Leipzig, 8 October, 2013. With the 13th "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media", the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig today honors journalists and institutions that dedicate themselves to ensuring and developing the freedom of the press around the world with courage and strong personal commitment. This year's laureates are: the journalist Tongam Rina from India; the initiators of journalismfund.eu that supports cross-border investigative journalism Brigitte Alfter (Denmark) and Ides Debruyne (Belgium); the German Middle East correspondents Jörg Armbruster and Martin Durm as well as the lawyer and journalist Glenn Greenwald (USA) and the British newspaper The Guardian.
This year's Leipzig "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" has been endowed with 40,000 Euros for the first time and as an exception. Since 2001 the Leipzig Media Foundation honors journalists from around the world every year with the award who commit themselves to independent journalism despite high personal risks to their work and lives during research and in their articles and reports. "Press freedom is threatened in many countries, unfortunately more and more in countries, where we wouldn't expect it in the first place because press freedom seems to be protected there by laws and constitutions", said Dr. Harald Langenfeld, chairman of Sparkasse Leipzig and the Media Foundation during today's press conference: The Leipzig media award is concerned with current threats to press freedom too. According to the Foundation Council and the Board this justifies the fact that the award is given to four laureates the first time and the endowment was increased as a result of the revelations of worldwide monitoring practices by intelligence agencies by Glenn Greenwald and The Guardian.
In the Indian public, among international observers and local colleagues, Tongam Rina has an excellent reputation, which is based on her journalistic work and her personal integrity. Although the Indian constitution guarantees a free press, the example of Tongam Rina shows the acute danger that critical journalists are exposed to in the country: As a reporter for the Arunachal Times in the federal state of Arunachal Pradesh, she reports on corruption within local authorities in connection with the distribution of food, the questionable construction of dams, environmental scandals, military operations by the extremist organization NSCN and the situation of women in India. On 15 July 2012, Tongam Rina was gunned down in front of the editorial office of the newspaper and seriously injured. Currently, Tongam Rina is a guest of the "Hamburger Stiftung für politisch Verfolgte" ("Hamburg Foundation for the Politically Persecuted") and keeps on investigating from Germany.
Brigitte Alfter (Denmark) and Ides Debruyne (Belgium) are the initiators of "journalismfund.eu". The organization, founded in 2008, promotes European, collaborative investigative journalism through scholarships and the "European Data Harvest Conference" for data and investigative journalism. Alfter and Debruyne saw the need for thorough research on European issues and wanted to liberate journalists from national borders impeding their work. The scholarships granted by the organization allow journalists to cooperate in multinational research teams. Typical examples of transnational issues are human trafficking, abuse of EU funding or illegal arms trade. Brigitte Alfter worked as Brussels correspondent for the Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information and is a founding member of the Danish "Scoop" project for the promotion of investigative journalism, especially in Eastern Europe. Ides Debruyne is the Managing Director of "journalismfund.eu" and teaches journalism at the University of Ghent.
Jörg Armbruster, ARD correspondent, and Martin Durm, radio reporter for SWR radio, assumed the risk to report independently and authentically on the suffering of the people in the civil war-torn country of Syria, which is supposed to be one of the most dangerous countries for journalists at the time. The value of their work cannot be overestimated because most images from Syria come from dubious second hand sources and might always be manipulated. In March 2013, during a joint research trip for a documentary, they ran into an ambush in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo. Armbruster was seriously injured. Armbruster and Durm risked their lives for independent reporting and receive the prize as a team for their reporting from Syria.
The Guardian, founded 1821 in Manchester, is one of the best-selling British newspapers. The Guardian is especially renowned for its investigative and enlightening journalism: In 2010 the WikiLeaks "Afghanistan papers" were published under the journalistic leadership of The Guardian. Also in 2010, The Guardian revealed the monitoring practices of British newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch. Since May 2013, the journalist Glenn Greenwald has been publishing information on large-scale monitoring programs (PRISM, Tempora) of intelligence services in The Guardian. Due to these reports the newspaper is under pressure by the British government and was forced to destroy its material on that issue. The American lawyer, author, blogger and journalist Glenn Greenwald created a masterpiece of investigative journalism with his revelations about large scale monitoring programs (PRISM, Tempora etc.) based on information by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. Together with the filmmaker Laura Poitras he interviewed Snowden in early 2013 in Hong Kong. Greenwald had dealt with governmental monitoring and restriction of civil rights before. With several books and articles published in the online debate magazine salon.com, the journalist stands up against covert control by intelligence agencies.
Since 2001, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig awards its "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" to journalists, publishers and institutions that dedicate themselves to the freedom and future of the media with strong personal commitment. The award is also intended to keep alive the memory of the Peaceful Revolution of 9 October, 1989 in Leipzig, when protesters demanded "a free press for a free country".
What does the award honor?
According to the nomination criteria the laureates' achievement should:
- Make a contribution to strengthening press freedom, for instance by overcoming
- Demand journalistic quality at the same time,
- Show far above average commitment,
- Has to be related to a relevant or remarkable issue of general interest and
- Fulfill additional highly valuable requirements such as the extraordinary realization in
an exemplary manner.