The accounts of wealthy individuals and/or companies – released after an anonymous source known as “John Doe” contacted the German journalists at the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung – revealed mountains of information about wealthy individuals and corporations that dated back to the 1970s.
Some accounts related to high-profile individuals from well-known walks of life – from entertainment to sports – while others related to little-known individuals or entities. Two politicians who found themselves under the media spotlight with the avalanche of revelations were then British prime minister David Cameron and his Icelandic counterpart Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson.
The German newspaper contacted the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and asked for help analysing the data. The ICIJ’s journalists and partners in mainstream media organisations spent a year sifting through, cross-referencing and verifying the information they had obtained.
In April of this year the 101st Pulitzer Prize, awarded by Columbia University in the USA, announced that the Panama Papers investigation had won in the category of Explanatory Reporting.
It said the Pulitzer Prize Board lauded the year-long data journalism investigation for “using a collaboration of more than 300 reporters on six continents to expose the hidden infrastructure and global scale of offshore tax havens.”
Within ten days of the American Pulitzer data journalism accolade on the other side of the Atlantic, the European Press Prize (EPP) Ceremony in Amsterdam on April 20th scooped the media with its Investigative Reporting Award. Widely expected to go to the international consortium of journalists and the high-profile financial scandal the 2017 award went to the Centre for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS).
The CINS was awarded for a series of articles on the treatment of corruption in Serbia and an article on the links between football, politics and crime.
The EPP judges, chaired by Sir Harold Evans, the veteran Welsh journalist who pioneered investigative news stories with his Insight team in the British broadsheet newspaper the Sunday Times in the 1960s and 1970s, said of CINS:
These revelations fulfil the most basic promise of investigative journalists to their readers: they lift the curtains of corruption and let the light shine in.
The EPP judges said:
There was open admiration for the unflagging work and range of investigations mounted by CIN journalists in Serbia – stories that exposed corruption charges framed and then forgotten; cases allowed to sink into the sands of time; a judiciary vulnerable to all manner of official and unofficial pressure; indeed, a legal system that promise justice but too often fails to deliver it.
These are revelations of the utmost importance to Serbian society. They fulfil the most basic promise of investigative journalists to their readers: they lift the curtains of corruption and let the light shine in.
CINS editor-in-chief Dino Jahić said:
We are a team and we did the entire investigation as a team. We did not expect to win the award – it is a great privilege to be nominated in this group of superb journalists and stories – and to win the award is incredible, especially when people in Serbia are now protesting in the streets for media freedom and unbiased journalism. We see this award as a great incentive for our future work and recognition of what we did so far.
Other innovative and mainstream media nominations for the EPP award include: http://www.europeanpressprize.com/jury-report-won-stood/
The Washington-based ICIJ’s director, Gerald Ryle, said of the USA award: “This honour is a testament to the enterprise and teamwork of our staff and our partners here in the United States and around the world.
We’re honoured that the Pulitzer Board recognised the ground-breaking revelations and worldwide impact that the Panama Papers collaboration produced.
Pulitzer chose a big data international financial story. The EPP chose a small Serbian team working on a shoestring budget highlighting issues of corruption in their home country.
Author: Mary O’Carroll