06/02/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/02/2021 03:00
On 1 June 2021, the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon with its partner, the Samir Kassir Foundation, announced the results of the 16th edition of the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press, in a special televised talk-show on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI). This Award, established and funded by the European Union, is widely recognized internationally as a flagship prize for press freedom and the most prestigious journalism award in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf region. The Award ceremony is held annually to commemorate the anniversary of Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir's assassination, on 2 June 2005 in Beirut, and celebrate his life, his values and his memory.
This year witnessed further challenges to media freedom across the region, including but not limited to the assassinations of journalists and intellectuals, attacks on media properties, and the continued detention of media professionals. The Award reiterates the European Union's commitment to supporting independent, in-depth journalism as one of the key factors in building strong state institutions, based on transparency and accountability.
This Award rewards journalists who have distinguished themselves through the quality of their work and their commitment to human rights and democracy. This year 206 journalists participated in the competition from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. 66 candidates competed in the Opinion Piece category, 88 in the Investigative Article category, and 52 in the Audiovisual News Report category. The winner in each of the three categories is awarded with a prize of €10,000. Each of the two runner-ups in every category receive a €1,000 prize.
The winners of the 2021 Samir Kassir Award are:
- Opinion Piece category:Yehya Al-Yaqoubi from Palestine, born in 1989 and living in Gaza. His article entitled 'Autistic, killed by Israeli police on his way to school- Iyad Al-Hallak, the Palestinian George Floyd' was published in Quds News Network on 1 March 2021. It is the story of an autistic Palestinian student, killed at an Israeli checkpoint in Jerusalem and the acquittal of the soldiers who shot him.
- Investigative Article category:Sultan Jalabi from Syria, born in 1985, a researcher and investigative journalist. His report entitled 'Syria's lucrative detainment market: How Damascus exploits detainees' families for money' was published by Syria Untold on 16 April 2020 and investigated 100 cases of families of detainees in the Syrian regime's jails, having to engage in a complex web of financial transactions within the prison, security and judiciary system.
- Audio-visual News Report category: For the first time since the establishment of the Award, two submissions shared the victory and the Award was split between the joint submission of Egyptian journalists Hoda Zakaria, born in 1990, and Mennatullah Hamdy, born in 1971, entitled 'Miss Farida's Struggle' and the report by Hammadi Lassoued from Tunisia, born in 1992, entitled 'Asrar Ben Jouira'. Hoda and Mennatullah's report was published in Youm 7 newspaper on 8 January 2021 and portrays Farida Ramadan, a transgender Egyptian school teacher, and the challenges she has faced with her own family, the job market, and the Egyptian society at large. Hammadi's report was released in Nawaat.org on 5 February 2021, and follows Tunisian feminist and queer leader Asrar Ben Jouira in her daily involvement for human and women's rights in Tunisia, for justice, equality, and inclusion.
EU Ambassador to Lebanon Ralph Tarraf said: 'Judicial independence is crucial in safeguarding freedoms. A strong and independent judiciary can follow up on cases of intimidation, harassment and violence. Equally important is a free press. For freedom of expression is the cornerstone of any democracy. Through the Samir Kassir Award, we support independent journalists who expose wrongdoings and who stand for the freedom of expression and opinion.'
Malek Mrowa, Vice-President of the Samir Kassir Foundation, said that journalists will enjoy the protection they deserve once political systems in the region become open to the pluralism of opinions and 'perpetrators of crimes against journalists held accountable.' He saluted the courage of the Samir Kassir Award's contestants who shed light on often ignored struggles. 'The fact that 70% of the finalists were women is also a strong source of hope for gender equality and the future of journalism in the region,' he added.
An independent seven-member jury from the Arab League and European Union member states selected the winners. This year's jury gathered Matthew Caruana Galizia (Malta), investigative journalist and founder of the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation, named after his mother, herself an investigative journalist assassinated in Malta in 2017; Kim Ghattas (Lebanon), award-winning international reporter, board chair of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism and SKF representative in the jury; Jesper Højberg (Denmark), Executive Director of International Media Support; Shada Islam (Belgium), author, policy and communication consultant, and a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe; Mohamed Yassine Jelassi (Tunisia), president of the National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists; Daoud Kuttab (Palestine), director-general of Community Media Network and vice-chair of the International Press Institute; and Amira Al-Sharif (Yemen), award-winning photojournalist.
For the second time, the Award included the Students' Prize, which allowed 23 students from Algeria, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Yemen to get an advance access to the 10 finalists' submissions, interact virtually with them, and debate the issues that were highlighted in the articles and reports. Students voted for their favorite submission following the debate and elected Yehya Al-Yaqoubi from Palestine, for the same article that won the Award in the Opinion Piece category.
All information about the 2021 edition of the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press, the winning articles and audio-visual report, as well as biographies, articles and reports of all previous winners are available on the website www.samirkassiraward.org.
The televised ceremony was hosted by Lebanese journalist Nicole Hajal and was followed by thousands of people across the region who viewed the broadcast on LBCI's local network, satellite channel worldwide and online on the Award's social media accounts.