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SKeyes Statements | Lebanon

June 2, 2017

The European Union rewards three journalists from Syria, Egypt and Iraq, winners of the 2017 edition  

The Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon organised today 2nd June the annual ceremony for the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press, on the occasion of the 12th anniversary of Samir Kassir’s assassination. The ceremony was held in collaboration with the Samir Kassir Foundation. 

The winners of the 2017 edition are: 

- Opinion piece category: Issa Ali Khodr from Syria, born in 1993, who is often featured in Hentah magazine, Al-Modon and Al-Joumhouria newspapers. His piece entitled “When do you wish to slaughter me?” was published in Al-Joumhouria on 14 July 2016 and describes the last weeks of a prisoner in the death rows of an ISIS prison in Al-Bab, northern Syria.

- Investigative article category: Ghada El-Sharif from Egypt, born in 1981, an editor and investigative journalist at Al-Masry Al-Youm daily. She supervises the pages dedicated to political Islam and women’s affairs. Her report entitled “The secret world of sex trafficking in Egypt” was published in Al-Masry Al-Youm on 18 December 2016. It is an undercover immersion in the world of marriages for money still prevailing in several Egyptian villages.

- Audiovisual news report category: Asaad Zalzali from Iraq, born in 1984, general manager of Maraya Media news agency. His seven-minute news report entitled “Project No1” was aired on Deutsche Welle Arabic on 11 January 2017. It unveils a major corruption scandal in Iraq that deprived the country from much needed school construction projects because of nepotism, rogue bankers and unaccountable politicians.

The Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press 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. Organised every year since 2006, the Samir Kassir Award honours the memory of the Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir who was assassinated on 2 June 2005 in Beirut. The competition is open to journalists from the countries of North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf. This year, the 191 applications that were received bring the total of participants since the creation of the award to more than 1,900. The prize awarded in each of the three categories is of €10,000. 

The Head of the Delegation of the European Union, Ambassador Christina Lassen, underlined: "In the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf, many journalists and media suffer from the intimidating effects of harassment, threats, and attacks, particularly regarding critical coverage of government actions." "But the picture is not only dire in the Middle East. In the last few years, we see an upsurge in independent and critical media where journalists use on-line media, blogs and websites to promote a new form of journalism. This is the kind of journalism that we encourage and promote," she added. 

Gisèle Khoury, President of the Samir Kassir Foundation, emphasised that "freedoms are violated every day. The press is paying the price of political disputes in the region. Under the pretext of security and fighting terrorism, the media is being attacked, website are getting blocked, and journalists are arrested. Journalists are also being arbitrarily dismissed from Arab media outlets without clear and transparent criteria. Recently, cases related to freedom of thoughts have been prosecuted by military courts." She added: "Those of you who will check the works submitted by the candidates for the Samir Kassir Award will be amazed by what is written or shown. From Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, fascinating and moving reports. Young journalists who want to uncover the truth and defend fellow Arab citizens."

As in previous years, an independent jury selected the winners. It comprised seven media professionals from Europe and the Middle East: Yassir Mani Benchelah (Algeria), award-winning photojournalist and filmmaker; Martin Chulov (Australia), Middle East correspondent for The Guardian; Mark Daou (Lebanon), strategic communication expert and lecturer at the American University of Beirut; Alfred Hackensberger (Germany), North Africa and Arab countries correspondent for Die Welt; Michel Hajji Georgiou (Lebanon), columnist at L’Orient-Le Jour; Amina Khairy (Egypt), journalist at Al-Hayat; and Isabelle Lasserre (France), associate editor in chief of Le Figaro.

The ceremony was hosted by journalist Diana Moukalled, a columnist and TV producer.

All information about the 2017 edition of the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press, the winning articles and audiovisual report, as well as biographies, articles and reports of all previous winners since 2006, are available on the website


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