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WAZ-IFJ Prize for Courage in Journalism goes to team of Hungarian authors

József Gelei (left) and László Murányi from Hungary
József Gelei (left) and László Murányi from Hungary

(IFJ/IFEX) - Essen/Brussels, 30 November 2010 - The WAZ Media Group and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) will present the team of Hungarian authors József Gelei (50) and László Murányi (54) the "WAZ-IFJ Prize for Courage in Journalism 2010". The sponsors will award Croatian journalist Hrvoje Slabek (38) with a second place distinction. The jury had decided to split the prize, which was announced for the second time this year.

With the award the WAZ Group and IFJ reward reportage which exemplarily demonstrates the control of power through independent media, reveals corruption and/or abuse of power and has thereby proven exemplary courage and professionalism in the face of intimidation and pressure. The so-called "Courage Prize" is endowed with a total of 10,000 euros. József Gelei and László Murányi will receive 7,000 euros, while Hrvoje Slabek will receive 3,000 euros in prize money.

The international jury is distinguishing József Gelei and László Murányi for their article series "Slavers of Modern Times", which was published in the Hungarian regional newspaper "Új Néplap" (Axel Springer AG). In poignant reports the team of authors describes the suffering of people who have fallen victim to a form of "modern slavery" in Hungary. This is what József Gelei and László Murányi call the phenomenon which they have been tracking for over a year. They are involved with exposing contexts which subject people to dependency on criminals. The authors describe how homeless and destitute people in Hungary fall into social slavery via extortionate loans and housing offers based on mafia-like real estate transactions, and are themselves ultimately enmeshed in criminal machinations. Asking the police for help is simply impossible for the victims.

"In a series of well-crafted, sensitive interviews the journalists give voice to the human drama of the victims of a system of exploitation that is a scar on the face of European society. It is a tale worth telling well beyond the borders of Hungary and adds much to our understanding of the social reality faced by thousands of the most vulnerable people in Europe," says the jury while justifying their decision for the WAZ-IFJ prize.

Award recipient József Gelei has been working as a journalist for "Új Néplap" since 1990. Since 2003 he has also been vice-chairman of the Hungarian Sports Journalists Association, which awarded him the "International Day of Sports Journalists Award" this year. László Murányi has been employed as a journalist since 1985. He founded one of the first alternative political weekly newspapers in Hungary, and later worked for various local and regional newspapers. Since 2009 he had been a member of the "Új Néplap" editorial team.

The jury also awarded the Croatian Hrvoje Slabek for a series of articles. In his reports, which were published in the daily newspaper "Vecernji list" (Styria Media Group), he exposed the so-called "Podravka Affair". When it became known in the summer of 2009 that the Croatian food corporation Podravka incurred losses totalling in the millions, Hrvoje Slabek exposed a money laundering scandal. The corporate managers had made money out of the transactions and politicians were also involved. Hrvoje Slabek was vehemently threatened after his publications.

"It was quality journalism, and contains elements any journalists would be proud of - detailed research, coherent and stylish presentation, all of it delivering a complex story in an accessible manner. These stories are not only a master-class in good reporting; they illustrate how journalism as a public good is not just an idle phrase. They had an immediate impact upon publication," says the jury in their justification.

Hrvoje Slabek started working for "Vecernji list" in 2000 as a free lance stringer for local topics from Koprivnica and Koprivnica-Krizevci County. Soon he started to cover political and social issues, economy and "black chronic", as crime issues are called in Croatian media language. In 2004 he was appointed as a bureau chief of the "Vecernji list" office in Koprivnica, also taking responsibility for the regionalisation of the Croatian daily. Hrvoje Slabek was nominated for the 2009 Journalist of the Year award of the Croatian Journalist Association.

The "WAZ-IFJ Prize for Courage in Journalism" will be awarded during the 4th South East Europe Media Forum. High-ranking media representatives from the southeast European region will meet in the Hungarian capital Budapest on 2 and 3 December in order to discuss the conference topic "Access to Information - Sources for Investigative Journalism". The media forum is annually organised by the WAZ Media Group together with the Southeast European Media Programme of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) and the journalists' federation SEEMO (South East Europe Media Organisation).

The WAZ Group and IFJ announced the "Prize for Courage in Journalism" for the first time last year. Among those able to contend for the prize are print media and online journalists or editorial staff from countries in west, central and southeast Europe in which the WAZ Media Group is journalistically active: Albania, Bulgaria, Germany, Croatia, Macedonia, Austria, Serbia and Hungary. Texts as well as editorial campaigns may be submitted.

An international jury made the final selection: Ognian Zlatev, managing director of the Bulgarian Media Development Centre, Hans Leyendecker, editor in chief of "Süddeutsche Zeitung" newspaper, Ivan Lipovecz, former editor in chief of the Hungarian economics magazine "HVG", Paul-Josef Raue, editor in chief of the "Thüringer Allgemeine" newspaper, and the Croatian journalism lecturer Gordana Vilovic.

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