"Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" 2005

Leipzig Media Award goes to famous investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, uncoverer of EU scandals Tillack and two courageous journalists

LEIPZIG. This year's 30,000 Euros Leipzig "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" is jointly awarded to American journalist Seymour M. Hersh, German correspondents Britta Petersen and Hans-Martin Tillack, and Russian expert on Chechnya Anna Politkovskaya. This decision was announced by the Council of the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig which acts as the jury for this year's fifth award. Prizes will be awarded in Leipzig on 28 April, 2005. All current and previous laureates are expected to attend both this ceremony and a number of support events.

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

Seymour Hersh receives the prize as a lifetime achievement award. As author of The New Yorker and winner of the Pulitzer Prize he began his career writing about the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War in 1969. Later Hersh also revealed the complicity of Henry Kissinger, Nixon's National Security Advisor, in ordering the carpet bombing of Cambodia, and the CIA's involvement in the coup d'etat against socialist President Allende of Chile. When the story broke about incidents of torture at US military prison Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Hersh furnished proof that these were ordered by the US government and the Pentagon. The jury believes that "Hersh represents the guilty conscience of American journalists who increasingly and uncritically publish official government statements."

Hans-Martin Tillack was a Brussels correspondent of Stern magazine from 1999 until mid-2004. His reports on corruption and democratic deficits within the EU bureaucracy caused widespread interest and lead to repeated harassment against him. Following his story on corruption in the EU statistical office Eurostat in March 2004 Tillack was arrested by Belgian police on the grounds of allegedly bribing officials. His office was searched while he was being detained and interrogated for hours without being able to contact anybody.

This set off a wave of worldwide protests by major media and journalist organisations.

Britta Petersen worked as a reporter for Financial Times Germany in Afghanistan in January 2002. There she realised that our understanding of journalism is not applicable in this war-torn and crisis-ridden country. In September 2003 she founded the "Free Press Initiative" (IFP) which unites experienced journalists who support the development of independent media by providing training to beginning reporters. Britta Petersen coordinates the organisation's work not only in Kabul but also in the provinces, which involves a great deal of personal risk. In a first statement she said the award was a recognition of IFP's activities. It will help to achieve the joint goal of creating a nationwide independent newspaper.

Russian correspondent Anna Politkovskaya has been covering the war in Chechnya for the intellectual newspaper Novaya Gazeta since 1998. In her articles and books she describes the numerous instances of cleansing, rape, execution and torture in this battered region, putting herself in great danger while doing her job. A mother of two children she has repeatedly received threats on her life in Russia and had to be placed under police protection. In the Moscow musical theatre hostage crisis in 2002 she acted as mediator. In September 2004, when she prepared to cover the hostage taking in Beslan, Anna Politkovskaya was poisoned in an attempt to stop her from publishing reports that are contrary to the official version. However, two weeks later she was back on the job. She believes that "risk is part of the job. Either you do your work, knowing what you're in for, or you leave it altogether."

Laureates were selected by the Foundation Council which includes editors in chief, TV correspondents and writers based on suggestions made by national and international experts. Nominees were reviewed for compliance with the award criteria by students of journalism at the University of Leipzig under the supervision of Professor Michael Haller.

The "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" is awarded for the fifth 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 Nikolaikirche, where political changes began with weekly prayers for peace.

Russische Pressemitteilung/Russian Press Release (PDF)