NNA - On 5 June 2023, the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon and the Samir Kassir Foundation, announced the results of the 18th edition of the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press, in a ceremony held at the Sursock Palace Gardens, in Beirut. 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.
The civic space in the region continues to shrink, with many journalists facing threats of arbitrary detention and politicized legal actions. These developments are taking place amid global concerns around information manipulation and the role of the media in providing accurate and reliable information to the public. The Samir Kassir Award reaffirms the European Union’s commitment to supporting independent, in-depth journalism as a fundamental contribution to 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, 242 journalists participated in the competition from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. 81 candidates competed in the Opinion Piece category, 110 in the Investigative Article category, and 54 in the Audiovisual News Report category. The winner in each of the three categories is awarded a prize of €10,000. Each of the short-listed finalists per category receive a €1,000 prize.
The winners of the 2023 Samir Kassir Award are:
- Opinion Piece category: Inas Hakky (born in 1983), from Syria, for her article entitled “An open letter to Jackie Chan” published on 25 July 2022 in Raseef22. This article uses an innovative format in response to actor Jackie Chan’s intended visit to Syria for filming purposes and highlights the grim reality in many of the country’s regions that have been destroyed by years of conflict.
- Investigative Article category: Mahmoud Al-Sobky (born in 1984), from Egypt, for his investigation entitled “Migration with look-alike passports” published on 6 July 2022 on Al Jazeera’s website. This report dives in the murky waters of smugglers, illegal migration, and the black mart of European travel documents.
- Audio-visual News Report category: Mohamad Chreyteh (born in 1987), from Lebanon, for his report entitled “Lebanese drag queens brave social, and political pressure” aired on Deutsche Welle Arabic on 9 December 2022. The report focuses on the challenges faced by Lebanon’s LGBTIQ+ community amid growing governmental and religious restrictions of their freedom of movement and association.
The Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon, Ralph Tarraf, said: “While the Samir Kassir Award is about the freedom of the press in particular, I believe it has become the right platform to defend freedoms in general. This is especially true when you look at the hundreds of submissions the Samir Kassir Foundation receives every year, and the topics that they address. I would like congratulate the finalists for making it to this stage of the competition. Thank you for being the voices of millions of people in this region.”
Gisèle Khoury, President of the Samir Kassir Foundation, emphasized that “freedom, the rule of law, and modernity are the three core values that Samir Kassir and the Award that carries his name have defended. These values are today under attack in the region.” Adding, “we have to safeguard journalism, whatever the challenges, because a free press reflects the true face and role of Lebanon in the region, and this is the mission that the Samir Kassir Foundation is pursuing on a daily basis.”
An independent seven-member jury from the Arab League and European Union member states selected the winners. This year’s jury gathered Madi Al-Khamees (Kuwait), Secretary General of the Arab Media Forum;Monika Lengauer (Germany), lecturer at the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism, Technical University Dortmund; Patrick Leusch (Belgium), Managing Director of the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum; Afrah Nasser (Yemen), award-winning journalist and non-resident fellow at the Arab Center, Washington, D.C.; Nayla Razzouk (Lebanon), Managing Editor, Middle East and North Africa at Bloomberg News and Samir Kassir Foundation’s representative in the jury; Eduardo Suárez (Spain), Head of Editorial at the Reuters Institute – University of Oxford; and Asaad Al-Zalzalee (Iraq), Investigative journalist and winner of the Samir Kassir Award in 2017 and 2018.
For the fourth time, the Award included the Students’ Prize, which allowed 18 students from Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, 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 Inas Hakky for her article entitled “An open letter to Jackie Chan”.