Honour for Tongam Rina

Tongam Rina from India, Jörg Armbruster and Martin Durm from Germany as well as Brigitte Alfter and Ides Debruyne from Denmark and Belgium are laureates of the “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media” 2013

The “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media” 2013 goes to the Indian journalist Tongam Rina, to Brigitte Alfter and Ides Debruyne, the initiators of the “European Fund for Investigative Journalism” and to German journalists Jörg Armbruster, correspondent of the German broadcast station ARD for the Near and Middle East until 2012, and Martin Durm, radio reporter of the German broadcast station SWR. With the prize, the foundation honours five individuals, who bravely und courageously show commitment to the freedom of press. The prize, which is endowed with 30.000 Euros, will personally be awarded to the laureates on October 8, 2012 in Leipzig.

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“This year, the Media Foundation honours the journalists Tongam Rina, Jörg Armbruster and Martin Durm. All three of them are committed to an independent journalism even under a very strong personal commitment – Rina in her home country India, Armbruster and Durm as German correspondents in Syria. The everyday life of this year’s laureates reflects the whole spectrum of mechanisms threatening the freedom and future of the media. At the same time, the jury wants to honour two people, who are committed to the institutional support of investigative journalism for years – Brigitte Alfter and Ides Debruyne. They help to give investigative journalism a future, which is crucial to an open and pluralistic society, even in time of a media crisis“, said Stephan Seeger, managing director of the Media Foundation, explaining the motives of the jury for this year’s choice.

In Indian public, among international observers and local colleagues, Tongam Rina (born in 1979) has an excellent reputation, which is based on her journalistic work and her personal integrity. Although the freedom of press in India is guaranteed by the constitution, the example of Tongam Rina shows the acute endangering of critical journalists in the country.As reporter of the Arunachal Times in the federal state of Arunachal Pradesh, she reports about corruption within local authorities in connection with the distribution of food, the questionable construction of dams, environmental scandals, military operations of extremist organisation NSCN and the situation of Indian women.

On 15 July 2012, Tongam Rina was gunned down and seriously injured in front of the editorial office of the newspaper. It is believed that the attempted murder is connected to Rina’s journalistic work. So far three people have been arrested, while the alleged mastermind is on the run. Previously there had been violent attacks and threats against employees of the newspaper.

Currently, Tongam Rina is a guest of the “Hamburger Stiftung für politisch Verfolgte“ (“Hamburg Foundation for Politically Persecuted People”). She wants to investigate further on from Germany. This steadfastness – as well as her former work as president of the journalists’ union in Arunachal Pradesh – makes her a model for young journalists in India.

Jörg Armbruster (born in 1947), correspondent of ARD television, and Martin Durm (born in 1959), radio reporter of SWR radio, have taken the risk to report independently and authentic from the suffering of the people in the civil war-torn country of Syria, which is supposedly one of the most dangerous countries for journalists beside Somalia. The work of both journalists cannot be assessed high enough, because the majority of pictures from Syria are dubious and second hand, which can also be manipulated.

In March 2013, during a joint research trip for a documentary, both journalists were ambushed in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo. Armbruster was seriously injured. “Reporting or not when risking your life? This dilemma of reporting from crisis zones is indissoluble,” stated the NDR television station in a post of “Zapp” TV-magazine in July 2012. On the one hand, the society needs reliable information and pictures from the Syrian civil war. On the other hand, reporters should protect themselves as much as possible.

From 1999 to 2005 and again from 2010 on, Jörg Armbruster was correspondent of the German television ARD and head of studio in Cairo. From 2012 on his focus laid on the reporting from Egypt and Syria. After his injury, he is on the mend. From 1991, Martin Durm reported from the ARD studio in Cairo. Between 1996 and 2001 he was a radio reporter of the ARD. Between 2006 and 2011 he worked as a correspondent at the ARD studio in Strasbourg. For their reporting, Jörg Armbruster and Martin Durm receive the prize as a team.

Journalists Brigitte Alfter (Denmark, born in 1966) and Ides Debruyne (Belgium, born in 1966) are initiators of the “Journalismfund.eu“. The organisation, which was founded in 2008, promotes European, collaborative research journalism through scholarships and supports the “European Data Harvest Conference“ for data and research journalism. Alfter and Debruyne recognized the need for thorough research on European issues without being impeded by national borders. The scholarships of the organisation allow journalists to work together in multinational research teams. Examples of transnational issues are trafficking, abuse of EU funds or illegal arms trafficking.

A prime example of the role of “Journalismfund.eu” is the Latvian-Irish report on the “Latvian brides”, where journalists revealed forced marriages between Latvian women and Asian men. Young, often poor Latvian women were lured to Ireland with job offers. There, they were forced to marry Asian men. They are often detained under degrading conditions until the “husbands” get their residence permit. The publication of the scandal led to legislative initiatives in both countries.
Brigitte Alfter was Brussels correspondent for the Danish newspaper Dagbladet Informationand founding member of the Danish Scoop project for the promotion of investigative journalism, especially in Eastern Europe. Ides Debruyne is the Managing Director of “Journalismfund.eu” and teaches journalism at the University of Ghent.

Since 2001, the Media Foundation awards its “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media” to journalists, publishers and institutions who show a strong personal commitment to the freedom and future of the media. The prize is also intended to keep alive the memory of the Peaceful Revolution of October 9, 1989 in Leipzig, when protesters demanded “a free press for a free country.”