Journalism with "vivid convictions"

Axel Eggebrecht Award 2016 goes to radio feature author Margot Overath

Leipzig, 24 February 2016. The Axel Eggebrecht Prize 2016, sponsored by Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation and endowed with 10,000 euros, will go to radio feature author Margot Overath. The award ceremony will be held during the Media Foundation's summer party on 30 August, 2016 in Leipzig.

"We congratulate Margot Overath on winning the Axel Eggebrecht Prize and express our gratitude to jury chairman Richard Goll as well as the jury members Linde Rotta, Ulrike Toma, Aldo Gardini and Jens Jarisch for their outstanding decision. They made an excellent choice from a list of ten strong competitors, that had been proposed by the heads of programming of almost all public broadcasters in Germany and Austria," said Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of the Leipzig Sparkasse Foundations, when commenting on the jury’s decision.

"Margot Overath is a journalist whose radio features have been attracting listeners for more than 30 years. No matter if she acts as an attentive witness in current affairs or as a chronicler of contemporary historic events - her listeners can be sure of Overath's in-depth investigative work and her objective revision of the results," explains Martin Fiedler, Project Manager Radio and Press Officer of the Sparkasse Leipzig Foundations.

The jury justified its decision to give the Axel Eggebrecht Prize 2016 to Margot Overath by referring to one of the "Ten Commandments" drawn up by the award's namesake: "Every radio feature must convey the spirit of vivid convictions," claimed radio journalist Axel Eggebrecht in 1947. The jury explained: "You will never miss 'vivid convictions' in the work of Margot Overath. She listens carefully where others turn a deaf ear. She takes up the threads of seemingly concluded processes and decisions and arranges them in a new order - suddenly revealing new patterns in the weave. The author's strong personality is always present as the creative intellect, but without overshadowing or dominating the issues." At the same time, the jury argued, Overath's language is "listener-friendly: brief, concise, pushing the narrative forward." Her interviewees can be sure that she won't betray them: "[she might] perhaps attack them - in a direct and open way. Uncertainties are probed - listeners can and should form their own opinion," explains the jury's statement.

The laureate

Born in 1947 in Krefeld, Germany, Margot Overath studied Social Sciences after having completed an apprenticeship as a bank teller and another in business management. In 1982 she started working as a freelancer for several divisions at the German public broadcaster ARD, and was hired as a permanent employee by Radio Bremen in 1982. She has worked as a radio feature author since 1984, and worked in parallel as a research assistant at the Hamburg Institute of Social Research from 1985 until 1988. Between 1996 and 1999 Overath had a second job teaching aspiring journalists at the Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg. Her journalistic work has included in-depth analysis of the RAF (Red Army Faction) terrorism in Germany, which culminated in features such as the one about the RAF deserter Peter-Jürgen Boock (WDR West German Public Broadcasting, RBB Berlin Public Broadcasting 1985) or a biographical work about Gudrun Ensslin (RBB Berlin Brandenburg Public Broadcasting, WDR West German Public Broadcasting, NDR North German Public Broadcasting 2005) and contemporary as well as historical analyses such as "Ausweglos. Selbstmorde in Wendezeiten" ("No way out. Suicides in times of change") (RBB Berlin Public Broadcasting, SFB Free Berlin Public Broadcasting, DLF German public radio station 1992); "Es ist schwer, damit zu leben. Vom Trauma namens Auschwitz" ("It is hard to live with it. About the trauma named Auschwitz") (RBB Berlin Public Broadcasting 1994) and "Todesmarsch. Die Evakuierung der Konzentrationslager von Januar bis Mai 1945" ("Death March. The evacuation of the concentration camps from January until May 1945") (DRadio-Berlin, RBB Berlin Public Broadcasting 1995).

Margot Overath has been honoured on various occasions for her features on the asylum seeker Oury Jalloh from Sierra Leone, who died while in police custody in Dessau, Germany in 2005. Margot Overath was the only journalist who covered the legal investigation of the fatality through all levels of German jurisdiction, and she questioned the results of investigations by police and the public prosecution department in two features ("Verbrannt in Polizeizelle Nummer fünf. Der Tod des Asylbewerbers Oury Jalloh in Dessau" ("Burned to death in police cell number five. The death of the asylum seeker Oury Jalloh in Dessau"), MDR Central German Public Broadcasting, DLF German public radio station, NDR North German Public Broadcasting 2010 and "Oury Jalloh. Die widersprüchlichen Wahrheiten eines Todesfalls" ("Oury Jalloh. The contradictory truths of a case of death"), MDR Central German Public Broadcasting, WDR West German Public Broadcasting, NDR North German Public Broadcasting 2014). Her investigations are part of the reason why police have begun a murder investigation against persons unknown.

The Prize

The Axel Eggebrecht Prize, which remembers the Leipzig radio pioneer, does not honour one particular programme but a whole outstanding oeuvre in the field of German-speaking radio features. It alternates every year with the Günter Eich Prize for outstanding German radio play authors. Previous laureates were Helmut Kopetzky (2008), Richard Goll and Alfred Treiber (2010), Friedrich Schütze-Quest (2012) as well as Paul Kohl (2014).

2016 - Axel Eggebrecht Prize