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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The Outlaws – modern investigative journalists on this week’s Dispenser

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As the weekend seems now to be a blurred recollection, this week’s Dispenser brought you content you will hardly forget for the next seven days.

Today, we took a journey in the shady underbelly of investigative journalism exploring the crucial themes of freedom of expression and freedom of information with two outstanding guests.

First, we kneeled in front of a modern journalistic icon, David Leigh, former investigations executive editor at the Guardian, which handled the release of US diplomatic and military documents – aka Wikileaks – along with Julian Assange.

“The investigative journalist should be a sort of an outlaw, a bit of a gorilla, always colliding with the law and sometimes I believe we have to break the law”. 

While dealing with all these leaks, Michael Ertl dragged us to Germany, home of Bastian Brinkmann, who broke the story of Offshore leaks for the Suddeutsche Zeitung. Last spring, 46 countries worked together for the first time to find out how people around the globe could avoid paying taxes for millions of dollars through offshore banks.

“Working on Offshore leaks was very difficult, it takes a lot of time, a lot of conference calls. This might not be implemented in the average work for a journalist but, for special projects, this collaboration could represent a model”. 

Now, Bastian Brinkmann is working on another project, Secret Wars, on the US military activities in Germany. Find out more on international.sueddeutsche.de 

Nevertheless, we never forget to suggest you a book: this week Lauren Brennan gave us a glimpse of “The Investigative Journalism Casebook” published by UNESCO and edited by Mark Lee Hunter. Twenty-two true stories written by investigative journalists and connected by the fil rouge of truth, obsession with journalism and caffeine. Plus, the book is online and free here.

Tune in next week on Smoke Radio, 6pm more or less, for a whole new episode.

This week’s soundtrack: 

Sissyneck – Beck;

Money – Barrett Strong;

Daydream – Lovin Spoonfull;

Yofo – Molotov.

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