On 1 June 2022, the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon with its partner, the Samir Kassir Foundation, announced the results of the 17th edition of the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press, in a ceremony held at Saint George Hotel, Ain El Mraisseh, Beirut. The ceremony was broadcast live 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. Since 2006, the Award ceremony has been 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, 261 journalists participated in the competition from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. 96 candidates competed in the Opinion Piece category, 116 in the Investigative Article category, and 49 in the Audiovisual News Report category. The winner in each of the three categories is awarded 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: Ezzat Alkamhawi (born in 1961), from Egypt, for his article entitled “The suspicion architecture: The obsession of grand buildings and wide streets” published on 18 December 2021 in Al-Manassa. This long form draws links between architecture, urban planning, and the type of political regimes.
– Investigative Article category: Safaa Khalaf (born in 1982), from Iraq, for his investigation entitled “Iraq’s water crisis: Climate change leads to migration and civil strife” published on 27 November 2021 in Al-Aalem Al-Jadeed. His article examines the regional, political, social, economic, and sectarian reasons and consequences of Iraq’s growing water crisis.
– Audio-visual News Report category: Iman Adel (born in 1986), from Egypt, for her portrait of Rania Rashwan, published in Daraj Media on 15 June 2021. Rania is a young Egyptian woman who chose to break free from the lifestyle imposed by her conservative, rural community, after several dramatic experiences, including sexual assault and the suicide of her brother.
The Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon, Ralph Tarraf, said: “The safety of journalists has never been as critical, as we continue to see them threatened, jailed, harassed, and even lose their lives. This is why it is increasingly important to have modern media laws that guarantee the safety of journalists and protect them against political prosecution and attempts to stifle free speech.” The Ambassador emphasized that “reliable and independent journalism is paramount for truth, accountability, and good governance, and is also a rampart against the spread of disinformation and the increasingly polluted information stream.”
Gisèle Khoury, President of the Samir Kassir Foundation, said that “amazing young journalists have been applying to win the Award every year, for 17 years. Their articles and reports reflect great talent, professionalism, and courage, in countries where authorities fear their freedom, and where free voices are killed and silenced.” Ms. Khoury reiterated her belief that the walls of fear will eventually collapse and that new social and political contracts await all the countries in the region.
An independent seven-member jury from the Arab League and European Union member states selected the winners. This year’s jury gathered Ludovic Blécher (France), head of Google News Initiative Innovation; Nassera Dutour (Algeria), leading human rights defender and founder of the Coalition of Families of the Disappeared in Algeria; Elham Fakhro (Bahrain), associate fellow at Chatham House and a visiting scholar at the Center for Gulf Studies at the University of Exeter; Pavla Holcova (Czechia), founder of the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism; Safaa Saleh (Egypt), senior investigative journalist and war reporter at Al-Aan TV and winner of the 2010 Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press; Randa Slim (Lebanon), conflict resolution program director at the Middle East Institute and representative of the Samir Kassir Foundation in the Jury; and Antonio Zappulla (Italy), CEO of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
For the third time, the Award included the Students’ Prize, which allowed 21 students from Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen to get advanced access to the 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 selected the investigation entitled “The Mahdi Scouts: A chronicle of child recruitment into Iranian militias” co-written by Rukaia Al-Abadi (born in 1988) from Syria and Fatima Al-Othman (born in 1989) from Lebanon, and published in Daraj Media on 6 May 2021.
More information about the 2022 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 members of the Samir Kassir Foundation Widad Jarbouh, Jad Shahrour, and Eric Husny, and was viewed by thousands of people across the region on LBCI’s local network, satellite channel worldwide and online on the Award’s social media accounts.