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WAZ-IFJ Prize for Courage in Journalism Goes to a Team of Hungarian Authors

December 7, 2010

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 Šlabek (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 Šlabek 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 the 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 Šlabek for a series of articles. In his reports, which were published in the daily newspaper "Večernji 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 Šlabek exposed a money laundering scandal. The corporate managers had made money out of the transactions and politicians were also involved. Hrvoje Šlabek 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 Šlabek started working for "Večernji list" in 2000 as free lance stringer for local topics from Koprivnica and Koprivnica-Križevci 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 "Večernji list" office in Koprivnica, also taking responsibility for the regionalisation of the Croatian daily. Hrvoje Šlabek 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.

The WAZ Media Group, based in Essen, is one of the largest European media groups. 29 daily and 19 weekly newspapers, 186 special-interest and trade magazines, 99 advertising papers and 400 customer magazines belong to the group. In Germany, the group publishes 10 daily newspapers in North Rhine Westphalia, Thuringia and Lower Saxony. The four NRW titles ‘Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung' (WAZ), ‘Westfälische Rundschau' (WR), ‘Neue Ruhr / Neue Rhein Zeitung' (NRZ) and ‘Westfalenpost' (WP) have a circulation of nearly 950 000. The advertising papers of WVW/ORA are market leaders in Germany and Europe and have a weekly circulation of more than 5 million in NRW alone. The WAZ Media Group, which has 17.000 employees, has majority holdings in eleven local radio broadcasting companies in North Rhine Westphalia and runs the largest regional Internet portal,, in Germany. In the TV market, the WAZ Media Group has a holding in the German NRW.TV and the Albanian TV-Station ‘Vizion+'. In the magazine sector, the WAZ Group owns, among others, the Munich-based publishing house ‘Gong Verlag' (‘Gong', ‘TV direkt'), the publishing house ‘WAZ-Women Group' (‘Neue Welt', ‘Frau im Spiegel') and numerous special interest magazines. Outside of Germany, the WAZ Media Group is active in the Austrian newspaper market (‘Kronen Zeitung', ‘Kurier'), and in Albania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia, Russia and in Serbia. The group also owns 14 printing works in Germany and abroad.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is the world's largest organisation of journalists. First established in 1926, today the Federation represents around 600.000 members in more than 100 countries. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), is the regional organisation of the IFJ in Europe and it ist the largest organisation of journalists on the continent, representing about 260.000 journalists in over thirty countries. The IFJ and EFJ promote international action to defend press freedom and social justice through strong, free and independent organisations of journalists; foster trade unions to maintain or create environments in which quality media, ethical and independant journalism can be, become or return to be a reality.

For more information contact:
International Federation of Journalists
Phone: 32-2-235 22 00

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