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February 16, 2015

Press Gazette is Paul Foot Award finalist with Guardian, Private Eye, Sunday Times, Mail, Telegraph and Observer

By Press Gazette

Press Gazette has been shortlisted for the 2014 Paul Foot Award for the Save Our Sources campaign.

Journalists from Private Eye, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Observer are also finalists.

The awards were set up in 2005 by Private Eye and The Guardian to honour investigative journalist Paul Foot. The winner of the 2014 Paul Foot Award will be announced at a reception on 24 February.

The Guardian announced the shortlist on its website this morning:

  • Dominic Ponsford and William Turvill, Press Gazette – for Save Our Sources
  • Richard Brooks and Andrew Bousfield, Private Eye – investigation into Saudi-UK arms deals corruption
  • Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake, The Sunday Times – Fifa Files
  • George Monbiot, The Guardian – work highlighting impact of farm subsidies on flooding
  • Claire Newell, Holly Watt, Claire Duffin and Ben Bryant, The Daily Telegraph – Fifa corruption investigation
  • Richard Pendlebury, Daily Mail – reporting on the hard lives experienced by Britain's immigrant communities
  • Mark Townsend, The Observer – investigation into sexual assaults on female detainees at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre.

Full citations (source: Paul Foot Awards):

Dominic Ponsford and William Turvill, Press Gazette 

Save Our Sources

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This campaign to protect confidential journalistic sources was launched after Press Gazette picked up on a detail in the Met Police’s 56-page Operation Alice Closing Report on the Plebgate affair. It revealed that the force had secretly seized the telephone records of the Sun’s newsdesk and political editor to track down police officers who leaked details of former government chief whip Andrew Mitchell’s altercation outside 10 Downing Street. 
Save Our Sources called for action to ensure police could no longer view journalists’ phone records without the approval of a judge. It highlighted further police abuse of surveillance powers against journalists, persuaded more than 1,700 readers to sign a petition and was cited by the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO) when it launched an inquiry on 6 October. On 4 February the IOCCO called for a change in the law providing judicial oversight of police requests to view journalist’s phone records. This, the central demand of the campaign, now has government backing. 

Richard Pendlebury, Daily Mail 

Migrant Lives

Richard Pendlebury’s three-part series on the often oppressive lives of migrant communities in Britain followed a year of research identifying stories, cultivating contacts across two continents and building trust. Moving away from the “immigration overload” debate and allegations that immigrants live “the easy life” at taxpayers’ expense, Pendlebury looked at the truly hard lives endured by many. 
He focused on the ordeals of Lithuanian immigrants working for Lithuanian gang masters; the invisible workers of Brick Lane exploited by unscrupulous restauranteurs who promise great riches to poor farm workers from Bangladesh (attracting the interest of the Met and the Home Office); and he travelled to rural Punjab to interview families whose daughters were about to be sent to the UK in arranged marriages. 

Claire Newell, Holly Watt, Claire Duffin and Ben Bryant – Daily Telegraph 

Qatar 2022 World Cup Bid

The team gathered evidence in Miami and New York of direct payments from Qatar to officials who voted for the country to host the World Cup; and what they uncovered raised concerns that some Fifa executive committee voters were not impartial when casting their votes. 
The investigation disclosed how former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner appeared to have been personally paid $1.2m (£720,000) from a company controlled by a former Qatari official, Mohamed Bin Hammam, shortly after the decision to award the country the tournament, as well as evidence of payments to his family members and an employee. The team also revealed how Michel Platini, one of the most powerful men in football, had a secret meeting with Bin Hammam. 

George Monbiot – The Guardian

How farmers caused the floods 

When last year’s winter floods began, the media were obsessed by the stupidity of building homes on floodplains. George Monbiot’s investigation shifted the focus from the 7 percent of land that’s built on to the 71 percent of land given over to agriculture, and the far greater impact of bad farming practice and the perverse subsidies that encourage it. 
Monbiot found that while trees and shrubs in the uplands absorb water and prevent floods, subsidies are conditional on keeping the land bare. Natural obstacles in rivers slow down the water and protect towns from flooding, but, on behalf of powerful landowners, the government has spent billions dredging and canalising rivers to protect farmland, inundating homes downstream. His reports provoked a furious reaction from the farming lobby and prompted questions in parliament. 

Mark Townsend – The Observer

Sexual abuse of women at Yarl’s Wood

After months of legal wrangling a high court judge said the Observer had a “proper journalistic purpose” in forcing Serco, the outsourcing giant, to disclose its internal investigation into one case of alleged sexual behaviour, which confirmed it had failed to properly investigate a claim of repeated sexual assaults by one of its staff against a woman resident at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre – Britain’s largest immigration centre for women who were effectively in state care. 
It reported on detainees who alleged that guards routinely offered to help in immigration cases in return for sexual contact. Following the Observer’s reports, Serco chiefs have been heavily criticised in parliament; two parliamentary inquiries have been launched; and Serco was warned that its contract is at stake. 

Richard Brooks and Andrew Bousfield – Private Eye 

Shady Arabia and the Desert Fix

This campaign was the culmination of a long-running investigation into corruption on a contract between the UK and Saudi governments. 
In 2012, the team obtained details from a whistleblower of illicit payments and gifts made on a multi-billion pound contract between the British government and Saudi Arabia for electronic warfare equipment for the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Over the next two years the team unravelled the mechanisms of the bribery, revealed those who had accepted corrupt payments, and exposed the network behind the deal – as well as revealing the highly sensitive matter of the Ministry of Defence’s complicity in bribery, even as the coalition government professed to be clamping down on corruption. 
They revealed the names of officials who had been complicit in decades of bribery; and a few months after the story broke, the Serious Fraud Office announced a criminal investigation which continues today. 

Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake – Sunday Times 

The Fifa Files

Over a period of a month in 2014 the Sunday Times Insights team spilled the secrets of a bombshell cache of hundreds of millions of secret documents, “The Fifa Files”, leaked by a whistleblower from the heart of football. 
In forensic detail they reported on the extraordinary campaign waged by Mohammed Bin Hammam, Qatar’s top football official, and how he exploited his position to help secure the votes Qatar needed to win the bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
Going through emails, faxes, phone records, letters, flight logs, accounts and bank transfer slips, examining tens of thousands of gigabytes of data using forensic search technology and a network of offshore supercomputers. They reported on cash handouts, lavish junkets and evidence of payments to football officials across Africa – including the transfer of funds into bank accounts controlled by Jack Warner, Fifa’s Exco member for Trinidad and Tobago.

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