Be outraged and have guts – a lesson from the European Press Prize

EPP

During award ceremonies it’s easy to get sentimental. 

This year at the European Press Prize, where the best journalism in the continent gets awarded for its true effort of shaping not only the profession but also history, I was genuinely moved by the words of sir Harold Evans during his opening speech:

Could there ever have been a more representative moment for all the European Press Prize aspirations than when the mutinous colonels had the deputies held hostages cowering at gunpoint in Parliament and someone brought in the edition of El Pais proclaiming the king’s call to defend democracy and the Constitution. El Pais, out on the streets was more powerful in that moment than the tanks. The colonel was confronted by his own political obituary in bold glorious print.

Reporters are often overloaded with work and Twitter feeds and we forget at times that, although implicitly, our readership – or audience at large – expects something from us that goes beyond a cold and impartial account of what’s happening in Crimea, Uganda, Turkey, Iran and so forth. They need a voice they can rely on for its brutal honesty.

In a time where real-politik and Machiavellian plots have replaced a frank debate on politics and economy, journalists should hold their heads up high and be outraged in disgust.

And that’s what the EPP winners did this year – they screamed out loud from the four corners of the world what was wrong and what had to be changed. They fought against regimes and Governments, swam against the tide of conformism and they acted as true watchdogs.

In other words, they had guts. And, ultimately, they incarnated the quintessence of journalism.

Here’s the list of winners:

The Investigative Reporting Award

Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Yeganeh Torbati, “Assets of the Ayatollah”, published by Reuters, United Kingdom.

The Distinguished Writing Award

Sergey Khazov, “Forbidden islam”, “Vietnam town” and “A Man in Orange”, published by The New Times magazine, Russian Federation.

The Commentator Award

Boris Dežulović, “Vukovar: a Life-Size Monument to the Dead City””, published by Globus, Croatia.

The Innovation Award

Espen Sandli and Linn Kongsli Hillestad, “Null CTRL”, published by Dagbladet, Norway.

The Special Award

Yavuz Baydar for his work as ombudsman. His columns were censored. The award is a symbol of support for his fight for free press. Editor Alan Rusbridger from the Guardian and editor Wolfgang Buchner from Der Spiegel for their persistence and courage in publishing the NSA stories.

– A special mention goes to Paolo Bernacco and his team from La Stampa (by far, the best Italian newspaper) for their interactive projects here and here

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