Rappler wins investigative journalism award for story on Duterte’s drug war

The Philippines-based online news agency Rappler was announced as one of the two winners in the large outlet category of the 2019 Global Shining Light Awards on Saturday night (28 September) for their story “Murder in Manila”.

Winners of the 2019 Global Shining Light Award on stage after the award ceremony at the University of Hamburg

The award ceremony took place at the University of Hamburg on 28 September and was part of the 2019 Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place in Hamburg, Germany, between 26 and 29 September.

The Global Shining Light Award honours investigative journalism conducted in developing or transitioning countries under threat or in the direst of circumstances and is awarded every two years by the Global Investigative Journalism Network.

Rappler is this year’s joint winner in the large outlets category along with the team behind #GuptaLeaks, a collaboration between Daily Maverick, the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, News24, OpenUp, and Finance Uncovered, which investigated the business empire of the Gupta family and how they siphoned public funds in South Africa into their companies. The Peruvian media outlet IDL-Reporteros won in the small outlets category for their stories on the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht and its corruption network, and on the corruption at the highest levels of Peru’s courts.

Rappler’s “Murder in Manila” series tells the story of the extrajudicial killings in President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” which has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people since he took office in 2016. Over the span of a little over a year, Rappler has faced not only disinformation and online harassment but also a string of charges from the Philippines government. Maria Ressa, its CEO and executive editor, was arrested twice within the span of five weeks and is now out on bail.

The judges also honoured two other projects with citations of excellence. Kenya’s Africa Uncensored was given the certificate for their story “The Profiteers” about how South Sudan’s elite plundered their nation. Meanwhile, “The Azerbaijani Laundromat,” the cross-border collaboration project between the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and numerous other international outlets on the money-laundering operations in Azerbaijan won the certificate for the large outlets category.

“[The winners] are living proof that investigative reporting can hold the powerful to account even in places where impunity and abuse of power reign,” said Sheila Coronel, Academic Affairs Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, who was one of the judges. “We salute these journalists. They are shining examples of what rigorous investigative reporting can achieve even in the most trying of times.”