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Press freedom gives voice to our rights

For many big and small decisions in life at individual and family level, such as what to study, where to live and who to vote for, we rely on information. We seek out information also as members of a family and a community, such as what local or international events may affect our safety and security today, what policies are there to protect the most vulnerable, or which new developments will reach the community and bring new jobs and opportunities. When we are looking for information we expect it to be easily accessible, timely, accurate and useful, because this is helpful to us. The same stands for the press and media which we rely on.  

And this is only possible if the press is free.


This year we mark the 15th anniversary of the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press. This is an award we are very proud of. After many years, it continues to be one of the best expressions of some of the values of the European Union and signals our strong commitment to defending independent media and for the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, including press freedom and pluralism.


In many countries across the world, through cooperation programmes and political dialogue, the EU supports the promotion of laws and practices to ensure freedom of expression and press freedom, and programmes for capacity development of journalists, bloggers and other actors engaged in online and offline media.


For the press to be free it means reporters must be able to do their job and media outlets operate without repression, manipulation, influence, threat or attack. The European Union is committed to combating violence, persecution, harassment and intimidation of individuals, including journalists and other media actors, and combating impunity for such crimes.


We look forward to the submissions of opinion and investigative reporting articles, as well as audiovisual reports from the many brave women and men in the region who have been investigating and speaking out on democracy, human rights, good governance and civic engagement in the eighteen countries in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf that are covered by the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press.

Ralph Tarraf

Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon 

Samir Kassir

His professional and intellectual life

Samir Kassir was born on May 4, 1960, to a Lebanese-Palestinian father and a Lebanese-Syrian mother. He grew up in the Ashrafieh neighborhood of Beirut and studied at the Lycée Français. In 1981, six years after the beginning of the Lebanese war, he moved to Paris to pursue his higher studies. In 1984, he received his Master's degree in political philosophy from the Sorbonne (Université Paris I) and 1990, his PhD in contemporary history from Université Paris IV.

During the years he spent in Paris, he published a number of articles in the Al-Hayat and L'Orient-Le Jour newspapers. He also wrote for Le Monde Diplomatique and had regular contributions to The Seventh Day and the French edition of the Journal of Palestinian Studies.


In 1992, in collaboration with his friend, the Syrian historian and publisher Farouk Mardam Bey, he published "Itineraries from Paris to Jerusalem", a French book in two volumes, describing the French policy in the Arab Levant, especially in regards to the Palestinian Nakba and the Arab-Israeli conflict. A year after, he returned to Beirut to teach at Université Saint-Joseph's political science institute and join the An-Nahar newspaper as an op-ed writer and the director of the paper's publishing house.


In 1994, Samir published his second book in French "The Lebanon War", based on his doctoral thesis, and analyzing the dynamics of the conflict as well as the intricate relations of internal and foreign factors during the 1975-1982 period. This book was translated to Arabic in 2008.


In 1995, Samir starts a monthly magazine "L'Orient-Express", which rapidly became the most prestigious cultural periodical in Lebanon. The publication was interrupted in 1998 for financial reasons. In parallel, he founded "Al-Layali", a publication house that released several books of articles initially published in "L'Orient-Express", as well as catalogues of old colonial advertisements for Mediterranean cities and Egyptian movies from the 1960s and 1970s.


Samir Kassir's articles and op-eds in An-Nahar in the late 1990s and early 2000s are still viewed as the boldest writings against the Syrian hegemony in Lebanon, the rule of former President Emile Lahoud, and the political role of security apparatuses. These articles pushed General Jamil Sayed, the former director general of the General Security, to threaten Kassir, get him chased, and confiscate his passport at the Beirut International Airport in April 2001, before returning it to him after the subsequent political and cultural outcry.


In 2003, Samir published his third book in French "History of Beirut" (translated to Arabic in 2007 and to English – titled "Beirut" – in 2011). The book describes the capital's history, families, culture, economy, as well as its urban and social development, and its relations with other Lebanese regions, Arab and Mediterranean cities. After his book, a cornerstone of his intellectual life, Samir published in 2004 two books in Arabic: "Democracy in Syria and Lebanon's Independence" and "Askar Ala Meen", comprised of a series of Articles he had published in An-Nahar. The first book focused on the link between the democratic transition in Syria and Lebanon's independence, while the second highlighted the contradiction between the principles of liberty and republican values on the one hand, and the political role of security apparatuses on the other.


Samir published another book in French "Considérations sur le malheur arabe" (English title: "Being Arab"), which was later translated to a dozen languages. The book analyses the reasons for the aborted Arab renaissance in the late 19th century, refutes the simplistic assessments condemning Arabs to an eternal decline, and points out to the geographical, rather than historical, reasons for Arab populations' current misfortune.

His political journey

In the beginning of 2003, Samir Kassir played a role in the foundation of the Democratic Left Movement (DLM). In October 2004, he was elected as member of the Movement's executive bureau, during DLM's inaugural congress. His writings greatly inspired DLM's discourse regarding Lebanon's independence vis-à-vis the Syrian Baath Party's hegemonic role, pacific transitions, secularism, social justice, state building, and rule of law.

After the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005, Samir Kassir actively participated in the launch of the wide popular uprising against the Syrian security apparatuses' stranglehold on Lebanon. He gave the uprising its title "The Independence Intifada", to highlight its patriotic, pro-independence nature, and echo the 1987 Palestinian Intifada against the Israeli occupation. His articles in An-Nahar became the Independence Intifada's clearest and loudest voice. He was constantly present on Martyrs' Square, discussing ideas and proposals to succeed in the recovery of the country's sovereignty and freedom, with politicians, journalists, and students.

Samir Kassir was undoubtedly the first to warn that the Independence Intifada will not be able to sustain its momentum, in the absence of a political platform calling for political and economic reform, laying the foundation of a non-sectarian system, and allowing for a genuine political reconciliation, after the Syrian army's withdrawal from Lebanon. He also was the first to call for an "Intifada within the Intifada" to keep the popular momentum alive, restore the nobility of politics and clarity of stances. In parallel, Samir Kassir opposed all forms of Lebanese racism toward the Syrian people in general, and constantly called upon the Lebanese people in his articles and in his speeches on Martyrs' Square, no to mix up the Syrian regime and its intelligence service controlling Lebanon and Syria, on the one hand, with the Syrian people, workers, and intellectuals, on the other.

The Samir Kassir Foundation

Samir Kassir was assassinated on June 2, 2005, in Beirut, when a bomb placed under his car was detonated. The tragic death of this journalist and writer was one of many attempts to silence Lebanese free thinkers, put an end to the Independence Intifada, and prevent Beirut's winds of liberty from spreading across the region. Samir Kassir, who wrote Beirut's history, has therefore become a part of this history.

 

The model of intellectual renaissance embodied by Samir Kassir during his life and at the moment of his death, through his articles and academic research, has placed him at the avant-garde of Lebanese and Arab opinion leaders who have paid their life to fight tyranny and lead their country to freedom and independence.

 

Committed to Samir Kassir's values and aspirations, and believing in the need to renew the Arab culture through freedom of expression, several intellectuals and friends of Samir Kassir established the Samir Kassir Foundation, officially incorporated in Beirut under registry number 30/A.D., dated February 1, 2006.

 

The Samir Kassir Foundation is a non-profit civic organization, working within the civil society and cultural circles to spread the democratic culture in Lebanon and the Arab world, encourage the new talents of free press, and build the movement for a cultural, democratic, and secular renewal. These are the conditions to lift the Arab populations out of their state of despair.

The Samir Kassir Foundation's mission is built around three pillars:

  • The first pillar: preserving, translating, and spreading Samir Kassir's literary, academic, and journalistic heritage.
  • The second pillar: promoting cultural freedom and free thought, through conferences, specialized seminars, and an annual art festival providing all social categories with access to international cultural expression.
  • The third pillar: defending press freedom, through monitoring and documenting violations perpetrated against journalists and media professionals, and awarding prizes to young journalists.


The Foundation's actions are not limited to the three aforementioned pillars. The Foundation is involved in all what honors Samir Kassir's memory, and contributes to the fulfillment of his thrive for freedom and renaissance. These were the two aspirations to which Samir Kassir dedicated his life.

History

The history of the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press dates back to 2005 when the European Commission first announced on 7 October 2005, the establishment of this European Union Award during a press conference held in Beirut.

 

“It is time to realise and to admit that freedom of expression is neither just a detail in countries’ cooperation with Europe nor an option for dialogue. It is an inalienable right, a non-negotiable principle.” With these words, the then-Head of the European Commission Union to Lebanon, Ambassador Patric Renauld, highlighted the raison d’être of this prize. The Samir Kassir Award was established by the European Union to reward journalists from countries in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf invested in covering issues related to human rights, good governance, rule of law, the fight against corruption, freedom of expression, democratic development, and citizen participation.

 

This European Union initiative from the very beginning was embraced and supported by friends of Samir Kassir  who, on 1 February 2006, launched the Samir Kassir Foundation. The award  aims to “legitimise freedom of thought and encourage freedom of the press in countries that have committed to the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, in order to assert their rejection of violence, intimidation, threats and recurring and consistent attempts to curtain freedom of expression.”

 

The first Award ceremony was held on 2 June 2006, on the first anniversary of Samir Kassir’s assassination. During that first edition, two journalists received the prize. In 2007 and 2008, the Samir Kassir Award was divided into two categories: best article and best master’s thesis. Over the years, the award evolved and from 2009 to 2012, it focused exclusively on print journalism, particularly best opinion article and best investigative article. In 2013, a third category was added: best audiovisual news report.


Since the first award ceremony was held in 2006, the Award was conferred 35 times, recognizing the work of 33 journalists and researchers, comprised of 20 men and 13 women. The winners have included journalists who are living in exile and others who undertake their work at great personal cost, facing risks of persecution and threats to their freedom of expression and their life.

 

Two journalists won the prize twice: Lebanese journalist Habib Battah in 2006 and 2011 and Iraqi journalist Asaad Zalzali in 2017 and 2018. The Award went 11 times to Egyptian winners, 6 times to Lebanese and Syrian winners, 3 times to Palestinian winners, twice to Iraqi and Moroccan winners, and once to Libyan, Jordanian, Tunisian, and Algerian winners.

Every year the Award jury is composed by seven different people of different nationalities and backgrounds. Four members of the jury originate from the Arab world and three from European Union Member States. Members of the jury among others have included journalists, media professionals, human rights investigators and experts, researchers, civil society and former government representatives recognized for their contribution to advancing human rights causes.

 

The Award has since become the most prestigious journalism award in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf region and is recognized globally as one of the top journalism awards.

 

Members of the Jury:

 

2006: Hassan Balawi (Palestine), Richard Bteich (Germany), Ariane Bonzon (France), Walid Choucair (Lebanon), Perilhou Henri (France), Elias Khoury (Lebanon), Henri Mamarbachi (Lebanon), Fouad Naïm (Lebanon), and Massimo Tommasoli (Italy).

 

2007: Tomas Alcoverro (Spain), Mohammed Ali Atassi (Syria), Ziyad Baroud (Lebanon), François Bonnemain (France), Pierre El Daher (Lebanon), Walid Kassir (Lebanon), Jim Muir (United Kingdom), Hassan Tlili (Tunisia), and Layla Al Zubaidi (Germany).

 

2008: Jean-Paul Chagnollaud (France), Ghassan El Ezzi (Lebanon), Carole Habib Kassir (Lebanon), Alistair Lyon (United Kingdom), Delphine Minoui (France), Hazem Saghieh (Lebanon), and Hani Shukrallah (Egypt).

           

2009: Jad Al Akhaoui (Lebanon), Nora Boustany (Lebanon), Sari Hanafi (Palestine), Roula Khalaf (Lebanon), Franck Mermier (France), Monica Prieto (Spain), and Lamia Radi (Egypt).

 

2010: Ahmed Reda Benchemsi (Morocco), Amine Kammourieh (Lebanon), Birgit Kaspar (Germany), Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia), Nahida Nakad (France), and Maya Yahya (Lebanon).

 

2011: Samir Aita (Syria), Rula Amin (Palestine), Neji Bghouri (Tunisia), Mona Eltahawy (Egypt), Dominic Evans (United Kingdom), Maroun Labaki (Belgium), and Najib Khairallah (Lebanon).

 

2012: Lamis Andoni (Palestine), Lasaad Ben Ahmed (Tunisia), Gabriel Deek (Lebanon), Anne-Marie El Hage (Lebanon), Hisham Kassem (Egypt), Lorenzo Trombetta (Italy), and Saad Tazi (Morocco).

 

2013: Shirine Abdallah (Lebanon), Geraldine Coughlan (United Kingdom), Philippe Dessaint (France), Ghazanfar Ali Khan (India), Sami Moubayed (Syria), Diana Moukalled (Lebanon), and Samia Nakhoul (Lebanon).

 

2014: Ghaith Abdul Ahad (Iraq), Sanaa El Aji (Morocco), Hind Darwish (Lebanon), Marc Marginedas (Spain), Laila El Raiy (Egypt), Christoph Reuter (Germany), and Marc Saikali (France).

 

2015: Nada Abdel Samad (Lebanon), Christophe Ayad (France), Sahar Baassiri (Lebanon), Magnus Falkehed (Sweden), Mary Fitzgerald (Ireland), Malek Khadraoui (Tunisia), and Rana Sabbagh (Jordan).

 

2016: Khalil Abdallah (Palestine), Frédéric Domont (France), Fatemah Farag (Egypt), Sanaa El Jack (Lebanon), Natalie Nougayrède (France), Alberto Toscano (Italy), and Michael Young (Lebanon).

 

2017: Yassir Mani Benchelah (Algeria), Martin Chulov (Australia), Mark Daou (Lebanon), Alfred Hackensberger (Germany), Michel Hajji Georgiou (Lebanon), Amina Khairy (Egypt), and Isabelle Lasserre (France).

 

2018: Adnan Hussein (Iraq), Khairallah Khairallah (Lebanon), Rami Khouri (Jordan), Leila Shahid (Palestine), Albana Shala (Netherlands), Benoît Thieulin (France), and Aidan White (United Kingdom).

 

2019: Fadi El Abdallah (Lebanon), Ammar Abd Rabbo (Syria), Baria Alamuddin (Lebanon), Sofia Amara (Morocco), Thanassis Cambanis (Greece), Alessio Romenzi (Italy), and Biljana Tatomir (Croatia).

Regulation

The contest is open to all journalists working in or for written (daily, weekly, monthly print or online) press, or audiovisual (TV stations, production houses, and online TV networks). The award is granted and fully funded by the European Union and is open, as per European Union rules, to nationals of the following countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Candidates must submit an opinion article, an investigative article, or an audiovisual report centered around one or more of the following topics: rule of law, human rights, good governance, fight against corruption, freedom of expression, democratic development, or citizen participation.

The article must have been published in a print or online media outlet in one of the countries listed above or in one of the European Union Member States (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia Republic, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden). The article must not exceed 25,000 characters and must have been published between March 15, 2019 and March 15, 2020.

The audiovisual news report must have been aired on a local or satellite television network or released on an online television network in one of the countries listed above or in one of the European Union Member States. The report must not exceed 7 minutes and must have been released between March 15, 2019 and March 15, 2020.

Each submission can only fall into one of the three above mentioned categories. Candidates for the opinion article and investigative article categories can only apply on an individual basis. Candidates for the audiovisual news report category must either be the report's director or the producer and may apply on an individual basis or jointly (director and producer).

The winner in each of the three categories will be awarded €10,000.

The European Union holds the right to reproduce and publish the awarded articles and air the awarded audiovisual report in its own non-commercial publications and websites as well as in any other print or online publications related to the "Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press".

The selection will be done by a jury composed of journalists and media professionals coming from EU Member States and the participating countries listed above.

Members of the jury, staff of the European Union, and staff and members of the Samir Kassir Foundation are excluded from the contest.

Registration

To complete the online registration, make sure you provide:
  1. Your personal information, which will be treated according to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation rules.
  2. The entire published article in its original form as well as a copy translated into English (the use of Google Translate or any other automatic translation tool is strictly forbidden) or the link to the original audiovisual news report in its original form with English subtitles and/or an English translation or description of the report.
  3. A proof of publication or broadcast (link to the original copy or broadcast, or photocopy of the published article, or a letter proving the authenticity of the publication/broadcast, signed by the person in charge of the media outlet or their representative).
  4. A resume.

Three awards will be granted for:
  • Best opinion article
  • Best investigative article
  • Best audiovisual news report

Completed applications with all submission materials must be sent by April 1, 2020 at the latest.
Incomplete files will not be accepted.

Winners

Roger Asfar

Syria 
Syria
Opinion Article

Ali Al-Ibrahim

Syria 
Syria
Investigative Article

Youssef Ziraoui

Morocco 
Morocco
Audiovisual News Report

Miloud Yabrir

Algeria 
Algeria
Opinion Article

Asmaa Shalaby

Egypt 
Egypt
Investigative Article

Asaad Zalzali

Iraq 
Iraq
Audiovisual News Report

Issa Ali Khodr

Syria 
Syria
Opinion Article

Ghada El-Sharif

Egypt 
Egypt
Investigative Article

Asaad Zalzali

Iraq 
Iraq
Audiovisual News Report

Maher Massoud

Syria 
Syria
Opinion Article

Mohammad Tarek

Egypt 
Egypt
Investigative Article

Matar Ismaeel

Syria 
Syria
Audiovisual Report

Ayman Al-Ahmad

Syria 
Syria
Opinion Article

Hesham Mannaa

Egypt 
Egypt
Investigative Article

Mohammad Nour Ahmad (Abo Gabi)

Palestine 
Palestine
Audiovisual Report

Orwa Mokdad

Syria 
Syria
Audiovisual Report

Hanene Zbiss

Tunisia 
Tunisia
Investigative Article

Mohamed Abo El-Gheit

Egypt 
Egypt
Opinion Article

Ahmed Abu Draa

Egypt 
Egypt
Investigative Article

Doha Hassan

Palestine 
Palestine
Opinion Article

Luna Safwan

Lebanon 
Lebanon
Audiovisual Report

Pakinam Amer

Egypt 
Egypt
Investigative Article

Suleiman al-Khalidi

Jordan 
Jordan
Opinion Article

Ethar El-Katatney

Egypt 
Egypt
Opinion Article

Habib Battah

Lebanon 
Lebanon
Investigative Article

Safaa Saleh

Egypt 
Egypt
Investigative Article

Mustafa Fetouri

Libya 
Libya
Opinion Article

Carole Kerbage

Lebanon 
Lebanon
Investigative Article

Mona Eltahawy

Egypt 
Egypt
Opinion Article

Marwan Harb

Lebanon 
Lebanon
Thesis

Naela Khalil

Palestine 
Palestine
Article

Ahmed Reda Benchemsi

Morocco 
Morocco
Article

Rita Chemaly

Lebanon 
Lebanon
Thesis

Dina Abdel Mooty Darwish

Egypt 
Egypt
Article

Habib Battah

Lebanon 
Lebanon
Article

Multimedia Gallery

Samir Kassir Award 2019

Samir Kassir Award 2019

Samir Kassir Award 2018

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Samir Kassir Award 2017

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Samir Kassir Award 2015

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Samir Kassir Award 2014

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Samir Kassir Award 2013

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Samir Kassir Award 2012

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Samir Kassir Award 2011

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Samir Kassir Award 2010

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Media

Samir Kassir Award in Al-Modon

Sunday , 15 March 2020

Samir Kassir Award in Al-Liwaa

Wednesday , 26 February 2020

Samir Kassir Award in Annahar

Wednesday , 26 February 2020

Samir Kassir Award in L'Orient-Le Jour

Wednesday , 26 February 2020

Samir Kassir Award in Annahar English

Wednesday , 26 February 2020

Students' Prize

The 2020 edition of the Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press features, for the first time, a new Students’ Prize. After years of engagement between Samir Kassir Award finalists and university students, the European Union, in cooperation with the Samir Kassir Foundation, has established this special prize to deepen the ties between journalism and academia in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf region. The Students’ Prize will recognize the work of Samir Kassir Award finalists who would have touched students and addressed their concerns and aspirations. Students who wish to join the jury of the 2020 Samir Kassir Award — Students’ Prize are asked to fill in the form below. This year, membership in this jury is limited to students in universities based in Lebanon. Selected students will be informed of their inclusion in the jury one month before the Award ceremony. Registered students will have advanced access to the finalists’ articles and reports and get to meet them during a pre-ceremony event, the day before the Award ceremony, to discuss the content and methodology of the finalists’ work, and eventually vote for their favorite submission.
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Contact Us

INFORMATION FOR CANDIDATES:

Email: coordination@prixsamirkassir.org
Tel: +32 496 129 539

THE SAMIR KASSIR AWARD IS AWARDED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION.
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Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon


PARTNER

Samir Kassir Foundation
www.samirkassirfoundation.org


OTHER LINKS

SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom
www.skeyesmedia.org