Washington, D.C. (June 2, 2020) — The World Justice Project (WJP) today announced that journalists Pavla Holcová, Arpád Soltész, and Eva Kubániová have won the 2020 WJP Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism. The prize was created to acknowledge and celebrate journalists from around the world who have contributed to increased awareness and understanding of the importance of the rule of law.
The trio were awarded the prize for their reporting on the murder of their friend and colleague, the 27-year-old journalist Ján Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová. The investigation, as detailed by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), revealed a system of rampant corruption in Slovakia—the details of which were being investigated by their colleague at the time of his death.
In the process of investigating the murder, the team assembled nearly 60 terabytes of data, including eyewitness testimonies, CCTV footage, mobile phone data, and more, ultimately building a library of evidence that they shared with other trusted journalists. As the team catalogued, analyzed, and reported on the data—and as other reporters used it to develop evidenced-based stories in multiple outlets—they exposed not only a deeply corrupted and blackmailed justice system, but also unmasked the perpetrators.
As a result of the investigations and mounting public pressure, the former government of Robert Fico stepped down in 2018, a former general public prosecutor is currently being investigated, and 13 judges are charged with corruption and abuse of power. Even as new reporting further uncovers the truth, investigative journalism has played a critical role in restoring trust in the rule of law in Slovakia.
"It started as an investigation of a murder of our colleague and close friend Ján Kuciak and his fiancé Martina Kušnírová," said Pavla Holcová. "The cold-blooded murder was an utter shock for us, but we understood we must not be silenced, so we decided to focus all our energy in finding out what happened and why. At the end, we were able to expose how corrupted the Slovak state was and how one crooked businessman was considered to be above the law. Obtaining and analyzing the material was depressing and frustrating, but it was worth it as the society in Slovakia changed and people started to renew the trust in the justice and rule of law."
In addition to the prize winners, six journalists or reporting teams were awarded Honorable Mention in recognition of their extraordinary reporting on rule of law issues: Fisayo Soyombo (based in Nigeria); Helgi Seljan, Aðalsteinn Kjartansson, and Stefán Aðalsteinn Drengsson (based in Iceland, reporting on Namibia); ICIJ's Luanda Leaks investigation (organization based in the United States, reporting on Angola); Laura Sánchez Ley (based in Mexico); NBC News Group's "Justice for All" (based in the United States); and Somesh Jha (based in India).
The WJP Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism was named in honor of Anthony Lewis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist, who was a friend and inspiration to the World Justice Project. Mr. Lewis is widely credited with transforming legal journalism in the United States.
Judges for the 2020 Anthony Lewis Prize were:
ABOUT THE WORLD JUSTICE PROJECT:
The World Justice Project (WJP) is an independent, multidisciplinary organization working to advance the rule of law worldwide. Effective rule of law reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices large and small. It is the foundation for communities of justice, opportunity, and peace—underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights. Learn more at: www.worldjusticeproject.org.
In an online webinar event highlighting the winner of the 2020 WJP Anthony Lewis Journalism Prize, a panel of journalists and experts discussed the importance of media freedom, the critical role investigative journalists play in uncovering corruption and promoting open societies, and how to promote an independent press when freedom of expression is under threat.
The winners of the 2020 WJP Anthony Lewis Prize for Exceptional Rule of Law Journalism personify the principle quoted by their outlet, "Even if you kill a journalist, you can never kill a story." In our latest WJP Rule of Law Talk podcast episode, the WJP's Matt Harman talked with Pavla Holcová, Arpád Soltész, and Eva Kubániová about their reporting, and how it sparked reform in Slovakia.