The winners of Europe's premier award for journalism in the field of human rights and development - the Lorenzo Natali Prize - became the toast of international journalism for their committed reporting on human rights, democracy and development on Tuesday December 18 when they received cash awards of 10,000 Euro each and a special trophy from Mr. Poul Nielson, EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid.
In a special presentation ceremony organised at the International Press Centre, Residence Palace, before an audience of around 100 Brussels-based and foreign journalists, diplomats, European Parliament members and NGO representatives, Mr Nielson praised the journalists for their insight into the reporting of human rights issues within the context of the development process.
The winners are Romain Gubert, of Le Point, France, for his report "The shocking evidence of the Chechen refugees" and Kamau Ngotho, The Sunday Nation, Kenya for "The Pinto Murder." Commended are Teun Voeten, of Vrij Nederland, The Netherlands for "The bitter peace of Sierra Leone" and Ana Lucia Raffo Florez of El Espectador, Colombia for "Displaced persons, a national tragedy." "These articles are powerful examples of the importance of press freedom to democracy", said Mr Nielson.
"This Prize is a clear recognition that Europe understands that democracy and human rights are prerequisites for social and economic development," said Mr Nielson "and a clear recognition of the key role that the press plays in the field."
The Prize was organised by the International Federation of Journalists and Mr Nielson also paid tribute to journalists working in dangerous areas. "Recent tragedies in journalism showed", he said, "that the profession is fraught with dangers." The IFJ announced on Tuesday December 18 that 100 journalists and media workers had been killed during 2001, the highest for six years. "Events like the war in Afghanistan and ongoing conflicts elsewhere in the world bring the need for informed journalism sharply into focus," he said.
Speaking of the winners, Mr Nielson said Romain Gubert's winning entry was an example of subtle reporting with human rights considerations at the centre of its journalism, while Kamau Ngotho's article was waging war against wrongful imprisonment and had led to release of a man jailed for 35 years for a murder he did not commit. Congratulations to the Lorenzo Natali winners were also received from Mary Robinson, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner.
Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, added his congratulations to the winners and said that the organisation of the Prize - by journalists themselves - underlined the high quality and professionalism of the winning entries. "No matter what some might say, there is much to be proud of in journalism and these colleagues have set standards that others will follow," he said.
The prize-giving ceremony was followed by a debate on the challenge of reporting human rights and development in an age marked by violent conflict and uncertainty addressed by Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman of Le Soir, Jean Robert Goulongana, Secretary General of the African, Carribean and Pacific Group of States, Patricia Kelly, writer and broadcaster, former Bureau Chief of CNN Brussels, John Owen, broadcaster and former Director Freedom Forum, European Office, and, Teun Voeten, writer and photojournalist, New York.
The Natali Prize for Journalism, Excellence in Reporting Human Rights, Democracy and Development, which was the centre piece of the day's events, was established by the countries of the European Union in honour of the late Lorenzo Natali, Vice President of the European Commission with special responsibilities for development issues. The prestigious Prize is awarded each year to print journalists who have demonstrated a striking insight and particular dedication to the reporting of human rights issues within the context of the development process.