Journalists from Azerbaijan, South Africa, Pakistan, Honored for Investigative Reporting under Threat
The winners of the fifth Global Shining Light Award were announced and presented at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference tonight in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The prize honors investigative journalism conducted in a developing or transitioning country, done under threat, duress, or in the direst of conditions.
The award drew 65 submissions from 28 countries. An international panel of judges considered eight finalists and selected this year’s winners, and found the competition extraordinary.
“The quality of entries this year shows how great investigative journalism has spread around the world,” noted David E. Kaplan, director of the award’s sponsor, the Global Investigative Journalism Network. “So keen was the competition that the judges for the first time opted to honor not one but three stories.”
First place was awarded to two series: “Cato Manor: Inside a South African Police Death Squad,” by a team from the Sunday Times; and “Azerbaijan Corruption” by Khadija Ismayalova, on the questionable financial dealings of the Azerbaijan president’s family. In addition, the judges in their discretion decided to honor a third series with a citation of excellence: “Taxation without Representation,” from the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan.
The winners are:
Stephan Hofstatter, Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Rob Rose from the Sunday Times for “Cato Manor: Inside a South African Police Death Squad.” After more than a year cultivating sensitive sources and obtaining grizzly evidence in photo and print, the team exposed how a police unit operated as a hit squad by executing crime suspects while claiming to be acting in self-defense. “The team members received death threats and were physically attacked,” the judges noted, yet the reporters continued their work. “This was not a oneoff story. The Sunday Times kept going, continuing to report the story for months.” The series produced major impact, the judges found, prompting investigations and resulting in the unit being disbanded and 30 officers being charged, some with murder.
Khadija Ismayilova, Nushabe Fatullayeva, Pavla Holcova, and Jaromir Hason in a collaboration by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Radio Free Europe, and the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism for “Azerbaijan Corruption,” a series that bared the questionable business dealings of the president’s family. Ismayilova later received an anonymous letter with images of her having sex in her home, warning her to “behave” or face being defamed in conservative Azerbaijan. Instead of bowing to blackmail, she went public with the threat and continued to uncover hidden dealings of Azerbaijan’s First Family. “Ms. Ismayilova has exhibited rare bravery,” the judges said. “She is working in a dictatorship where her mission to uncover fraud and corruption can be life threatening. She has been a victim of a vicious state campaign to discredit her only for daring to speak out.”
A citation of excellence to:
Umar Cheema of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan, for Taxation without Representation. Cheema obtained and analyzed tax records of all 446 members of Pakistan’s parliament and the president. His investigation revealed that nearly 70 percent of lawmakers didn’t file tax returns. The story caused huge controversy and debate in Pakistan, a country that suffers from one of the world’s lowest rates of revenue collection. Cheema persevered in his reporting, despite legal threats and, for an earlier story, his kidnapping and torture in 2010.
This year’s judges were a prestigious group from five countries: Sheila Coronel, co-founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism and director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University in New York City; Oleg Khomenok, an investigative journalism trainer with Internews in Ukraine; Fernando Rodrigues, a veteran reporter with the daily Folha de S.Paulo in Brazil; Rana Sabbagh, executive director of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism in Jordan; and Jim Steele, an American investigative reporter and two-time Pulitzer-prize winner.
The Global Shining Light Award is sponsored by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, an association of 90 nonprofit groups in 40 countries that work to support and spread investigative reporting. Founded in 2003, the GIJN helps organize regional and international conferences and workshops, assists in the formation and sustainability of organizations dedicated to investigative and data journalism, and provides resources and networking services for investigative journalists worldwide.
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