Alan Rusbridger awarded with European Press Prize

European Press Prize (Photo by Dora Panariti)

European Press Prize (Photo by Dora Panariti)

Guardian editor receives “Europe’s Pulitzer” for NSA revelations alongside award winners from across the continent.

Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, and Wolfgang Buchner of Der Spiegel have been honoured with “The Special Award” of the European Press Prize (EPP) for their teams’ articles about NSA and GCHQ mass surveillance programmes.

During the award ceremony in London, Justin Webb, presenter of the BBC’s Today programme, said: “One European paper, The Guardian, has played a leading role in the story. Its editor Alan Rusbridger has endured many months of difficulties at the hands of the government and its different agencies. He has fought to bring the facts to public attention and to do so in a way that is safe and decent, but also reveals the truth.”

In his acceptance speech for “Europe’s equivalent for the Pulitzers”, Rusbridger said The Guardian had to publish its articles from the US because of the UK government’s determination to suppress the story.

Apart from Rusbridger and Buchner, five other winners were selected from nearly 400 entries for the four main categories and the “Special Award”, each worth 10,000 euros.

Sir Harold Evans, the former editor of The Times and Sunday Times and chairman of the EPP panel of judges, said the prizes would help to refine the notions of good journalism:

“The conviction that for all the dizzingly different cultures, all the different forms of media today, all the varied patterns of ownership, there is a common instinctive appreciation in 40 countries across the continent of what’s bad journalism and what’s good journalism, what’s good practice and what’s bad practice.”

The Investigative Reporting Award

Three Reuters journalists, Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Yeganeh Torbati, were honoured for their investigation “Assets of the Ayatollah”, at the news agency’s headquarters in Canary Wharf.

The Reuters team unveiled how Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, used a little-known organisation called Setad to confiscate properties belonging to ordinary Iranians.

In his acceptance speech, Stecklow said the idea for the investigation was based on rumours on the Internet about Khamenei’s wealth.

“The biggest challenge was that Reuters was kicked out of Iran two years ago, which made on-the-ground reporting impossible,” he added.

However, an analysis of statements by Setad officials and data from the Tehran Stock exchange and company websites allowed the journalists to estimate the corporation’s assets at about $95 billion.

The Distinguished Writing Award

Sergey Khazov was given “The Distinguished Writing Award” for his article series about minorities in Russia with a focus on Muslims and the LGBT-community.

In the opening speech of the ceremony, Sir Harold Evans pointed out that good journalism had a reverence for human rights and for the rights of minorities against powerful interests:

“The press does a great service when it confronts stereotypes with the stories of real people, and perpetrates evil when it stokes fear,” he said.

Asked about the future of free press in Russia, Khazov said many journalists were becoming PR experts, but he and The New Times magazine were not the only ones to report the reality.

The Commentator Award

The European Press Prize judges honoured “Vukovar: a Life-Size Monument to the Dead City” by the Croatian journalist Boris Dežulović with “The Commentator Award”.

Vukovar has been called Croatia’s Stalingrad due to heavy damage and its many casualties during the Yugoslav Wars. As the city has preserved some of its destroyed buildings as a testimony, Dežulović said the city was an example that “history in Croatia is always contemporary”.

On the day before the ceremony, Peter Preston, the former editor of the Guardian, wrote that if he had to salute one region beyond any other it would be the Balkans:

“We’re used to hearing dreadful wails from big-money newspaper groups in the west, particularly the US. They say that mounting investigations is too expensive these days. They should come over to Sarajevo or Bucharest and see what dedication plus gritty resilience – journalism’s gift to democracy – can achieve,” he wrote in The Observer.

The Innovation Award

The Norwegian journalists Espen Sandli and Linn Kongsli Hillestad received “The Innovation Award” for their data journalism project “Null CTRL”.

Sandli said their project, published by Dagbladet, was aimed at understanding how exposed Norwegians were online and what people without specialised computer skills could find out:

“We ourselves didn’t start as data experts. Our idea was: What can anyone find on the Internet?”

The Special Awards

In addition to Alan Rusbridger, the judges gave a “Special Award” to Yavuz Baydar, whose column in the Turkish daily newspaper Sabah was censored before he was fired from his job as independent ombudsman for the paper.

In his acceptance speech, Baydar voiced concern about the situation of the press in Turkey, saying more than 200 journalists had been sacked since June last year when the protests in Gezi Park started.

Why Malala Yousafzai deserves the Sakharov human rights prize

Malala survived a Taliban assault

Malala Yousafzai during her speech (CC European Parliament)

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban, is worthy of the Sakharov Prize for human rights she was awarded with today.

She did not only keep on fighting for equal education, but human rights in general with her criticism of US drone strikes.

Malala’s life took a dramatic turn when a Taliban gunman stormed on her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and shot her in the head in October 2012.

The then 15-year old girl survived the assault, but had to spend several months in hospitals after being transferred to Britain where she now lives with her family.

Malala had campaigned for equal education for Pakistani girls by, for instance, writing a blog about her situation for the BBC.

Today she was awarded with the prestigious Sakharov Prize in a ceremony at the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg.

“At only 16 years old, she is today the voice of millions of children and teens deprived from education”, said EP president Martin Schulz (full video of his speech).

Schulz said that since the assault one year ago Malala had become “a global icon” in her role as a campaigner and ambassador for equal education.

“I am hopeful the European Parliament will look beyond Europe to the suffering countries where people are still deprived of their basic rights, their freedom of thought is suppressed, freedom of speech is enchained,” Malala said at the Sakharov ceremony.

Malala’s full speech:

In my opinion she deserves the Sakharov Prize because she does not only fight for equal education, but human rights in general.

Although she told the BBC that she was enjoying her education in the UK, she did not shy away from criticising the Western powers because of their role in Pakistan: Most notably, she attacked US drone attacks on Pakistani soil in her book “I am Malala: The Girl who Stood up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban”.

Since 1988, the Sakharov Prize is awarded each year to “exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression“ by the European Parliament. It is named after Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov.

Former winners of the Sakharov Prize include Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela.

Student video journalist competition about UK and the EU

Young journalists can take part in the EP's competition

Young journalists can take part in the EP’s competition

The European Parliament hosts a video competition for students on broadcast journalism courses in the UK. On the occasion of the UK’s 40th anniversary in the European Union the students are asked to take a look at how the European Union has influenced the Britons’ lives.

On its website, the organisers of the competition suggest a list of possible topics: “Examine attitudes to the EU among the general public; look at how the UK’s commitment to the EU has changed the way in which our democracy works, or highlight how a particular part of the country has benefited from the EU’s structural, cohesion, and social funds.”

A look at topics like those could be quite boring in countries that have greatly profited from the European Union and are overwhelmingly in favour of it.

But Britain is different: It keeps a distance towards the continental countries. David Cameron achieved special regulations on several occasions in the past and promised a referendum about EU membership if he wins a majority at the next general election.

It could be interesting to see what young journalists think about the UK’s current situation. But what is in for the students? Unfortunately, they cannot win any money. However, the winner’s work will be show cased at Europe House in London and the winner (or winning team) will get an expenses paid trip to the European Parliament.

The finalists’ video will also be broadcast on local TV stations across the UK, which might be a chance for the students to make some valuable contacts in the media industry.

Got interested? Students have time till the end of January 2014 to submit their short videos (3-5 minutes). The judges for the competition are three experienced journalists: Anna Averkiou, Tim Crook and Michael Green.

Aung San Suu Kyi and the Sakharov Prize – better late than never

Aung San Suu Kyi and EP president Martin Schulz (© European Union 2013)

Aung San Suu Kyi and EP president Martin Schulz (© European Union 2013)

Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi has finally received the Sakharov Prize she was awarded 23 years ago. In a special ceremony at the European Parliament its president Martin Schulz presented the human rights prize to her.

When she was nominated for the prize in 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi was held in house arrest over her role in pro-democracy protests in Myanmar.

Until her most recent release three years ago, she spent a total of 15 years in house arrest.

Among many other prizes, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

Aung San Suu Kyi announced to run for presidency in Myanmar’s 2015 election after her party, National League for Democracy, won the parliamentary elections in 2012.

Since 1988, the Sakharov Prize is awarded each year to “exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression“ by the European Parliament. It is named after Russian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov, the “father of the Russian hydrogen bomb”, who sought to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear arms.