Paris 08.10.18. A Maltese journalist tracking down his mother’s killers, an Italian investigative journalist who narrowly escaped the same fate, an Indian freelancer taking on social media mobs, and a masked Ghanaian undercover reporter are among the shortlisted nominees for this year’s Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Press Freedom Awards. The awards ceremony will take place in London for the first time in its 26-year history, on 8 November at the Getty Images Gallery.
In total, 12 journalists, NGOs, and media organisations from across the globe have been nominated in three categories for the RSF Press Freedom Awards, honouring Courage, Impact, and Independence in journalism. A fourth award, ‘L’esprit de RSF,’ will be presented to a UK journalist to mark London’s hosting of the awards, with four shortlisted nominees.
International nominees include Matthew Caruana Galizia, the Maltese journalist and activist whose mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was assassinated in 2017 following her investigations into corruption; Paolo Borometti, the Italian journalist and expert on the Sicilian mafia whose murder plot was foiled by Italian police; Swati Chaturvedi, the Indian journalist and author of the book “I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army;” and Anas Aremeyaw Anas, the Ghanaian undercover reporter who now lives in hiding after his revelations about bribery shook the African football world.
See below for a full list and biographies of this year’s nominees.
The prestigious awards ceremony will take place in the fitting setting of the Getty Images Gallery in London’s Fitzrovia. Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4 News’ Chief International Editor, will present the ceremony.
Established in 1992, previous winners of the awards include the renowned late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, courageous Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim, and embattled Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet.
This year’s awards were selected by a high-profile international jury, including notable figures such as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and Chinese activist Wu’er Kaixi - both RSF emeritus board members - as well as RSF President Pierre Haski. RSF’s UK advisory board - including Fleet Street legend Eve Pollard, former Director of BBC News James Harding, and Channel 4 News Anchor Jon Snow - selected the winner of the special ‘L’esprit de RSF’ prize.
Christophe Deloire, RSF Secretary-General commented: “This year’s shortlist reflects the challenges faced by brave journalists across the world. All of the nominees for our Press Freedom Awards courageously fight back against forces that would prefer journalism didn’t exist, from online mobs to organised crime and authoritarian governments.”
Rebecca Vincent, RSF UK Bureau Director said: “Recognising great journalism is important, not least because it sends a message of solidarity, proving that there is an international community will stand up for the free media no matter where it is threatened, or by whom.”
Notes for editors:
- The RSF 2018 Press Freedom Awards will take place on 8 November.
- Prizes will be awarded to journalists, media organisations, and NGOs from around the world for ‘Courage’, ‘Impact’, and ‘Independence’. A special new award has also been created for the UK, ‘L’esprit de RSF’.
- The international award winners will be available in London for interviews on 8 and 9 November.
For more information, interview requests and images contact RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent at [email protected] or +44 (0) 7583 137 751 / Padraig Reidy, Editorial Director, 89up at [email protected] or +44 (0) 7947 242 476.
The full shortlist for the 2018 RSF Press Freedom Awards is:
The Prize for Courage
The Prize for Courage is awarded to journalists, media or NGOs who demonstrate courage in the practice, defence or promotion of journalism in a hostile environment and despite threats to their freedom or safety.
Paolo Borrometi is an expert on the Sicilian mafia. Because of his courageous reporting for the Giornale di Sicilia newspaper and La Spia, a news website he created in 2013, he has been the target of frequent threats and is protected around the clock by five police officers. His latest stories about mafia infiltration in Italy’s food processing sector – a criminal business worth billions of euros – have increased the threats to his personal safety. In April 2018, Italian police thwarted a plot to kill him and his five police bodyguards.
A freelance reporter for print and broadcast media, Swati Chaturvedi has been the target of vicious online harassment campaigns, like many other outspoken journalists in India. She responded by using journalistic weapons, investigating the “IT cell” within the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu nationalist party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which is notorious for keeping an army of angry trolls. The result was a book entitled I am a Troll: Inside the Secret World of the BJP’s Digital Army. In retaliation for her reporting, Swati Chaturvedi is now even more exposed to calls for revenge by social media trolls.
After 32 years of covering business, politics and the courts, Çiğdem Toker is now regarded as one of Turkey’s leading investigative reporters. Her revelations on sensitive subjects such as conflicts of interest, clientelism, nepotism, rigged contract bidding and zoning violations, as well as her dissection of major construction projects including Istanbul’s third airport, have elicited lawsuits from companies with political connections, from the health ministry and from many others. She is currently being sued for a total of 3 million Turkish lira (over 450,000 EUR) in two cases.
Until last year, the editor of the Badil.info news website, Hamid el Mahdaoui, was a much-followed figure on Moroccan social networks, known for commenting on news events and criticising the authorities in YouTube videos. El Mahdaoui has been imprisoned since 20 July 2017, when he was arrested in Al-Hoceïma while covering a peaceful demonstration that had been banned by the authorities. On 28 June 2018, a criminal court in Casablanca sentenced him to three years in prison on a separate charge of “failing to report a threat to internal state security” to the authorities.
The Prize for Impact
The Prize for Impact is awarded to journalists, media or NGOs whose work has led to concrete improvement in journalistic freedom, independence and pluralism, or to an increase in awareness of these matters.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and software engineer, Matthew Caruana Galizia worked at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) for five years, where he co-founded its Data and Research Unit. He left the ICIJ in 2018 to focus on the case of his mother, Daphne Caruana Galizia, herself an investigative journalist who was assassinated by a car bomb near her home in Malta in October 2017. He has worked tirelessly to obtain justice for his mother's murder and for the crimes she exposed, to galvanise the international community, and to hold the Maltese authorities to account.
The Centre for Communication and Information for Women – in Spanish, Comunicación e Información de la Mujer (CIMAC) – is a Mexican NGO founded by women journalists and media workers in 1998 to focus on gender and human rights issues. CIMAC produces and publishes reports on the status of women in Mexican society and, since 2012, has published a bi-annual report on cases of violence against women journalists. It promotes gender equality in the media, and works with many other civil society groups to promote its proposals and its activities (including events, training and consulting).
Khaled el Balshy is a journalist and the former secretary-general of Egypt’s Press Syndicate, who has been targeted by the regime both for his journalism and for his tireless defence of his fellow journalists and press freedom. He has founded and runs several news websites including Bedayah, which has been blocked since 2017. In the course of defending press freedom, he has launched or helped to launch petitions protesting the detention of journalists and laws placing restrictions on the media. He was given a suspended prison sentence for permitting demonstrations in defence of press freedom outside the Press Syndicate and for allowing journalists to seek refuge inside the building. He has lately been the target of frequent smear campaigns, fuelling concerns that he could be arrested at any time.
Afsar Sadiq Vali runs Hilo Karavan Radio in southeastern Afghanistan’s Khost province, which adjoins Pakistan and is one of the country’s most traditional and dangerous regions. Launched in 2009, it is the region’s only radio station that is aimed at women and covers stories focussing on women’s rights. It has listeners in five neighbouring provinces and across the border in Pakistan as far as Peshawar and Islamabad. Although repeatedly threatened by village chiefs and the Taliban and boycotted by part of the population “because he works with and for women,” he chooses to resist. Hilo Karavan Radio now has more than a million listeners in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Prize for Independence
The Prize for Independence is awarded to journalists, media or NGOs for resisting pressure (including financial, political, economic or religious pressure) or because of the values and rules that enable them to resist.
West Africa’s leading investigative journalist, Ghana’s Anas Aremeyaw Anas maintains his anonymity as an undercover reporter by hiding his face behind a mask made of beads at all public appearances. Days before the official release of his latest documentary, exposing corruption in Ghanaian football, a ruling party parliamentarian threatened him during a live radio broadcast, saying he should be “hanged.” Since spotting suspicious individuals near his home, he lives in hiding and uses encrypted messaging to communicate. Anas has been making undercover documentaries with a concealed camera for his own production company for the past 10 years. More than 30 judges were suspended after his 2015 documentary about corruption in the judiciary.
Now deputy editor of the Hungarian news website 24.hu, Péter Pető was deputy editor of the leading political daily Népszabadság from August 2015 until October 2016, when it was suddenly closed down on the grounds of “economic difficulties” after publishing several articles about scandals implicating politicians close to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. At 24.hu, which combines political coverage with tabloid-style reporting, he refuses to abandon his faith in journalism and resists the economic and financial pressure to which he is often subjected.
A veteran journalist who is very active on social networks, Inday Espina-Varona is now a contributing editor at the Philippine broadcast network ABS-CBN, where she formerly ran its citizen journalism website Bayan Mo i-Patrol Mo (BMPM). Over the years, she has reported extensively on issues that are sensitive in the Philippines, such as child prostitution, violence against women, LGBT issues and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the island of Mindanao. In June 2018, Espina-Varona took over as one of the founders of #BabaeAko (“Me, a woman” in Tagalog), a social media campaign that informs and mobilises the public on women’s rights issues in response to Duterte’s many misogynistic comments and attacks on women.
Founded by Taha Siddiqui, a Pakistani journalist who fled his country after an abduction attempt in January 2018, SAFE Newsrooms (safenewsrooms.org) is an online platform designed to help the South Asian media to combat censorship. SAFE is an acronym of South Asians for Freedom of Expression. SAFE Newsrooms aims to be a sanctuary of freedom where journalists can deposit their research, report the acts of harassment or censorship to which they have been subjected, and read about developments affecting press freedom throughout the region. It is at the forefront of the struggle that journalists are fighting against censorship and for independence in South Asia.
L’Esprit de RSF
'L'esprit de RSF' is a special prize created this year to honour a UK journalist, media organisation, or NGO, that has demonstrated exceptional courage, achieved tremendous impact, or shown independence in the face of significant pressure. The nominees have met the criteria for one of the other awards categories ('Courage', 'Impact', or 'Independence'), embodying the spirit of RSF in their work in the UK or on behalf of a UK media organisation or NGO abroad.
An award-winning reporter for the Guardian and the Observer, Carole Cadwalladr’s reporting on the manipulation and subversion of democratic processes in the US and UK resulted in the exposure of the role of Cambridge Analytica and its satellite AggregateIQ in the Trump and Brexit campaigns. Cadwalladr’s investigation found that the data analytics firm that worked with Trump’s election team in the US and the Leave campaign in the UK harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest-ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software programme to predict and influence choice at the ballot box. She continues to face pressure and harassment in backlash for her reporting.
The accounting and tax correspondent for the Financial Times, Madison Marriage, went undercover to the 33rd annual Presidents Club Charity Dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in London in January. Posing as a hostess at the men-only fundraising dinner, Marriage’s investigation revealed that the 130 women employed to work as hostesses at the event were groped and sexually harassed. The gathering’s official purpose was to raise money for charitable causes such as Great Ormond Street Hospital. As a result of the exposé, many of the beneficiary charities publicly rejected the donations, and guests distanced themselves from the Presidents Club, which was forced to close down. The event had been a staple of London’s social calendar for 33 years, yet until Marriage’s investigation, its activities had remained largely unreported.
A collaborative investigative journalism network of 762 people across the UK, the Bureau Localwas formed as a project of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, aiming to spark a new wave of data-driven investigative reporting at a regional level. Since its launch in March 2017, the network has produced 180 stories, often focussed on holding local and national government, and corporate entities, to account. The Bureau Local also promotes transparency and provides open resources that allow for others to continue their investigative work further, with the goal of making it easier for journalists to conduct investigations and work through large data-sets they might not have been able to analyse on their own.
The BBC and the Guardian’s work on the Paradise Papers resulted in a lawsuit filed by offshore firm Appleby singling them out as the UK partners in a wider international collaborative effort of 96 media groups in 67 countries. The Paradise Papers investigation exposed the hidden business interests of the rich and powerful and provoked a worldwide debate about offshore tax arrangements. In December 2017, Appleby initiated breach of confidence proceedings against the two organisations, seeking disclosure of the Paradise Papers source materials. The case was settled in May 2018, and the BBC and the Guardian stated that the settlement did not compromise their journalistic integrity or ability to continue to do public interest journalism. RSF condemned the Appleby suit, noting it could serve as yet another serious blow to investigative journalism in the UK, and emphasising that the information published was overwhelmingly in the public interest.