SAMIR KASSIR AWARD FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
On 30th May, the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon held for the 14th time the award ceremony of the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press at the Sursock Palace Gardens in Beirut. The Award is the annual press freedom flagship event in Lebanon and one of the most prestigious journalism awards in the MENA and Gulf regions.
The annual ceremony was organised in association with the Samir Kassir Foundation in Lebanon, recognising the work of journalists from MENA and Gulf countries in the categories of: opinion pieces (76 entries), investigative articles (113 entries), and audiovisual news reports (44 entries). The prize awarded for the winner in each of the three categories is of €10,000. Finalists receive each €1,000.
Organised every year since 2006, the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press honours the memory of the Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir, who was assassinated on 2 June 2005 in Beirut. The award is funded by the European Union and rewards journalists who have distinguished themselves through the quality of their work and their commitment to human rights and democracy. This year 233 journalists participated in the competition from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen.
The winners of the 2019 award are:
- Opinion piece category: Roger Asfar from Syria, born in 1983, a writer and inter-faith dialogue expert based in Beirut. His article entitled “Captain Majed or the Father Commander” was published in Al-Hayat newspaper on May 14th 2018 and highlights the need to break away from the concept of heroes in order to build a democratic society in Syria.
- Investigative article category: Ali Al-Ibrahim from Syria, born in 1988, is a reporter based in Stockholm. His report entitled “Forging Death: The Syrian Regime Conceals its War Crimes” was published in VICE Arabia on December 9th 2018 and highlights the discrepancy between the official causes of death of prisoners in the Syrian prisons and the more likely causes believed by families and international human rights organisations.
- Audiovisual news report category: Youssef Ziraoui from Morocco, born in 1979, founder of a Rabat-based web television, Jawjab TV. His report entitled “Bouchra: a Woman” was aired on Jawjab TV on March 8th 2019 and portrays a courageous woman bus driver and the challenges she faces on a daily basis.
The EU stands up for freedom of expression, and calls to end impunity for crimes against journalists. EU Ambassador Christina Lassen said: "Through this award, we recongnize journalists who by their different ways are dedicating their lives to quality and investigative journalism. We know well that some of them do this at a great personal cost, at times with huge sacrifices'. She added 'At a time of considerable decline in freedom of expression and freedom of the press in many countries, we continue to defend independent media and promote laws and practices that protect freedom of opinion and expression'
Gisèle Khoury, President of the Samir Kassir Foundation, said "the major obstacle to freedom of expression is political; it resides in authorities that do not want to be democratic, that lack vision and that are not ready to embrace modernity.” Adding: “We pursue our mission against all odds, confirming the role of Beirut in promoting and protecting free journalists from the entire region.”
As in previous years, an independent jury selected the winners. It comprised seven media professionals and human rights advocates from Europe and the Middle East: Fadi El-Abdallah (Lebanon), spokesperson of the International Criminal Court and representative of the Samir Kassir Foundation in the jury; Ammar Abd Rabbo (Syria) writer and photographer; Baria Alamuddin (Lebanon), columnist and political commentator , Sofia Amara (Morocco), award-winning writer, war reporter, and documentary filmmaker; Thanassis Cambanis (Greece), international affairs columnist at the Boston Globe and fellow at the Century Foundation; Alessio Romenzi (Italy), photojournalist, winner of the World Press Photo award; and Biljana Tatomir (Croatia), international media development consultant.
The ceremony was hosted by journalist Nicole Hajal.
All information about the 2019 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.