The Awards for Excellence in Journalism

Every year, the European Press Prize salutes and encourages the highest achievements in European journalism. We believe the elevation of journalism is a constant, urgent imperative. The shortlists will be announced in February 2014. The winners will be presented at the London ceremony on March 17.

WINNERS EUROPEAN PRESS PRIZE 2013

A video of the European Press Prize ceremony made by Louis Leeson and Patrick Hoelscher of Lightgeist Media.

THE INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING AWARD

Steve Stecklow, Babak Dehghanpisheh and Yeganeh Torbati, “Assets of the Ayatollah”, published by Reuters, United Kingdom.
Read the article here

THE DISTINGUISHED WRITING AWARD

Sergey Khazov, “Forbidden islam”, “Vietnam town” and “A Man in Orange”, published by The New Times magazine, Russian Federation.

THE COMMENTATOR AWARD

Boris Dežulović, “Vukovar: a Life-Size Monument to the Dead City”", published by Globus, Croatia.

THE INNOVATION AWARD

Espen Sandli, Linn Kongsli Hillestad and Ola Strømman, “Null CTRL”, published by Dagbladet, Norway. See the entry here

THE SPECIAL AWARD

Yavuz Baydar for his work as ombudsman. His columns were censored. The award is a symbol of support for his fight for free press.
Editor Alan Rusbridger from the Guardian and editor Wolfgang Buchner from Der Spiegel for their persistence and courage in publishing the NSA stories.

Remarks by the chairman of the international judges, Sir Harold Evans, Reuters editor-at-large.

Presentations,  March 17 2014Reuters, Canary Whart, London.
We are here to honor some truly remarkable journalism. But let’s begin by recognizing the achievement of a handful of people who won’t get a European Press Prize – because they created it.  I reckon Peter Preston, who led the way, has enough medals to polish from his distinguished years as editor of The Guardian; he was certainly a confounded nuisance to me when I was editing The Times.But I want to put in bold caps the names of the foundersNAMES*  Stichting for Democracy in Media* The Veronica Foundation in Amsterdam* The Jyllands-Posten and Politken Foundations in Copenhagen* The Guardian Foundation

* The Reuters Foundation

* The Media Development Loan Fund in Prague and New York…
Yes, Pulitzer got here a century or so before and national awards have long been cherished… The distinctive conviction of the EPP is its openness, its readiness to scale the towers of Babel and invite the best journalism the length and breadth of the continent. That European co-operation is a timely riposte to the nay-saying nationalists and bond vigilantes who proclaimed Europe could never get its act together. Of course, even with Mr. Draghi in the saddle there are  fences to leap – where’s that banking union? Where the G20 commitment to growth – and too much misery is has been engendered for the south.

The difficult economic passages actually point to the central conviction of the EPP founders, the organizers and those honored to join the judging panel. The convictionthat for all the dizzyingly different cultures, for all the different forms of media today, for  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. .

Good journalism has a reverence for human rights, for the rights of minorities against powerful interests, and especially majorities, so easily incited by emotional xenophobia and ignorance to move beyond casual cruelty to genocide. Among the entries there’s a description of the lives of minorities in Russia  with a focus on Muslims and the Lgbt community that Comrade Putin loves to hate. The press does a great service when it confronts stereotypes with the stories of real people, and perpetrates evil when it incites fear. That is what happening in Uganda right now with the hunt for gays, chillingly reminiscent of the Brown Shirts hunting for Jews in the Third Reich. In Uganda anyone thought to be gay is liable to be the target of mobile torture squads, stirred up by the tabloid press there. Shame on Red Paper, the tabloid in the vanguard. Nobody is crying foul. Africa is off the radar.

In Europe, in the centennial year of the First World War, we   should not need reminding of how patriotic pride can degenerate into reckless vengeful nationalism. One of the entries that moved the judges was the description of Vukovar, Croatia, where the embers are nurtured of that more recent Balkan conflict. And another on the flickers of life amid the devastation of Syria. ..

Good journalism! And good journalism is acutely aware of what’s bad journalism, how the determination to get the story can be corrupted. How can a reporter, editor of publisher tell in the excitement of the chase precisely where  the boundary is between legitimate, vigorous persistence, and harassment, theft, and deception?

ANSWER: When the publication is unwilling to disclose to the public the means by which it got the story.

That’s one way of a number of ways  a reader can assess the integrity of any publication on or off line. A second, good journalism is ready to correct error without equivocation. Third, good journalism is not for sale.  Economic viability is the best guarantee of a free press, but now that we’ve seen spectacular erosions of the traditional base in the combination of circulation and advertising revenuues, journalism is vulnerable to temptation. There is a new plague called Demand Media, whereby business can buy what appears to be editorial but isn’t. Buzzfeed in the US is the best example of the erosion of values, applauded because it is clever in its ability to ride viral wave like a video of a baby imitating his dad’s push ups, and technically adept in drawing traffic. But it is most significant for finding this “new way” to make money where it is hard to tell what is journalism and what is puffery. Few question the method.  Andrew Sullivan in his compelling Dish website excoriates the sell-out artists but he seems to be regarded by the fashionistas of the web as King Canute defying the tides. How refreshing, then, to see the honest, ingenious experiments among the EPP entries seeking new ways to viability – funding from crowd-sourcing has proved surprisingly successful. Peter Jukes has covered the entire hacking trial in London on Twitter, sustained, as his Murdoch book was, on voluntary cash contributions.

Hacking is the nadir of bad journalism on any number of counts but  critics  who obsessed with it as “sensationalism” missed the point.  “Sensationalism” is not an adequate definition of bad journalism.   Good journalism may require sensationalism to break the hold of the bigotry of entrenched interest, like cruelties inflicted on girls in the name of tradition: I refer to child marriage and female genital cutting. Child prostitution was not ended in Victorian England by sermons; it was ended by the sensation of an  editor showing how easy it was to buy a child for a few pounds.

The particulars of good journalism are infinite, the values universal. When those values are defiled, as they   were in the hacking scandal so brilliantly exposed by The Guardian, the public recoils. Perversely, the point is manifest in the dogged cover up of those outrages by the malefactors of great stealth. The architects of the abuses, when questioned by Nick Davies, didst protest too much  they knew they’d done wrong.

The EPP awards   will help to refine those notions of good journalism, as case law helps us refine the idea of justice. Ultimately, as I argued, the values we espouse are based on respect for human rights and respect for the rule of law but the unpredictable collisions of principle demand judgment of the highest order.  Your EPP judges were acutely aware of the real difficulties for journalists and publishers  in national security cases. Journalists believe the press has a duty to bring instantly before the people ‘the earliest and most correct intelligence of the times.’ The state denies that duty when it is faced with threats to the security of the state and the lives of the citizens.  History suggests that the people are ill-served by suppression. Circumstances must determine every case. When an editor is instructed to suppress information, he is customarily asked if he does not appreciate that the freedom of the press depends on the rule of law. He can only answer in the vernacular of  Lord Copper’s underlings at the Daily Beast, the newspaper in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop: “Up to a point Lord Copper” .  Wherewe, the EPP judges, believe the balance should lie currently will be evident in our special awards [announced later]. We are conscious that, eternal as we believe our values to be, so equally are the impulses of authority to nibble at free speech and free inquiry.

Those twin constituents of good journalism in a free press. fact and reason,  are often confused. It is easier to sound off than it is to find out. Every word that John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty stands today but the modern press cannot survive or a serve the people simply by arguing from the classical virtues of free speech. We know to our cost that argument that cannot draw on an arsenal of information maybe no more than chaff in  the wind.  Mill and the classical philosophers assumed everyone had access to the same facts. It was as false a proposition as the classical economists’  assumption of price being determined by everyone having equal access to perfect knowledge in an open  marketplace.  Yet there there will not be a murmur of dissent from men and women who daily, in government and law and all centers of power, restrict the flow of information or stamp ‘confidential’ on documents,  or are so readily outraged when inconvenient facts emerge. I cannot forget the House of Lords judgment against The Sunday Times in the thalidomide trials in the seventies. Lord Reid, chair of the Law Lords, said our moral campaign was legitimate, but we could not be allowed to produce the facts on which it was based.  How marvelous it is when the press, animated by a passion for truth, can combine fact and reason. In  the EEP entries for the commentary prize,  we see how the op-ed brigade, ink stained and digitized, have done their best to nail non-sequiters, puncture pretension, expose contradictions, discern verities in the fog of defamation, and  in the course of these labors cheer us up a bit by wit in the telling: given the absence of the drachma, what’s been happening to love in Greece?

I wouldn’t want you to think that the universal values I extol meant that the judges’ deliberations were wholly tranquil in assessing the relevance of some of the qualities I mention.  How high should we mark an entrant for sheer physical courage, how high for moral courage? Both were dauntingly in evidence, but there was a strong argument that we should take these qualities for granted because we are in the risk trade; abuse, writ, threat, harassment censorship, bullying and bullet, go with the territory. Why rate risk as more important than revelation? Again, how rate the recipient of the bounty of whistle blowing against the investigative digger? And what price literacy? And was anything lost or enhanced in translation?

You can work out from our awards how we resolved the priorities. But there was no dissension on the quality of the entries. We were impressed last year. This year we were dazzled by the  ingenuities in organizing journalism by the ways of marrying conventional journalism with social media, with  video, graphics, data mining, crowd sourcing, and cyber collation. But throughout in all  the categories, it was borne in on us and will be by all who read the entries, by how dependent we are on journalism, everyday journalism of record. Without reporter, photographer, publisher, we are blind, ignorant and insensible of the one invisible but indivisible world we now inhabit.

And when we came to read Yavuz Baydar and his brave  obudsman commentaries in  Turkey,  I could not but think of individuals,  how one editor’s  resolutely honest independent journalism served Turkey. Abdi Ipecki, the editor of Milliyet in Istanbul was my colleague on the board of the International Press Institute board (IPI) He ran a ceaseless campaign against violence and terrorism and for national unity and reconciliation He brought warring Turkish and Greek journalists together to agree on professional standards that would defuse the competition in hate that followed Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus.  When we talked in London in 1979, just before he returned to Istanbul, he said how much it meant to him to have the support of the IPI and the community of good journalism.  A short time after that, on the first of February 1979, he was assassinated by rightists – by the same assassin, Agfa, who tried to kill the Pope. Abdi in death is a testament to the values we cherish.

.    And there’s a Living Example. Sitting with us in our judging debates was Juan Luis Cebrian, the founding editor of El Pais in Madrid. He saved Spanish democracy. Could there ever be a more representative moment for all the EPP aspirations than February 23 1981 when Lt. Colonel Antonio Tejerov Molina led 200 armed officers into the Congress of Deputies to impose a new Prime Minister on Spain .The lawmakers were hostages, held at gunpoint, and the capital was in lockdown, but Juan Luis got out a special edition denouncing the coup. Someone, somehow brought into the Chamber the edition of El Pais rallying the country to the king and democracy and presented it to the Colonel on the rostrum. The tanks were on the streets but so were copies of  El Paisand El Pais in the Chamber and on the streets were more powerful than the guns and the tanks. The luckless Colonel Tejerov was confronted by his own his political obituary – in glorious print. Hard to think of the same effect if he’d been handed a memory stick

A final example – from a few years back.

In  his funeral speech of 5 BC  describing the good citizen in Athens, Pericles said…..

“ The whole earth  is the sepulchre of   famous men:  their story is not graven only on stone over their native earth, but lives on far away, without visible symbol, woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.”

Woven into the stuff of other men’s lives.

Would it will be so…in our own age….. that the story of the journalists we salute today will be not  be marked solely by  the submissions and the awards but will be woven into the stuff of other men’s lives as exemplars of excellence.

entries

The Investigative Reporting Award
The Distinguished Writing Award
The Commentator Award
The Innovation Award
The Special Award