Laugh.

Treatment.

Be the best you can be.

Because he was the best.

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