Announcement of this year's laureates of the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media"

Press Release 6 September, 2011

"To be able to say what you want"
Leipzig Media Foundation announces 2011 prizewinners

This year’s "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" goes to Oleg Kashin, Fahem Boukaddous and Stefan Buchen.

Fahem Boukaddous Stefan Buchen Oleg Kaschin
Fahem Boukaddous Stefan Buchen Oleg Kaschin

Leipzig. This year's "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" has been awarded to Russian investigative journalist Oleg Kashin as well as to TV reporters Fahem Boukaddous from Tunisia and Stefan Buchen from Germany. The announcement was made this Tuesday, 6 September, by the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig. The Foundation prize honors three individuals who have made a particularly courageous and judicious commitment to freedom of the press and speech.

The prize, with a total purse of 30,000 Euros, is being awarded for the eleventh time. The ceremony will take place on 13 October, 2011. This year’s "Speech on Freedom of the Media and Press" will be held by Professor Hans-Jürgen Papier, former presiding judge at the Federal Constitutional Court in Germany.

"All three prizewinners are linked by their unfearing commitment to freedom of expression, their journalistic rigor and their unerring choice of topics," the jury, comprised of the Foundation Council and Foundation Board, concluded. "The prizewinners are dedicated to bringing the truth to the world. They champion the cause of those who cannot say what they want."

Oleg Kashin is one of Russia’s most well-known investigative journalists. He not only tackles Russia’s deficit in democracy, but also deals with social and environmental issues. Among other things, Kashin has reported critically on the "Young Guard" organization, the youth wing and recruiting organization of the ruling party "United Russia". In November 2010 he was savagely attacked and beaten. The Young Guard, having viciously assailed Kashin on its homepage, denouncing him as a back-stabber and demanding his punishment, later backed off from its aggressive stance.

The assault unleashed a wave of indignation in Russia, all the way up to the president, and caused a stir internationally as well. Though Kashin still suffers from the aftereffects of the assault, his resolve not to be silenced is unbroken. The jury sees Oleg Kashin as a journalistic role model for the present. The 31-year-old Russian is distinguished by an especially thoughtful, thorough and fact-oriented working method. Russia has long been marked by recurrent episodes of underhanded violence against critical journalists.

Anna Politkovskaya - likewise a laureate of the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" in 2005 - paid with her life five years ago for daring to report on the Chechnya conflict.

Fahem Boukaddous is considered a symbol of the Jasmine Revolution which unfolded in Tunisia this spring. But already years before the political transformation in Tunisia, the 41-year-old journalist was reporting critically and courageously about abuses under the autocratic rule of Zine El Abidene Ben Ali. Boukaddous, too, has paid dearly for his dedication to democracy, freedom of speech and pluralism, being convicted of founding a criminal association and sentenced to prison. Immediately following his release in the spring of 2011, the TV journalist founded the "Centre de Tunis pour la Liberté de Presse". The jury is honoring his undeterrable commitment to freedom of the press in Tunisia. At the same time he is receiving the award on behalf of all those who made the transformation in Tunisia possible and who have taken a stand against fanaticism and state despotism.

Stefan Buchen is well-known for his riveting reports from crisis areas in the Near and Middle East as well as in northern Africa. The 42-year-old ARD television journalist shuns no danger in his endeavor to show the world what is really happening. His reporting is authentic, no matter if it is Taliban fighters in Afghanistan or combat zones in Libya he is concerned with. His excellent language skills give him direct access to people on the ground. Their feelings and desires are part and parcel of his reports. Buchen turns these individuals into unique contemporary witnesses and gives voice to those who have none. This was a key factor in the jury’s decision. According to the jury, Stefan Buchen’s work is characterized by his strong personal commitment, journalistic diligence of the highest order and cliché-free reporting.

As in past years, the laureates were chosen according to clearly defined criteria. The nomination process was accompanied in its preliminary stages by Dr. Martin Welker, professor of journalism at Leipzig University, along with his team of scholars. The research group of professor Welker applied clear-cut award criteria in verifying the list of candidates nominated for the prize.

Thus, the journalistic achievements of the prizewinner

  • must relate to a relevant or notable topic of general interest,
  • can at the same time be considered a contribution to strengthening freedom of the press (for example, by overcoming obstacles),
  • involve personal risks to the journalist,
  • have demanded an above-average commitment of time and energy,
  • and are of exceptional journalistic and technical quality.

A maximum of ten points can be awarded in each of these five categories. The candidates are reviewed and rated, and the results are summed up in an advisory report which is given to the jury to support their decision-making. The jury, with the help of content advisers, then selects the prizewinners in several rounds of voting.

Since 2001, the Media Foundation has been honoring journalists, publishers and institutions who show a strong personal commitment to the freedom and future of the media. The prize is also intended to keep alive the memory of the Peaceful Revolution of 8 October, 1989 in Leipzig, when protesters demanded "a free press for a free country."

(text: Stephan Seeger)

For more information about the Leipzig Media Prize, individual prizewinners or Media Foundation activities, please click here.