FATUMA Noor from Kenya has been awarded the top prize at this year's CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2011 Awards Ceremony. 

Noor was one of the 27 finalists at the Awards ceremony last Saturday evening and was a winner in the category 'General News Award (Print).'

Noor, who works for The Star Kenya, won for her investigative three-part series on the 'Al-Shabaab', which was chosen from among 1407 entries from 42 nations across the African continent.

The series tells the story of the young men who give up their freedom abroad to return and fight for the 'Al-Shabaab' in one of the world's most dangerous places on earth - Somalia. 

The Awards, which rotate location each year in tribute to their pan-African credentials, were held at a Gala ceremony hosted by CNN and MultiChoice at the Sandton Sun Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Nolo Letele, executive chairman MultiChoice South Africa and Parisa Khosravi, senior vice-president of international newsgathering for CNN Worldwide presented Noor with the Award.

Noor said: "I want to thank my mum and my boss Catherine, who believed in me when no one else did.  There was a time in my life when I thought about giving up, but with this Award I'm not giving up any time soon."

Chair of the judging panel, journalist and media consultant Joel Kibazo said: "The judges were impressed with the high quality of entries to the competition this year, and this intrepid young journalist has shown great courage and determination in going the extra mile to tell this fascinating story. Fatuma Noor's three-part series on the Al-Shabaab provides a detailed and personalised portrait of the young men who leave their comfortable western lives to join one of the world's most ruthless militant groups in Somalia."

Collins Khumalo, president of MultiChoice Africa, said: "Congratulations to all the 2011 winners, we hope the acknowledgment you've received this year will inspire you to continue telling the African story to the world. Although there can only be one overall winner, we'd like to salute each and every journalist that entered. Without your hard work and support, the ongoing development of democracy and diversity of the media across the African continent would not be possible."

The evening also recognised Mahamud Abdi Jama as this year's recipient of the Free Press Africa Award, for his work in Somalia. His situation was noted by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) in New York. He wrote a critical article about the government there and was jailed for just over a month and released when pressure was put on the government of Somalia.

The CNN MultiChoice competition is now in its 16th year. The Awards' 27 finalists from 13 countries enjoyed an all expenses paid five-day programme of workshops, media forums and networking prior to the Awards Ceremony. - MultiChoice