Date: Jun 1, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Arab journalists take home Samir Kassir prizes
Pernille Solheim| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The 13th annual ceremony for the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press took place at Beirut’s Sursock Palace Gardens Thursday to honor courageous journalists from the Middle East and North Africa. Organized by the Samir Kassir Foundation and its president Gisele Khoury Kassir in collaboration with the European Union, the award aims to encourage critical journalism at a time when freedom of expression is increasingly at risk.

“This is an occasion for us to mark every year, that we have to remember to work everyday to protect freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” EU Ambassador to Lebanon Christina Lassen told The Daily Star at the ceremony.

Citing recent reports by Reporters Without Borders on the industry, she noted today’s journalists are increasingly under pressure, “sadly, most of all so in this region, in the Middle East and North Africa.”

The jury, consisting of seven individuals from Arab and European media and civil society, assessed the work of 193 journalists from 12 different countries, considering the quality of work as well as the journalists’ commitment to human rights and democracy. The jury named the three winners Thursday.

Algerian Miloud Yabrir, physician, award-winning author and journalist, won the best opinion piece award for his bold and poetic story “A seat in the dark: The Algerian political system, born in a cinema hall,” which compares the political situation of Algeria to a cinematic experience.

“I would like to offer this award to my country,” an emotional Yabrir told the crowd gathered in the garden upon receiving the award.

The award of best investigative article was given to Asmaa Shalaby of the Egyptian outlet Al-Youm al-Sabea. Her article, “Women of Fayoum: Tragedies of early marriage, rape and harassment,” is a powerful narrative of the reality of working women in rural Egypt.

Iraq’s Asaad al-Zalzalee went home with the final award of the night for the best audiovisual news report – the only category that included a Lebanese finalist, journalist and filmmaker Mohamad Chreyteh. Zalzalee won for his report “Children of Daesh.”

The winner of each category receives a prize of 10,000 euros ($11,700). But more importantly, the awards give the opportunity for stories to reach a global audience.

“We want to have this prize to focus on the issue [of freedom of the press], but also to create an opportunity for all these talented journalists from all over the region to come out and show their work,” Lassen said after the ceremony.

The Samir Kassir Foundation was set up in the wake of the eponymous Lebanese journalist’s assassination in 2005, and seeks to encourage and protect journalists in what it describes as “the world’s most constraining region for press freedom.”

Kassir, now a symbol of free-thinking and critical journalism, remains an inspiration for many journalists. The foundation’s president, Gisele Khoury Kassir, says the journalist’s legacy is just as relevant now as it has ever been.

“Samir Kassir has inspired a lot of people, even the young.

“Some of [the finalists] here today were about 10 or 15 years [old] when he died, but he’s still alive in their minds,” she told The Daily Star.