The independent network of journalists ARIJ has won the 2018 award for courageous reporting. The prize comes as the recent disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has underlined the job's dangers.
“We have chosen Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) because it is committed to informing the public and raising transparency in an increasingly difficult environment, often operating at risk to the journalists’ lives," said the jury of the Friedrich-Naumann Foundation for Freedom Wednesday of its decision to bestow its award for courageous journalists on the group.
The jury statement described the ARIJ, an independent association of journalists active across the Middle East, as "a beacon of light in a darkening world."
"Networks like ARIJ are a role model for journalists throughout the region," it added. "Journalists who collaborate, cooperate on investigations, offer each other mutual support and publish collectively are stronger together than alone and can achieve more."
Passion and courage
The ARIJ was founded in 2005 in Amman, Jordan, with the goal of promoting investigative journalism in the region — the first organization of its kind.
The network supports journalists and their projects, including print, radio, TV and online work, in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Bahrain, the Palestinian territories, Yemen and Tunisia.
The ARIJ's cooperative network provides investigative research on delicate topics, such as scandals in Jordanian orphanages or the misuse of funds in school-building projects in Iraq.
ARIJ also supported German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung in its investigation into offshore accounts and high-level tax evasion, which became known as The Panama Papers.
German TV news journalist and the co-founder of the award, Constantin Schreiber, praised the jury for its decision:
"Peace needs freedom and freedom needs independent journalism. Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism is making an important contribution to establishing independent journalism in the Arab world," he said, calling the work of the ARIJ "brave, inspired by passion, and highly deserving" of the award.
Raif Badawi: Imprisoned since 2014
The journalism award pays tribute to the Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years of prison for his texts criticizing Islam.
Previous winners of the Raif Badawi Award include Moroccan journalist Ali Anouzla (2015), the reporters of the women-runDange NWE refugee radio in the Iraqi city of Halabja (2016) and the Turkish investigative journalist Ahmet Sik (2017).
Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, who fled Saudi Arabia with her three children after her husband's arrest and now lives in Canada, took part in the award ceremony at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Saudi reporters still in danger
Badawi's case is not isolated in Saudi Arabia. The organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in a statement on Wednesday that since September last year, more than 15 journalists and bloggers have been arrested in Saudi Arabia. "In most cases, their arrests have never been officially confirmed, and no official has ever said where they are being held or what they are charged with," said RSF.
The statement came in reaction to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.The critic of the Saudi government, who had been living in self-imposed exile, went missing a week ago after walking into to his country's consulate in Istanbul to obtain some documents.
cmb/eg (epd, dpa)