Commissioner Poul Nielson congratulates the 2002 Natali Gold Medalist Raymond Archer, Ghana. Photo: Audiovisual Library European Commission.
Brussels, 14th October 2002
The Natali Prize for Journalism: Excellence in Reporting Human Rights, Democracy and Development was established by the European Commission's DG Development in 1992 in honour of the late Lorenzo Natali, Vice President of the European Commission with special responsibility for development issues. Since 1999 the International Federation of Journalists has been organising the prize on behalf of the European Commission.
The Natali Prize is awarded to print journalists who have demonstrated a striking insight and a particular dedication to the reporting of human rights issues within the context of the development process. Traditionally two prizes have been awarded each year; one to a journalist from an EU Member State and one to a journalist from a developing country. In 2002, however, the European Commission has decided to expand the programme and award five Natali Prizes to both print and/or online journalists in each of the following five regional categories: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe (the Member States of the European Union and the Accession Countries), Latin America and the Caribbean, North Africa and the Middle East.
This year some 243 entries were received from more than 80 countries. Of these 218 were eligible under the rules of the Natali Prize. The main reason for ineligibility was submission of articles published by journalists from countries outside the five regional categories (14), in particular from South and Eastern Europe. A few entries had not been published in 2001 (4) or were not printed or online articles (3). Finally a small number of entries had to be disqualified due to missing translations (2) or incomplete application forms (2).
The hundreds of articles submitted for this year's Natali Prize for Journalism: Excellence in Reporting Human Rights, Democracy and Development showed up a number of common human rights themes which the jury would like to highlight.
First and foremost, it is clear from the entries received that journalists reporting on human rights issues still risk censure, expulsion and even real physical harm in many parts of the world. We would like to particularly commend those journalists who continue to report on important human rights abuses such as the use of child soldiers, the trafficking of women and children and restrictions on the freedom of expression in countries where, even in the 21st century, it is still dangerous to do so.
The standard of entries in this year's prize, which for the first time covers five world regions, was on the whole, very high. The jury would particularly like to encourage journalists working in the Middle East and North Africa to send in more entries next year.
It was extremely difficult for the jury to choose winners out of so many excellent entries and in the end, jury members gave extra weight to investigative journalism, to courage shown in the face of political censure, to the relevance of the articles to current global human rights and developmental themes and the impact in terms of achieving change or reaction from governments or appropriate authorities.
One Natali Prize is awarded in each regional category. Two further commendations are made also in each category. The jury send their congratulations to all winners and urge all those who missed out to send in more entries next year, and to keep up their valuable work in giving a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard.
In the regional category of Africa the 2002 Natali Prize goes to:
Raymond Archer (Ghana) for his three articles "Ex-Minister in deportations scam", "Tragedy of youth deported for cash" and "Swedish Minister resigns over Amarkai's scam" published in The Ghanaian Chronicle.
In his series of high-quality reports exposing a deportation syndicate, Raymond Archer has employed excellent journalistic skills. The way in which he has investigated political corruption in Sweden and Ghana is a model to other journalists who would like to pursue a career in investigative journalism. Archer's investigation shed light on some unsavoury aspects of an alliance between politicians and airline officials in relation to horrific deportation cases which were in clear violation of human rights. Archer's reports contributed to the resignation of a Swedish minister and the loss of influence of several Ghanaian politicians. Moreover, uncovering the deportation scandal led to a policy review in Sweden and helped to publicise other cases of illegal deportation. Archer's reports on the deportation syndicate have also had an international impact and raised public awareness about this specific problem in his country.
Caroline Sorgho (Burkina Faso) for her article "Le Burkina, pivot d'un odieux commerce" published in L'Evénement.
The article "Le Burkina, pivot d'un odieux commerce" is a short but comprehensive piece of journalism which highlights the trafficking of children from and through Burkina Faso. The article puts into context this human rights violation and exposes cultural factors which are less visible and rarely covered in articles related to the trafficking of children. The quality of the journalism is highlighted by the professional and non sensational treatment of the subject.
Mervin Syafunko (Zambia) for his article "The untold story of the Gwembe" published in The Monitor.
The construction of the Kariba Dam has been considered until now as one of the great achievements of modern technology. Mervin Sibbuyu Syafunko tells us a different story. He looks at the effect on the local inhabitants, describing their sufferings and difficulties after they were forcefully removed from the area where they lived and where the dam was being built. It is a moving piece of journalism, with some powerful images. The most heart-rendering story tells of the peasants who chose to drown with their animals when the water level was rising instead of leaving their houses. Another story underlines the stark contrast between the young woman having to walk miles to collect a few drops of water and the immense expanse of water lying close by but impossible to reach. The publication of this article awakened the interest of the authorities and revealed to the public at large the plight of the Gwembe many decades after the construction of the dam. Some measures were taken, albeit too late to prevent some of the deaths. It is a good article that deserves to be mentioned to show what local journalism can achieve. Africa needs people like Mervin Sibbuyu Syafunko to describe the other side of the coin as he has done in "The untold story of the Gwembe".
In the regional category of Asia and the Pacific the 2002 Natali Prize goes to:
Asha Krishnakumar (India) for her report "Weavers in distress" and the follow-up story "For the weavers" both published in Frontline.
Asha Krishnakumar's "Weavers in distress" is an excellent piece of journalism with a good background of the economic history of an area where weaving has been the basis of survival for many families. The story of the crisis that forced many to commit suicide, mingled with the indifference of the authorities, had a strong political impact, pushing the Government to announce new measures to help handloom weavers and put an end to their desperate deaths. "Weavers in distress" is also a story of flawed economic choices and the negatives aspects of globalisation, where the weakest suffer the most. The account of many desperate deaths is a very moving part of this long and well documented feature article. The "North" should take notice.
Rommy Fibri (Indonesia) on behalf of The Weekly Tempo News Magazine team for their report "Sex, Lies and Entertainment".
Rommy Fibri's feature about Indonesian prostitutes in Japan and the mafia groups organizing the sex trade in the Far East brings to light the ugly face of female exploitation in this part of the world. As female trafficking, illegal mafia activities and the abuse of women's rights are creating a very unpleasant situation in South East Asia and the Far East, Fibri's "Sex, Lies and Entertainment" deserves a special mention.
Annam Suresh (India) for her 16 articles on child trafficking and child prostitution published online on Wahindia.
In a series of 16 profiles Annam Suresh paints an impressive mosaic of the problems of child trafficking and child prostitution in India. The articles are based on very intensive research, using concrete examples to illustrate a major and massive abuse of the nation's future generation. The seemingly distanced, almost cool style of writing comes across most persuasively, convincing the reader with facts and a precise description of real life. This plume does not need to rely on appeals for compassion - reading these results of excellent in-depth-journalism is a strong plea for human rights and development in itself.
In the regional category of Europe the 2002 Natali Prize goes to:
Henrik Brun and Ulrikke Moustgaard (Denmark) for their five articles "Forsvaret st¢tter sex-mafia på Balkan", "Kvinden: Fanget i Xhevats fælde", "Tatjana og Kim, "Fakta til Tatjana og Kim" and "Soldaten: En soldats tjenstlige forseelse" about Danish peacekeepers' exploitation of trafficked women in Kosovo published in Information.
Henrik Brun and Ulrikke Moustgaard's five articles, which were published in the Danish daily newspaper Information, clearly deserve to receive the 2002 Natali Prize for Europe. Thanks to a thorough and solid investigation they succeeded in revealing how almost mafia-like networks exploit women as sex slaves. This "trade" is more scandalous again in that it attracted customers among the ranks of Danish UN peacekeeping soldiers in the Balkans. The articles had a tremendous impact and sparked serious repercussions in the Danish army.
Paul Cullen (Ireland) for his articles "Human Trafficking: Fleeing the tragic state of Nigeria" and "The trade that means misery by the cargo" published in The Irish Times.
Paul Cullen's reports on the plight of Nigerian migrants reveal some serious aspects of inequality and lack of human rights at both ends of a refugee's journey to Europe.. Cullen presents his readers with a first-hand investigation into circumstances driving refugees out of their country, the different kinds of exploitation these refugees are exposed to, and the punishment they receive in the host nations. With the issue of refugees and asylum seekers at the forefront of politics in Europe, Human Trafficking by Paul Cullen deserves a special commendation.
Karin Steinberger (Germany) for her article "Die verkauften Kinder von Poipet" published in Süddeutsche Zeitung.
This excellent feature illustrates the problems of child trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in South East Asia. The article brings the fate of Sok, a Cambodian girl sold by her parents to Thai criminals, very close to the European reader. In describing Sok's mental destruction as well as her parent's despair, wide-spread poverty is identified as the root cause of injustice and violations of human rights. The story, very well structured and written in a most convincing style, also offers a lot of background - and signs of hope and help by honouring the work of a Swiss NGO which tries to free and repatriate abused children. Karin Steinberger's article is not only a sensitive and respectful portrayal of Sok. The article does not focus simply on the horror of sexual exploitation of children, but points to the desperate situation of the families who sell their children and puts the issue into a larger context. The jury commended the article for its professional quality; Karin Steinberger succeeds in illustrating the situation of these children and giving the reader the feeling that they know Sok personally.
In the regional category of Latin America and the Caribbean the 2002 Natali Prize goes to:
Mauri König (Brazil) for his article "Mentira encobre crime no quartel" published in O Estado Do Paraná
Julio César Benegas Vidallet (Paraguay) for his five articles "La próxima víctima está vuelta de pagina", "Chantajes y temores obstaculizan cambios", "Corrupción y poder mantienen intacto el servicio militar", "Victimas del SMO provienen de familias muy humildes" and "Cada 35 días muere un soldado en los cuarteles del Ejército" all published in ABC Color.
Mauri König's article "Mentira encobre crime no quartel" (Lie hides crimes in barracks) is an outstanding investigative report which reveals the illegal recruitment of child soldiers from Brazil and Argentina by the National Army of Paraguay and the death of an important number of them in their barracks. His article is the result of a very difficult investigation, in fact during his journalistic research König was the victim of an attempt on his life. Moreover, the piece had a positive impact, since as a result of its publication the Government of Paraguay signed an agreement with the U.N. to end the recruitment of children under 18 years for military service.
The series of five articles by Julio César Benegas concerning human violations within the Military Service of Paraguay is remarkable journalism, which highlights the corruption which is at the core of the recruitment of child soldiers as well as the cultural aspects involved. These articles also exposed the exploitation of child soldiers and other human rights violations, which resulted in the death of 10 soldiers a year on average. For military personnel Paraguay is one of the most dangerous countries worldwide in peaceful times, Benegas concluded in his report.
We decided to give a joint award for the Latin American and Caribbean category because the entries from Julio César Benegas and Mauri König both focused on the recruitment of child soldiers from Paraguay and Brazil by the Paraguayan National Army. Through their investigative journalism, their entries highlight the corruption behind this human rights violation in both countries as well as the cultural and economic factors involved.
Mário Magalhães (Brazil) for his article "A história de Alexandre" published in Folha de São Paulo.
In "A história de Alexandre" Mário Magalhães reports with great sensibility and professionalism the drama of a father who - after having brought his one-year old daughter to hospital - was tortured in jail until he confessed that he had raped her. A few days later however it was proven that his daughter had not been raped but suffered from a disease which had caused the injuries. Meanwhile the violence employed and the public exposure of the case by the media radically changed the life of the young father forever. The report highlights the violence that goes on in certain Brazilian prisons, the devastating consequences of medical errors and the lack of ethics of some media. It definitely deserves to be mentioned.
Irma Del Valle Alvarez Rojas (Venezuela) for her three articles "Atrapados en La Roca", "No olvidarán lo que vieron" and "El chichero no llegó a la plaza" published in Diario El Universal.
This series of three articles highlights the emergence of para-police groups in Venezuela, through impressive presentation of cases and analytical research on the social and cultural aspects involved in this human right issue. The articles are of a very high standard of journalism and expose the phenomena in its early stage. This is very important because these articles create awareness and therefore contribute to putting an end to the growth of such groups before they become more powerful - with dramatic consequences in terms of human rights and development.
In the regional category of North Africa and the Middle East the 2002 Natali Prize goes to:
Maher Chmaytelli (Lebanon) for his articles "Cultural Forums: Pseudonyms for Syria's new political activities" and "Syrian MP's arrest part of plan to muzzle dissent" published on Middle East Online and in Middle East Times and Daily Star of Beirut.
Maher Chmaytelli's reports from Damascus on the political trials of Syrian opposition leaders and advocates of freedom of expression have been a valuable source of information for all those interested in political change in Syria. In his reports to AFP, Middle East online and the Middle East Times, Chmaytelli has been keen to present very objective and balanced coverage, risking punishment by the Syrian authorities. These reports led to the closure of the AFP office in Damascus as Chmaytelli was stripped of his press accreditation and asked to leave Syria. This brutal act against freedom of expression by the Syrian authorities reveals the undemocratic nature of the regime of president Bashar el-Asad, who inherited power from his father, the first case of its kind in an Arab republic. Maher Chmaytelli's personal courage and his excellent news reports from Syria have contributed to mounting protest campaigns inside and outside the Arab world for the release of political prisoners in Syria.
Sihem Bensedrine (Tunisia) for her article "Internet, la navigation sous haute surveillance" published online on Kalima.
Sihem Bensedrine's report entitled "Internet, la navigation sous haute surveillance", which was published in the Tunisian online paper Kalima, is an excellent example of investigative journalism, in particular in a country such as Tunisia where press freedom and freedom of expression are still very limited. The lack of these fundamental human rights is one of the major reasons why so many Tunisians have resorted to the internet in order to obtain and disseminate information although it remains closely monitored by the Tunisian authorities.
Yahia Asad Shukkeir (Jordan) for his two-part report "Comments on the New Internet Centers Regulations" and "Confirming its illegality" published in Al Arab Al Yawm.
Once again, an article dealing with the internet which is gradually emerging as a valuable source of uncensored information in the Arab world. Although the number of internet users is still very modest, the fact that this number is rising sharply is alarming those Arab officials who are enemies of the free flow of uncensored information to the public. These officials try everything to curb access to the internet. Against this background came the report by Yahia Shukkeir in Jordan, challenging a ministerial decree to impose restrictions on internet cafes and access to the internet. Fortunately this challenge was successful and the minister was forced to review his decision.
Chairperson of the Jury
Brussels, October 2002
Majella Anning, former broadcaster now with Amnesty International
Angela Castellanos, freelance writer from Colombia
Elisabeth Costa, President of the Federation of Brazilian Journalists
Maria Laura Franciosi, Italian correspondent for Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata
Bettina Peters, Director of Programmes at the European Journalism Centre
Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, Research Director of the International Council on Human Rights Policy, Geneva
Ibrahim Nawar, journalist and leader of Arab Press Freedom Watch
Mohamedou Mahmoud Faye, journalist with Le Soleil, Senegal
Christian Wernicke, reporter for Süddeutsche Zeitung