Slide Amnesty International UK / Media Awards AWARD CATEGORIES

Exposing the Illegal Organ Trade

BBC: Panorama


Panorama investigates one of the world’s most brutal trades – the buying and selling of human organs. We travel to Egypt – a country that has faces ongoing criticism for its Human Rights violations where 26 journalists and countless Human Rights defenders have been arrested this year alone.

The victims we met have fled war in Sudan and are targeted from the minute they arrive in Cairo. Many of them eventually sell their organs to fund their basic needs although most of them never receive what they agreed to in this unregulated back street trade. The team speak to migrants who have been exploited for their body parts by criminal gangs. Some have agreed to sell a kidney to finance their journey to Europe, only to be ripped off by the traffickers after the operation. Other victims describe the brutal horror of having their organs taken against their will. Panorama also tracks down the criminals running the trade to find out how they arrange illegal operations in hospitals and clinics.

The team works with academic Sean Columb who has analysed this under-researched area of human rights violations for over 5 years. With his expert knowledge we reveal how the hospitals and organ brokers work with each other to keep a steady flow of organs to Egypt’s hospitals. The team had to navigate the omnipresent security services, calculating the risk for every scene shot and change hotels every few days to protect the footage and sources. The shocking story couldn’t be told without the ongoing bravery of all of the sources. Having very little else to leverage, they told their stories to urge the country and the world to protect the fundamental rights of all migrants and refugees.


The rot of corruption is felt daily in the lives of migrants and the most vulnerable are the ones who fall through the gaps. The ambition I had was to bring awareness of how desperate life can get when you can’t rely on the most basic of Human Rights. When a stranger quoted the film back to me as an example of the choices that migrants around the world have to make, I decided I might have reached that goal successfully.

The film reached 2.4 million viewers on BBC One and was immediately requested by channels internationally. The response across social media revealed that most of the audience were shocked to know that this was a real issue. And the Egyptian government accepted that the crime happens in their hospitals – a frank admission given the value of the trade to their GDP.

In the same week when migrants were being turned away from Dover, we were able to shine a light in a dark corner of the suffering that some migrants go through on their journey to find a life free from inhumane and degrading conditions – a life to which we are all have a right.

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