Panama Papers win Pulitzer Prize for ICIJ

From left, Frederik Obermaier, Gerard Ryle and Bastian Obermayer. (Photo by Kristof Clerix)
Frederik Obermaier (left) and Bastian Obermayer, the two German journalists who first received the original leak from their confidential sources. In the middle is ICIJ director Gerard Ryle. (Photo by Kristof Clerix)

Columbia University announced today (Tuesday) that the Panama Papers investigation has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. The Pulitzer Prize Board lauded the year-long investigation for “using a collaboration of more than 300 reporters on six continents to expose the hidden infrastructure and global scale of offshore tax havens.”

The award is the latest in a series of accolades for the globe-spanning reporting effort by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), McClatchy, the Miami Herald, Süddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners. “This honour is a testament to the enterprise and teamwork of our staff and our partners here in the United States and around the world,” Gerard Ryle, ICIJ’s director, said. “We’re honoured that the Pulitzer Board recognized the ground-breaking revelations and worldwide impact that the Panama Papers collaboration produced.”

The Panama Papers investigation exposed offshore companies linked to more than 140 politicians in more than 50 countries – including 14 current or former world leaders. It also uncovered offshore hideaways tied to mega-banks, corporate bribery scandals, drug kingpins, Syria’s air war on its own citizens and a network of people close to Russian President Vladimir Putin that shuffled as much as $2 billion around the world.

Ryle noted that the investigation would not have been possible without the collaborative spirit of Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier, two German journalists who received the original leak from a confidential source. Instead of hoarding the trove of 11.5 million secret documents for themselves and their newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, they shared them with ICIJ. This allowed ICIJ to pull together a cross-border partnership and join forces with SZ, McClatchy, the Miami Herald, Fusion and more than 100 other news organizations to investigate the explosive documents.

Obermayer and Obermaier, bravely supported by their editor-in-chief Wolfgang Krach, worked with ICIJ to help lead the international collaboration and shared bylines on key ICIJ stories cited by the Pulitzer Board. In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting, the Panama Papers investigation was also named as a finalist in the International Reporting category. The Pulitzer Prizes are regarded as the preeminent honor in journalism. This is the 101st year that Columbia’s School of Journalism has awarded the Pulitzer Prizes. Other news outlets honored today with Pulitzers include The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette-Mail.

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