Journalists play a vital role in uncovering human rights abuses and reporting on development issues. Seven journalists were awarded the German Development Media Awards for their stories and their courage to speak up.
The German Development Media Awards have been recognizing outstanding reports about human rights and development issues since 1975. This year, the prize was also open to participants from all over the world. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster, award the prize in six regional categories. People were also able to vote for their favorite in the People's Choice Award category for African press photography.
German Development Minister Dirk Niebel stressed the importance of journalists in helping shape a free and educated civil society. That's why the prize goes to those who don't back down and continue to make use of their fundamental right to express their opinions, he added.
"This prize is awarded to journalists who courageously report on their country's development and especially the human rights situation - and they do this under very difficult circumstances," Niebel said during a ceremony in Berlin on Wednesday (14.08.2013). He acknowledged those who "dedicate themselves to human rights issues - courageous, creatively and passionately."
'You are not alone'
DW's Director General Erik Bettermann also acknowledged the journalists: "This prize is to encourage you. To encourage you to get involved. To encourage you to raise your voice. And it should get the message across: You are not alone."
The prize for Latin America went to the multimedia special Proyecto Rosa, which deals with the plight of disappearing Colombians. Apart from the journalistic achievements of Olga Lozano, Juanita Leon and Marcela Pelaez, the judging panel also stressed the project's artistic value. The report made "use of all journalistic possibilities provided by the Internet," the laudation said.
German winner Uwe H. Martin was equally praised for his multi-medial, multi-layered and innovative report White Gold. Martin examined the global cotton manufacturing industry that destroys the lives of many farmers.
Winners from the Eastern Europe/Central Asia and Middle East regions were praised for their courage to research and publish their findings. Volha Malafeyechava from Belarus wrote the story of a gay man in a country where homophobic attitudes are all too common. Hanan Khandahji reported on abuse of children and youths in institutions for the disabled in Jordan and named those responsible for the crimes.
Empathy and distance
Both awardees from Asia and Africa were praised for their ability to manage the fine line of empathy and analytical distance. Gujan Sharma from India exposed the shocking state of India's government-run mental hospitals; Wade Williams from Liberia reports on the crushing poverty in her home country.
"As a journalist, you have a pen, and a pen can give a voice to those who need it," Williams said when asked about her role as a journalist.
Internet users chose the winner of the People's Choice Award for African press photography via an online poll - the prize goes to Oluyinka Ezekiel Adeparusi from Nigeria. His photo shows children in the floating slum of Makoko paddling home from school.