Leipzig Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media 2008

Prizewinners embody search for the truth, enlightenment and the worldwide struggle for press and media freedom

Leipzig, 8 October, 2008. The 8th "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" has been awarded. Susanne Fischer, Alan Johnston and Win Tin are united by their unwavering quest for the truth, their persistent efforts to inform and enlighten, and their courageous struggle for freedom of the press and media. The three prizewinners, who share a purse of 30,000 Euros, demonstrate through their varied work that the pursuit of a common goal can take on different forms.

Susanne Fischer trains journalists in Syria, fueling hopes for a democratic future there. Alan Johnston’s reporting from the Middle East is characterized by a singular endeavor towards objectivity and authenticity, helping to overcome ideological divides. Win Tin has remained unshakable during almost 20 years of imprisonment, proving how powerless a brutal military junta can be.

The prizewinners also share a belief in the power of words and the force of images, said Leipzig's Lord Mayor Burkhard Jung. "You have to believe that what you are doing is indispensable. Being a journalist is not just a job, it's a calling," added Jung.

The Chairman of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig, Dr. Harald Langenfeld, linked the common calling and conviction of all three prizewinners to an axiom of Albert Camus: "A free press can be good or bad. A press without freedom can only be bad." The Leipzig Media Prize shows year for year that freedom of the press is anything but a given. It is a good of the highest order which has to be fought for on a daily basis.

During the awards ceremony, Alan Johnston called to mind the fate of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who received the award in 2005 and was assassinated on 7 October, 2006. "This is a drastic example of how quickly the work of a journalist can lead to extremes," said Johnston. The British reporter for BBC is all too familiar with the occupational hazards involved. In 2007 he was the victim of a kidnapping in the Gaza Strip, being held hostage for 114 days.

Susanne Fischer dedicated her prize to the journalists who have died plying their dangerous trade in Iraq since the end of Saddam Hussein’s regime. "These young individuals put their lives at stake for their beliefs, in search for the truth. The work of a journalist is still a very risky profession in many parts of the world."

Publicist Win Tin was present via video from Burma. The 79-year-old made a fierce impression, ensuring he would continue to struggle for the democratization of his country. "I’ve begun initial talks with the opposition movement. Our struggle goes on." Win Tin’s niece, Thinn Thiri, who works as a journalist in the United States, accepted the prize on behalf of her uncle.

For Burkhard Jung, this year's winners of the Leipzig Media Prize stand for a tradition of critical journalism which is internationally acknowledged and respected. The Leipzig Media Prize is particularly important for its clarity of focus in a changing media world. "It insists on the difference between the real and the staged, the earnest and the irrelevant, between serious reporting and an arbitrary diversion."

The Leipzig Media Prize honors individuals who live up to this standard.