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Daily Mirror writer nominated for human rights reporting award

Tom Parry, Senior Feature Writer for the Daily Mirror, has been shortlisted for an Amnesty Media Award, recognising excellence in human rights reporting.

Tom is nominated in the Features category for a dispatch published in November 2015, revealing the appalling conditions facing children forced to make a living on an illegal tip in Africa.

The piece revealed how abandoned UK computer equipment ends up on the tip in on the outskirts of Accra, Ghana, which is then stripped by working children and adults tirelessly for just £1.30 a day.

Click here to read more about the Amnesty Media Awards.

We caught up with Tom to find out how he got the story and its challenges:

Congratulations on your Amnesty Media Award nomination. Tell us first about how the story from Ghana came about?

The main, original reason for being in Ghana was to write about a British company which provides solar-powered lighting for remote villages with no electricity. While there, I also wanted to see the electronic waste tip. I had heard about the appalling conditions there, but nevertheless the stench and squalor of the Agbogbloshie slum was overbearing when observed up close. The authorities there told me that all of the computers, televisions and keyboards chucked by the polluted river were dumped by local companies, but myself and Mirror photographer Andy Stenning found many that had been sent from Europe and the UK. This was a good example of why journalists always get more by travelling to the scene.

Was it a challenging place to spend time?

We had been warned that this huge area of wasteland was dangerous in the capital city Accra, especially for two Westerners. By sheer good fortune, we got chatting to two local police officers just beforehand and they walked around with us. The ground was treacherous, covered in shards of glass and metal and wire, and the air was thick with fumes from children burning rubber so they could get to the copper inside. Some children were afraid to talk because of the gang-masters who pay them looming in the background.

What did this story achieve?

I think it brought attention to a place most people would never think about when they throw away their old PCs, gaming consoles and laptops. We live in a world where we continually upgrade our computer hardware, but most of us never consider what happens to it afterwards.

Defenders of Agbogbloshie say it provides valuable income for Ghanaians, but I don't think any parent would want to imagine their child eking out an existence in such a filthy, unhygienic environment.

Where else in Africa has reporting for the Mirror taken you?

I have been extremely fortunate indeed. Since 2005, when I went to Niger to cover the famine ahead of the Live 8 concert, I have been to Uganda, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and, Western Sahara. For contrasting reasons, every single trip has been extraordinary. And each time I've been, new stories have emerged that I would never have thought of if I hadn't gone.

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