Investigative journalists undertake complex and often dangerous work to hold organizations and individuals accountable for bribery. These journalists deserve to be encouraged and recognized for their work.
In 2015, TRACE launched its Prize for Investigative Reporting to recognize reporters in this field, and to support a free press more broadly. We know that an active and independent media is the best antidote to corruption. Almost everything we know about corruption is because of investigative reporters. We cannot address the problem if we can’t see the problem.
On Monday 12 June, we held the awards ceremony for the 2017 Prize at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The TRACE team was joined by journalists, academics and members of the global compliance community to celebrate the achievements of this year’s Prize recipients.
The first recipient was the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which was recognized for its groundbreaking investigation, The Panama Papers.
The ICIJ’s deputy director, Marina Walker Guevara, said: “We are thrilled that the TRACE Prize this year recognizes the work of 376 reporters in 80 countries who courageously participated in the Panama Papers investigation, many of them at great personal risk. Their reporting pierced the secrecy of tax havens and uncovered the many faces of corruption around the world — from bribery to money laundering to industrial-scale tax avoidance and evasion. By working together as one team, their reporting triggered change at a global level, including high-level resignations, law changes and public outcry.”
The panel of independent judges described the importance of the ICIJ’s efforts: “In one of the most remarkable collaborations in modern journalism history, these illuminating projects tackled one of the most difficult topics the media faces – the hidden links and secret wealth of the world’s most powerful people – and produced fascinating tales with worldwide impact.”
Also awarded the Prize was freelance journalist Dorothee Myriam Kellou, in recognition of her investigation into French cement giant Lafarge’s operations in Syria, including payoffs to armed groups and indications of covert dealings with the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).
“It is an honor to be a recipient of the 2017 TRACE Prize for Investigative Reporting,” Dorothee said. “Documenting multinationals’ corporate corruption practices — especially in war zones — is an uneasy but necessary task. It helps to hold multinationals accountable in the context of weak anti-bribery laws and fragile enforcement — and reasserts, as TRACE does, that multinational companies should not sacrifice the rule of law in the pursuit of profit worldwide.”
The judges said, “This powerful project captured, with nuance and intelligence, the moral crisis that faces businesses caught in the desperate situation in Syria, and by extension, every war-torn region.”
Honorable mentions were awarded to Elias Mambo of The Zimbabwe Independent Newspaper, for an investigation chronicling how Zimbabwe’s government circumvented tender procedures to corruptly award an energy deal to a company that had not actually submitted a bid; and to Michael Kavanagh, Thomas Wilson and Franz Wild, reporters at Bloomberg, for their work entitled “Congo’s Secret Web of Power” exploring the network of businesses built up by President Joseph Kabila and his relatives, reaching into every corner of the Congo’s economy.
Diana Henriques, one of the panel of expert judges, said: “Corruption is a global virus and the battle against it must be global too. The TRACE Prize uniquely recognizes and encourages the courageous, meticulous journalism that is part of that fight, anywhere it finds a voice.”
The past year saw unprecedented media collaboration and examples of outstanding investigative journalism that exposed corruption. In the current climate of attacks on the media, we hope to see the TRACE Prize gain more relevance as we continue to support high-quality, independent investigative journalism.
Alexandra Wrage is president and founder of TRACE. She is the author of Bribery and Extortion: Undermining Business, Governments and Security, co-editor of How to Pay a Bribe: Thinking Like a Criminal to Thwart Bribery Schemes, and the host of the training DVD Toxic Transactions: Bribery, Extortion and the High Price of Bad Business, produced by NBC. She’s a former member of FIFA’s Independent Governance Committee and served on the 2015 B20 Taskforce on Anti-Corruption, which drafted recommendations to G20 leaders for consideration in their global economic policies. Prior to founding TRACE, she was international counsel at Northrop Grumman. She can be contacted here.