The Investigation Award
The Investigation Award
A novel prize
In 2018, we celebrated our anniversary – 50 years of history from the Berne Declaration to Public Eye. To mark the occasion, we created an investigation prize to enable independent journalists from outside our organisation to investigate the business practices of Swiss companies in developing or emerging countries.
The launch of our call for projects in autumn 2017 was extremely successful – in two months we received 55 proposals from 22 countries, from Zambia to Mexico via India and Belgium. All voiced the same desire to expose irresponsible practices and thus help stimulate debate and bring about much-needed change.
Investigations into such matters require tenacity but above all time and resources – something that many journalists no longer have. In this sense, Public Eye was also seeking to showcase the importance of ‘slower’ journalism, journalism that engages with topics regardless of whether the professionals in question are working for traditional media outlets, independent ones or NGOs.
To select the winning candidates we set up a jury of Public Eye affiliates and numerous renowned journalists. The jury chose the two projects that won the first edition of our Investigation Award.
A prestigious jury
We set up a breath-taking jury to choose the winners of our prize!
It was comprised of Public Eye affiliates but above all renowned journalists who embody the clout and intelligence that investigation can carry when used, despite the headwinds it faces.
- Anya Schiffrin is the director of the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs’ International Media, Advocacy, and Communications Specialization, and has published several books on journalism, including her most recent one Global Muckraking. Before she worked for Reuters News Agency in Spain and was head of the Wall Street Journal bureau in the Netherlands and Vietnam. She is also on the advisory board of the George Soros' Open Society Foundation and of the Natural Resource Governance Institute, which specialises in commodities policy.
- Oliver Zihlmann is co-head of Tamedia's investigation unit in Bern (for Tages-Anzeiger, Sonntagszeitung, Le Matin, Tribune de Genève). He holds a PhD in History, is a member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and has led the Swiss team that worked on the Swiss Leaks, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers stories. He previously worked for Swiss television and as a correspondent in Berlin. He is also the author of a political book entitled Der Fall Borer.
- Australian journalist Will Fitzgibbon has, since 2014, been working as a senior reporter for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which spearheaded investigations such as Swiss Leaks and the Paradise Papers. He is coordinating the collaborations with ICIJ’s African and Middle Eastern partners. Previously, he worked at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London and holds a Master's Degree in Science from the London School of Economics.
- Géraldine Viret has worked as Public Eye’s Media Directress since 2009. She holds a Master in Language and Literature. Her field of specialisation is comparative literature, and she is passionate about the writing of collective memory and trauma. A graduate in ‘corporate communication’, she writes articles for Public Eye and the Trigon Foundation, the latter of which is committed to promoting film works from developing and emerging countries.
- For the past five years, Marc Guéniat has been coordinating various Public Eye investigations in ‘troubled waters’, including a report on trading in toxic fuels, culminating in the publication of Dirty Diesel in 2016 which reverberated around the world. He has conducted several long-term investigations into oil dealings in Africa, such as the Gunvor in Congo story, published in 2017. An economist by training, he has worked as a journalist at Tribune de Genève and has written articles for Le Monde, Libération and Le Courrier.
- Media Director Oliver Classen has been a member of the Public Eye team for over a decade. Co-author of Public Eye’s best-selling book ”Commodities: Switzerland’s most dangerous business”, he was, for several years, also in charge of coordinating the Public Eye Awards, a counter-summit to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. He previously worked as a journalist, among others for Handelszeitung, Aargauer Zeitung or Tages-Anzeiger, and still writes occasional articles for Neue Zürcher Zeitung or Werbewoche.
Two crowd-funded projects
A prestigious jury selected two projects from 55 proposals submitted from 22 countries to shine a spotlight on the dubious practices used by Swiss companies in poor countries.
They received crowdfunding – 325 people contributed to our participative funding-raising campaign. They enabled Lausanne-based reporter Marie Maurisse to examine the secret recipes used by Swiss tobacco companies and allowed Nicola Mulinaris, from the NGO Shipbreaking Platform and Gie Goris of MO* Magazine (Belgium) to shed light on the role of Swiss companies in the uncontrolled dismantling of ships in southern Asia.
A very big thanks to them!
Toxic cigarettes for Africa
Lausanne-based reporter Marie Maurisse is the first winner of Public Eye’s Investigation Award. She examines the secret recipes that Swiss tobacco companies use for cigarettes earmarked for export to Africa, in particular to Morocco. In 2017 alone, 2,900 tonnes – or 3,625 billion cigarettes – were exported to the country. Tests undertaken exclusively for her research “The blazing success of Swiss cigarettes in Africa” revealed a scandalous double standard: cigarettes produced by Philip Morris and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) in Switzerland and sold in Morocco contained markedly higher levels of particles, nicotine and carbon monoxide than those produced for the domestic market.
In contrast to the laws in the EU, Swiss legislation allows tobacco companies registered in the country – clearly not by coincidence – to produce and export products that are significantly more harmful and addictive than those sold in Switzerland. According to the WHO, the number of smoking-related deaths in Africa will double by 2030 (with help from Switzerland).
Savage dismantling of ships in Asia
Nicola Mulinaris, from the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, and Gie Goris of MO* Magazine (Belgium), are the second winners of Public Eye’s Investigation Award.
The Belgian journalist Gie Goris looked for signs of Swiss shipping companies in the Indian town of Alang, where ships go to die in secret. There, he met middle-aged wrecks, angry trade unionists and workers deprived of their rights and risking their health on a daily basis for a meagre wage.
Even MSC uses Alang to dispose of its floating toxic waste while boosting its profits. The “recycling” methods of the Geneva-based company, which recently attracted critical headlines for the damage its containers caused in the North Sea, show the vast rift between sustainability promises and the reality of the Swiss shipping industry leaders’ business practices.
In addition, the NGO researcher supporting Goris, Nicolas Mulinaris, sheds light on the political context behind this illegitimate but legal export of toxic waste and shows the important but ignominious role played by landlocked Switzerland in dealing with ship corpses.
Focus on Global Justice
Although it focuses on present action, the Investigation Award was set up to celebrate Public Eye’s anniversary and reflects the organisation’s long tradition of investigative journalism; Public Eye has always associated its advocacy and campaigning with the often arduous process of shedding light on illegitimate or illegal activities against which action must be taken.