Leipzig Media Award 2006 goes to Alina Anghel, Fabrizio Gatti and Volker Lilienthal

This year's 30,000 euros "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig is jointly awarded to Moldavian journalist Alina Anghel, Italian journalist Fabrizio Gatti and German journalist Dr. Volker Lilienthal. The decision was made by a jury which is the Council of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig.

Sculpture "Nikolaisäule" as symbol of the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media"

The "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" is awarded for the fourth time by the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig. This award honours journalists and publishers as well as media institutions that take great risks, show personal commitment, courage and democratic convictions to protect and foster the freedom of the press. It also serves as a reminder of the peaceful revolution in East Germany that took its start in Leipzig and was triggered not least by people's desire for freedom of opinion and speech. This is symbolised by the award trophy that laureates receive - a bronze copy of the church columns in St. Nicholas Church Leipzig, where political changes began with weekly prayers for peace.

Since 1997 Alina Anghel has been working as journalist in Moldavia. First, she was working for the daily Flux in the policy department, then for the weekly Timpul. Her articles (e.g. "luxury in a land of poverty") from 2004 relentlessly describes the corrupt elite and effects of mismanagement on daily life of citizens. A special case was the trading with Skoda cars. 42 business cars were delivered to the Communist government without any official order.

Alina Anghel's corruption stories led to a two million Dollar action for damages by the government against Timpul which had to close subsequently. An offer of the government to discontinue the action in exchange for a public apology for Anghel's reporting, the paper had previously refused. The investigative journalist had to experience the governmental pressure on dissidents: After Alina Anghel had been threatened by telephone calls for several months, she was knocked down close to her home in June 2004. Martina Bäurle, Director of the Hamburg Foundation for the Politically Persecuted confirms this. The assault took place one day before the hearing in the action for damages against Timpul. Although suspects were arrested, the police filed the incident away as raid. Alina Anghel still suffers from the wounds on her body, Rubine Möhring, Director of Reporters Without Borders reports in Austria. There is no freedom of the press in Moldavia. Most of the papers are financially dependent on Woronin's Communist regime. Embarrassing journalists get an information embargo from authorities and are solidly impeded in their work.

In the beginning of 2005 Alina Anghel got the "Press Freedom Prize" from Reporters Without Borders. Since May 2005 she has been guest of the Hamburg Foundation for Politically Persecuted and the Luise Rinser Foundation, which enables Alina Anghel to live in Germany at the moment. Her stay should have been ended in October, but there was a wave of arrests in Moldavia right before her return so that her stay was prolonged until mid of December. After her return she wants to continue to work as journalist.

Fabrizio Gatti is an undercover investigative journalist well-known around Europe. He has become known by several reports on the milieu of socially weak people in the last years. In the beginning of October 2005, Gatti revealed disastrous humanitarian conditions in the Italian asylum camp on the Mediterranean island Lampedusa. Gatti personated himself as refugee and smuggled into the camp. He authentically reported in the known Italian paper l'Espresso on disastrous sanitary conditions, a camp hopelessly crowded and violence against refugees.

The local organization Doctors Without Borders also thinks the Lampedusa camp is totally over crowded. Alessandra Oglino who knows about the capacities of the camp from descriptions of her colleagues from 2002 to 2004 always watches the number of arriving and accounted refugees for her organization and reasons that the double number of people are in the camp than officially stated. Oglino confirms that Gatti had really been in the camp. And it's also a matter of fact that neither humanitarian organizations nor parliamentarians were allowed access to the camp. Gatti's under cover investigations had been the only possible way to confirm the suspicion of disastrous conditions in the camp.

Dr. Volker Lilienthal has been working as editor at the Evangelic News Service (epd) in Frankfurt/Main. Since 1997 he has been deputy head of epd medien and since 2005 it's editor in charge. Lilienthal revealed the so-called scandal of surreptitious advertising in the public TV station ARD (First German Television). Despite of all intimidations he had done partially covered investigations over many years and revealed illegal practices. When the agency "H.+S.", which was significantly involved in surreptitious advertising, found out about Lilienthal's investigations, it initiated legal proceedings against him. That impeded him in his work almost two years. A judgment of the Regional Court of Munich prohibited to publish his findings. In case of violation the penalty of 250,000 euros had to be paid. It was the Higher Regional Court of Munich which only annulled the judgement in January 2005 and allowed Lilienthal to continue his investigations. In June this year his report "The Bavaria-Connection" was published in epd medien and in the journalist.

In the meantime there is a revision report of the ARD that completely confirms the epd investigations. The "Bavaria Film" which belongs to four ARD stations by majority violated broadcast legislation by having allowed surreptitious advertising for the past ten years. ARD program director Günter Struve says: "First, I didn't believe it, because I couldn't imagine that such a big thing is possible without noticing it." Fritz Pleitgen, WDR director now acknowledges Lilienthal's achievement: The journalist has done a "deserving work".

Laureates were chosen after proposals from national and international experts by the Foundation Council which consists of editors in chief, TV correspondents and authors. Students of journalism of the University Leipzig supervised by Professor Michael Haller did investigations on the competencies of the candidates.

New proposals for 2007 are welcome. Deadline is October 31, 2006.