The "Free Media Awards – Supporting Independent Journalism in Eastern Europe“ are presented by the ZEIT-Stiftung together with the Norwegian Stiftelsen Fritt Ord. Since 2016, each year five prizes are available to independent journalists and media from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia or Armenia.
In 2018 the Free Media Awards were awarded to Chai Khana in South-Caucasus for their efforts to bring attention to under-reported news stories spanning national borders in the region, Fontanka in Russia for their coverage of ongoing and forgotten conflicts, and to the Belarusian website Belarus Partisan for their tireless investigative work, also following the murder of their editor-in-chief in 2016.
Chai Khana, headquartered in Tbilisi, Georgia, is a value-driven, internationally oriented and politically independent media platform. The staff consists exclusively of women. The website covers news and operates across the national boundaries between Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Chai Khana's coverage of stories, including text, photos and multimedia, as well as documentary films, is original and innovative. They challenge stereotypes and promote social engagement among their readers, aiming at minorities and women, as well as people in rural districts and areas of conflict. The focus is often on problems involving ethnic minorities, gender and sustainable development. Chai Khana gives a voice to marginalised groups in society, broaching topics that have rarely, if ever, been addressed previously. Examples of such stories include a series of articles on the grieving parents of fallen soldiers on both sides of the border with Nagorno Karabakh, reports on Armenia's failure to integrate Armenian refugees returning from Azerbaijan, and the difficulties that stateless people face in Georgia. The issues are followed up over time, so that topics do not simply slip into oblivion. chai-khana.org/en
Fontanka is an online regional newspaper operating out of St. Petersburg, Russia. Over time, the newspaper has primarily focused on following up, reporting on and documenting the fact that private Russian militia have been involved in a variety of military operations in Eastern Ukraine and Syria. The Russian authorities have generally been very cautious about reporting on military operations and the loss of Russian lives in areas of conflict. Fontanka has also run several stories that have exposed Russian collaboration with private military groups that are engaged in warfare, even though participation in private military forces is illegal in Russia. www.fontanka.ru
The website Belarus Partisan was founded in 2006 by a group of Belarusian journalists. It is an informative, analytical media platform that addresses the most exigent and relevant matters in Belarus. Belarus Partisan is often one of the first to report on news items and is among the few news media to focus on issues of public interest, as well as on politically sensitive issues. Their investigative journalism covers a wide variety of topics. Corruption and the fate of 'disappeared' Belarusian politicians are among the topics the website reverts to repeatedly. Belarus Partisan also plays an important part as a debate platform for Belarusian oppositionists, in a country in which there is a precarious lack of public debate. It is one of the 10 most popular news websites in Belarus, addressing regional and international issues alike. https://belaruspartisan.by
The Free Media Awards 2017 were awarded to Meydan TV, Zaruhi Mejlmyan, Anton Naumlyuk und Sergej Jolkin.
The jury of the Free Media Awards consists of six members. These are: Ane Tusvik Bonde, Regional Manager, Eastern Europe and Caucasus of the Human Rights House, Oslo; Alice Bota, Moscow-correspondent for the weekly DIE ZEIT, Juri Durkot, freelance journalist and translator, Lviv, Guri Norström, correspondent for Norwegian television, Berlin; Martin Paulsen of the University of Bergenan, and Stefanie Schiffer, executive director of the European Exchange, Berlin, and Silvia Stöber, freelance journalist and author, Hamburg.
ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius