IFJ Launches Prize for Reporting Drugs and HIV/AIDS

"On this World AIDS Day, I urge you to join me in speaking up loud and clear about HIV/AIDS. Join me in tearing down the walls of silence, stigma and discrimination that surround the epidemic. Join me, because the fight against HIV/AIDS begins with you..."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

To mark World AIDS Day the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today launched the Real Life Matters competition, an international award for excellence in reporting drugs and HIV/AIDS issues. The award - which is sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Development Programme of the Open Society Institute in Budapest - is open to journalists in Central and Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union, a region where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is growing faster than anywhere else in the world.

The Real Life Matters competition seeks to promote journalistic excellence and foster wider understanding and awareness of the complex realities of drug users and people with HIV/AIDS. In so doing, the Prize recognises the media’s responsibility in raising public awareness and safeguarding the fundamental rights of drug users and people with HIV/AIDS, while underpinning the values of professionalism, journalists’ ethics and media diversity.

"Fair and accurate reporting plays a vital role in raising public awareness of and shaping national and international responses to drug use and HIV/AIDS. However, many news stories continue to portray drugs users and people with HIV/AIDS only in terms of the threat they pose to others," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "All too often drug users and their families are merely represented as silent objects of law enforcement or drug control campaigns, or not included in media coverage at all. With this award we hope to give a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard."

The Real Life Matters competition is open to print/on-line, radio and television journalists employed by the local media in Central and Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States of the Former Soviet Union. Entries submitted must have been published or broadcast between 1st November 2002 and 31 January 2004.

An independent three-person jury made up of two media professionals and one drugs and HIV/AIDS expert will examine the entries and choose one overall winner and one runner-up. Both nominees will be special guests of the Open Society Institute at a Prizegiving Ceremony to be held in Berlin in the beginning of April 2004. Both nominees will receive a Real life Matters Certificate and a scholarship to participate in the 15th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm to be held in Melbourne, Australia, on 20-24 April 2004. In addition the winner will receive a financial award of US$ 2,000.

The deadline for entries is 15 February 2004. Detailed information about the Real Life Matters competition, including the rules and the application form, is available at Real Life Matters

Further information: + 32 2 235 22 00

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries