Leipzig Media Prize awarded to Fahem Boukaddous, Stefan Buchen and Oleg Kashin - Press release to the press conference 13 October, 2011

"It is bad if journalists cannot exert their fundamental rights"

"Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" awarded in Leipzig: award goes to three courageous journalists - discussion about a future Centre for Press Freedom

LEIPZIG. Today, 13 October , the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" will be awarded to journalists Fahem Boukaddous from Tunisia, Stefan Buchen from Germany and Oleg Kashin from Russia at the Media Campus Leipzig. The prize with a total purse of 30,000 Euros will be awarded for the eleventh time by the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig. The prize honours individuals who have committed themselves particularly courageous and prudent for the freedom of press and expression. "Many journalists in the world have to fight for a free reporting without censorship. This is bad", said Stephan Seeger, managing director of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig during today’s press conference. However, it is much worse that they not only have to fear for their work, but often for their health and lives.

Fight for democracy
"This year’s laureates are distinguished by the fact that they did not grew tired of reporting about deficiencies of democracy despite of personal limitations", said Stephan Seeger. He also praised their hard work: "Freedom of press and expression are cornerstones of democracy. I am always impressed how many journalists are taking up the fight every day and engage for the freedom of the media and an independent reporting".

An example: Oleg Kashin, Russian investigative journalist, was attacked outside his appartment in Moscow and brutally beaten in November 2010. Despite this intimidation,  he continues to report not only corageous about oppression in his home country, but also picks up social and environmental issues. It is his main concern to work as a normal journalist again and to bring something about by revealing abuses, said Oleg Kashin during a walk through Leipzig. The Peaceful Revolution of 1989, which started in Leipzig and led to the demise of the East German regime, is exemplarily to Kashin. The prize has two meanings for him: for Russia, it should be a reason to think about the issues of his reporting. And secondly, Kashin hopes that the investigation against the perpetrators who attacked him will be promoted through the prize and that they will finally be taken into custody.

Fahem Boukaddous, another laureate, is considered a symbol of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia this spring. Years before the political change in Tunisia, the 41-year-old journalist has reported critically about the autocratic rule of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. He also had to suffer repressions and oppression by the regime. Fahem Boukaddous thinks, that he speaks for many Tunisians from the heart when he says: "Ben Ali has not killed one journalist, but the complete press in the country." In the opinion of the jury, his will and his strength to report about injustices in his country openly even after being sentenced and arrested deserves even more recognition. The still difficult situation in Tunisia needs committed democrats like Fahem Boukaddous, especially now in the current upheaval.

Stefan Buchen became known for his thrilling reports from crisis regions. He has become the German epitome of authentic reporting. Whether Libya, Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq: the 42-year-old reporter from the ARD (First German Television) spares no danger, to show the world what is really happening. His excellent language skills open him direct access to the people. Their feelings and desires are incorporated into his reporting, which makes him one of the best German journalists abroad. "We are very pleased that the jury has selected a German journalist after many years", said Stephan Seeger. "For us who live in a democracy and who have a free press, it is important to experience the true events abroad. Stefan Buchen brings them close to us in a shocking real manner".

The laureates demonstrate in different ways how important it is to strive for the right of freedom of the press and expression in every country. "Our prize is also an appeal to all governments to protect and respect the freedom of the press", said Stephan Seeger. For this reason, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig organises a panel discussion on "Let the prizes be followed by deeds - a Centre for Press Freedom" on the afternoon. It is headed by Hans-Ulrich Jörges, member of the editorship of Stern magazine. On last year’s award ceremony, he had proposed a centre for press freedom. The Media Foundation has taken up this idea and wants to support the realisation of such a transnational press centre.

Prize as a signal to the world
Since 2001, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig honours journalists, publishers and media institutions from all over the world, who stand up for the protection and development of the freedom of expression and the press with persistence and democratic conviction. The prize is also meant to keep the remembrance of the Peaceful Revolution in Leipzig on 8 October, 1989 alive: at that time, the demonstrators demanded for "a free press for a free country".

Award in accordance with clear criteria
This year, the laureates were again selected according to clearly defined criteria. The process of nomination was accompanied in advance by Dr. Martin Welker, professor of journalism at Leipzig University, and his team. Professor Welker’s scientific team examines the proposed candidates for the prize on the basis of clear features.

The journalistic performance of the laureates
• must relate to a relevant or remarkable object of general interest,
• is also judged as a contribution to strengthen the freedom of press - for example by resistances which had to be overcome,
• induced personal risks for the journalist
• demanded a far-above-average use of time and energy,
• is of excellent journalistic and craftsmanship quality