Laureate 2002: Simone Wendler

Simone Wendler
revealed corruption scandals in Cottbus' real estate companies and brought them to the public's attention.

Simone Wendler, editor in chief of Lausitzer Rundschau since 1 October, 2000, was under massive attack. The reason was her investigative journalism in mid-2001 concerning corruption and frequent irregularities in the municipal housing office of Cottbus. The city was up in arms. Accusations, protests of innocence, calls for objectivity and renewed accusations dominated the political agenda of this city in the Lausitz region.

In late 2000, the courageous journalist had uncovered "You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours" type rackets, dubious connections going back to the days of communist East Germany, and a coterie of individuals who had once worked full or part-time for the Ministry of State Security and were now in the corridors of power of municipal administration.

National media and the Brandenburg Ministry of the Interior took interest in the "Case of Simone Wendler." The chief reporter for the Lausitzer Rundschau, who’d been raising eyebrows for years with publications on a variety of contentious issues (the real estate agency Aubis, the neo-Nazi scene, waste racketeering), had been put under massive pressure from anonymous sources because of her exposés into the shady practices of the Cottbus housing office.

Her cell phone’s voice mail contained a death threat. She was spied on in her private life, even photographed from moving vehicles, and was later accused by prominent local officials of "airing dirty laundry." Despite massive outside pressure, Simone Wendler did not abandon her quest for the truth.

Simone Wendler studied chemistry and worked as a chemist prior to German reunification. She became active in politics and journalism in 1989, in the events surrounding the fall of the Wall.

In 2002, she received the 2nd prize of "Wächterpreis der deutschen Tagespresse" ("Guardian Prize of the German Daily Press").