The "Free Media Awards – Supporting Independent Journalism in Eastern Europe“ are up to the ZEIT-Stiftung together with the Norwegian Stiftelsen Fritt Ord. In order to publicize and combat the threat to media freedom and the growing repression of Eastern European journalists, the two foundations give out up to five awards annually. to independent journalists and media from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia or Armenia.
The Free Media Awards 2020 are being conferred on the following individuals and entities: the Russian media platform Mediazona for its educational reporting and its efforts in support of independent journalism; the editorial department of the Russian Projekt.Media for its investigative research on corruption and abuse of power; the Azerbaijani photojournalist Aziz Karimov for his eye-opening photo essays on the situation in the rural regions of Azerbaijan; the Ukrainian journalist Stanislav Aseyev for his reports on the situation of prisoners and life in the war zone; and the editorial department of the Ukrainian television programme Schemes for its investigative journalism.
Award Winner Azerbaijan
Aziz Karimov works as a documentary photographer. His works have been widely published, e.g. by the Associated Press, Reuters and the Los Angeles Times. Aziz Karimov has been photographing and documenting political protests in Azerbaijan since 2013. In his photo studies he also looks at social problems in Azerbaijani regions. The Azerbaijani government has repeatedly attempted to restrict his work and keep him away from local and international events. Despite the strict control of the media and individual threats, Aziz Karimov continues to document volatile political and social issues.
Award Winners Russia
Mediazona was founded by two Pussy Riot members to address the lack of independent media coverage in Russia. Since that time, the alternative media company headed by Sergey Smirnov has reported on court proceedings, the abuse of power, prison conditions and assaults on independent journalism. Mediazona aims to counterbalance the state media and Kremlin-friendly coverage and thus to ensure greater transparency and independent reporting.
Projekt.Media is an online portal dedicated to investigative journalism. Under the direction of editor-in-chief Roman Badanin, the media platform researches and reports on corruption and other critical issues. The project went online in July 2018 and aspires to uncover hidden stories and injustices and to address complex crucial issues.
Award Winners Ukraine
Stanislav Aseyev is a well-known journalist and writer from Donetsk in Ukraine. In 2017 he was detained by separatist forces and tortured in captivity. Until then, his reports – written under a false name – were an important source of information about life behind the front in eastern Ukraine. In a series titled “Letter from Donbass”, Radio Free Europe published roughly 50 reports from the occupied Donetsk written by Stanislav Aseyev under the pseudonym of Jerry Toms. In December 2019, Stanislav Aseyev was released during a large-scale prisoner exchange.
The television programme Schemes is a mainstay of investigative journalism. The programme is a joint project of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the public television station UA: First. With its investigative efforts, the editors of the weekly programme cast light on political corruption and political linkages. The journalists and the team have on multiple occasions been attacked for their work.
A six-member jury decides on the award of the Free Media Awards. They include Ane Tusvik Bonde, Regional Manager, Eastern Europe and Caucasus of the Human Rights House Oslo, Alice Bota, Moscow correspondent of the ZEIT, Yuri Durkot, freelance journalist and translator, Lviv, Guri Norstrøm, correspondent of the Norwegian television in Berlin, Martin Paulsen Eastern Europe expert, and Silvia Stöber, freelance journalist and author, Hamburg.