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Courageous journalism recognised by haul of awards

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Courageous journalism recognised by haul of awards

This article from the Open Society Foundations' Program on Independent Journalism originally appeared here, and has been republished with permission.

Inspiring and determined journalists around the world are overcoming challenging circumstances and taking advantage of the digital revolution to produce reporting worthy of acclaim.

We have compiled a list of stories that won global and regional awards to highlight just some of exceptional journalism produced in the past year. Winning stories came from all over the world, produced by new and traditional outlets in a variety of languages, experimenting with a variety of storytelling and investigative techniques. But despite the diversity of their production, many dealt with similar topics: migration and refugees, authoritarian governments, crime and corruption.

Stories of individual and collective human tragedies — due to political failure — have similarities no matter where they happen. Reuters photographs exposing the raw violence of the Rohingya refugee crisis received the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. Elsewhere Reuters ‘Life in the camps’, a multimedia story combining video, still photography, satellite imagery, mapping, and text to convey the extreme living conditions in the camps, was recognised by GEN Data Journalism Awards for its powerful use of data.

Migration was a common subject for awards winners, including coverage of the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. El Tiempo in Colombia and Efecto Cocuyo in Venezuela, teamed up to produce ‘Venezuela a la Fuga’ - a powerful story following migrants on their routes to Lima, Buenos Aires and Curaçao. The coverage, which included analytical articles, infographics and a web documentary, was awarded the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Award for Coverage.

Photo journalist Meridith Kohut received the Maria Moors Cabot Award for her investigation exposing children dying of famine in Venezuelan state hospitals.

Authoritarian government practices were a rich vein of journalistic material in 2018. State capture of media in Cambodia, Russia’s interference in US elections and the rise of the extreme right movement were covered, highlighting threats to freedom and democracy. Surveillance in China was examined by Buzzfeed in their piece ‘This is what a 21st century surveillance state looks like’, which won the Human Rights Press Award for revealing the scope of technology-enabled policing.

Covering high-level crime can be among the most dangerous work for journalists, but crucial for shedding light on the plight of vulnerable people who cannot defend themselves. Subjects covered by award-winning reporters in 2018 included murder and violence in Brazil, femicide in Argentina, abuse of children in Egypt and sexual harassment of girls in the US. The exceptional investigation ‘This crime only requires poverty, internet and a distant buyer’, by Ida Nyegård Espersen, received the European Press Prize for shedding light on sexual abuse of hundreds of children in the Philippines, perpetuated via the internet by men in Denmark.

Political and corporate corruption remains a key subject for award-winning journalists. This was seen in ‘El Caso Lava Juez’ in Peru and ‘Los Cuadernos de la corrupción’ in Argentina, both of which shared an award from the Press and Society Institute (IPYS) in 2018. Stories on the abuse of iPhone factory workers in China, investigations into agrochemical company Monsanto’s aggressive strategy against the UN International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), articles about global pharmaceutical companies violating international law and testing drugs on vulnerable patients in Egypt — all exposed the illegal and unethical business practices of multinational corporations. The revelations brought to light by these stories, have made a huge impact and bring about change.

Journalists have savvily combined data journalism and storytelling skills to cover natural and man-made catastrophes such as hurricanes or oil spillages, deforestation and wildfires. La Nacion from Argentina won the GEN Data Journalism Award for using live open data to cover the search for the lost ARA San Juan submarine, which went missing in November.

Meanwhile, beautiful storytelling can challenge perceptions around some of the most difficult topics. ‘The third shooting of the boy Petar from Konjic’ was awarded the European Press Prize, telling the story of war and genocide in the Balkans through the eyes of a seven-year old victim of the conflict. Bisha TV in Sudan won the Rory Peck Award for News Features for a satirical puppet show, highlighting the absurdities of civil war in the Nuba Mountains.

Innovative and collaborative journalism models were also recognised. The #GuptaLeaks project in South Africa was an investigation into state capture by the wealthy Gupta family, produced by teams from three media outlets: amaBhungane, Daily Maverick and News24. Working together, they were able to combine investigative skills, editing and online presentation as well as increasing the potential audience for the stories. Meanwhile in the UK, Bureau Local, a collaborative journalism project of more than 450 journalists and volunteers, received the European Press Prize Innovation Award for tackling underreported issues, including the use of political darks ads, cuts to domestic violence refuge funding, and wide-scale farming pollution.

Some journalists and outlets received multiple awards. In addition to the Gabriel Garcia Marquez prize for ‘Venezuela a la Fuga’, with El Tiempo, Efecto Cocuyo’s founder Luz Mely Reyes also won the Committee to Protect Journalism’s (CPJ) press freedom award for covering politics in Venezuela for 25 years, despite the dangerous and repressive conditions. Rappler, an independent online outlet in the Philippines, not only won the GEN Data Journalism award for best data journalism website of the year, but its founder Maria Ressa also won CPJ’s Press freedom award for Rappler’s work in a hostile political environment.

If 2018’s prizes proved anything, it was that award-winning journalism does not come easily. It requires determination, personal dedication, courage, and a major investment of time and resources. The inspiring examples above prove the value of quality reporting remains as high as ever.


WAN-IFRA External Contributor


2019-03-07 12:01

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