THE Paul Foot Award for Campaigning Journalism 2009 has been won by Ian Cobain of the Guardian for his long-running investigation into Britain’s involvement in the torture of terror suspects detained overseas.Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye, described Cobain’s work as “excellent – a real Footy campaign. Dogged pursuit of the uncomfortable but true.
Alan Rusbridger, Cobain’s editor at the Guardian, added: “Ian Cobain has followed the allegations of torture with determination, an obsessive eye for detail and stamina. His investigation has taken many months of digging and chasing. I'm sure Paul would have admired it. Investigative journalism is not yet dead!
The Paul Foot Award Winner 2009
Ian Cobain, writing in the Guardian and Guardian.co.uk, has covered a long-running investigation into Britain’s involvement in the torture of terror suspects detained overseas. He reported on the allegations of British complicity made by a handful of detainees or their lawyers and was able to locate and highlight the evidence that supports some of these allegations. He reported on the existence of a secret, government-sanctioned interrogation policy that underpinned what MI5 has been doing – a policy that led to suspects being tortured.
Last March, Gordon Brown told the Commons that the interrogation policy was to be rewritten and that it would then be made public. In June 2009 he was able to disclose the fact that Tony Blair was aware of this policy.
The Paul Foot Award Short List 2009
Jonathan Calvert and Clare Newell
Calvert and Newell of the Sunday Times Insight team exposed a number of financial and legislative abuses in the Lords which had previously escaped scrutiny in a body which retains its antiquated gentlemen’s club ethos. The stories have already had serious ramifications and point to an urgent need for a reformed second chamber.
Their revelations in January 2009 that peers were prepared to help lobbyists amend legislation in return for cash resulted in two peers being suspended for the first time since the 17th century. They also highlighted the widespread practice of peers clocking in to the chamber for a minute just so they can collect allowances. They also produced a series of articles which alleged that individual peers were defrauding the taxpayer by claiming allowances they should not have been entitled to, which have led to fraud investigations.
Sunday and Daily Telegraph
Ben Leapman’s investigation into MPs’ expenses began in 2004, and culminated in a series of articles published in the Sunday Telegraph and Daily Telegraph in May 2009. The story exposed MPs’ exploitation of parliamentary allowances to subsidise their lifestyles and multiple homes, and forced the disclosure of expenses details for every MP.
Leapman’s original request was made in January 2005, when the Freedom of Information Act came into force. After repeated refusals and appeals, his case, and that of two other journalists – Jonathan Ungoed-Thomas and Heather Brooke – was finally carried to the high court in May 2008, which ruled in favour of a full disclosure.
Paul Lewis’s investigation into the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests in the spring established that a police officer had struck Tomlinson with a baton and pushed him to the ground moments before he died near the Bank of England on 1 April. A key component of the story was a video filmed by a New York hedge fund manager on his digital camera, published online on Tuesday 7 April and in print the following day, showing the incident in full.
Lewis’s investigation relied in equal measure, however, on a reconstruction of Tomlinson’s last 30 minutes alive, drawn from oral, photographic and video evidence obtained from dozens of other witnesses he had tracked down through “crowd-sourcing”. Their testimony was included in a dossier contradicting the police’s version of events which the Guardian submitted to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The commission immediately launched a criminal investigation. When a postmortem revealed Mr Tomlinson had died of internal bleeding rather than a heart attack, the TSG officer was questioned on suspicion of manslaughter. The CPS is considering whether to bring charges.
Waugh’s exposure of cavalier spending at Leeds Metropolitan University involved examination of thousands of staff credit card statements and a wider investigation into the management culture surrounding the university. His exposure discrediting the takeover of Sheffield Wednesday football club uncovered links with a money launderer convicted through an FBI sting, a history of debts and a series of highly questionable links with businesses in Europe.
Waugh’s long-running investigation into Leeds City Credit Union, the country’s biggest, revealed wholesale mismanagement, complete with a chief executive attempting to run the institution as her own personal business.
The stories triggered the unraveling of the credit union’s chronic mismanagement which promoted the sacking of chief executive Sue Davenport and subsequently revealed huge under-reporting of bad debts requiring an emergency £4m bailout from public funds. West Yorkshire Police fraud squad are now conducting an inquiry.
Stephen Wright and Richard Pendlebury
Shahrokh Mireskandari was one of the most high profile, outspoken and expensive lawyers in London, whose clients included foreign royalty and some of the richest men in the world. But he came to wider attention representing Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur in that officer’s litigation against the Metropolitan Police, promising publicly to bring down the upper echelon of the force, then led by Sir Ian Blair.
The investigation, using dozens of sources, into Mireskandari’s background on both sides of the Atlantic revealed his criminal past and the bogus nature of his qualifications and claims of experience. It also showed his close and mutually beneficial cultivation of Met Police Commander Ali Dizaei and Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee. Since the articles appeared Mireskandari and his senior partner have been suspended by the Law Society and the offices of Mireskandari’s West End firm Dean and Dean have been raided by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and closed. He faces a disciplinary tribunal hearing later this year.
The Paul Foot Award Highly Commended 2009
Nuclear test veterans campaign
Quest for palm oil for British consumers, devastating the rainforest.
News of the world / Observer
Exploitation of child workers for British high street retailers.
Times Higher Education Supplement
£36m corruption at London Metropolitan University.
Vanity Fair and Mail on Sunday
Campaign for former Guantanamo prisoner Binyam Mohamed
The Paul Foot Award was set up jointly by Private Eye and the Guardian in memory of the journalist and left-wing campaigner who died in 2004. The 2009 prize was presented at The Spin Bar, Millbank Tower, on Monday 2 November, with £5,000 going to the winner. Five runners-up received £1,000 each. The evening was recorded for the eyePlayer - Footie would have been proud.
The judges were Clare Fermont, Bill Hagerty, Ian Hislop, Richard Ingrams, Simon Jenkins and chairman Brian MacArthur. (Alan Rusbridger stood down as a judge to prevent any conflict of interest.)
Paul Foot, an investigative journalist, editor and left-wing campaigner, worked variously for the Daily Record, the Daily Mirror, The Guardian and Private Eye. He was involved in many high-profile campaigns throughout his illustrious career, including the Birmingham Six, the Bridgewater Four and the John Poulson scandal. His accolades include the Journalist of the Year, the Campaigning Journalist of the Year, the George Orwell Prize for Journalism and in 2000 he was honoured as the Campaigning Journalist of the Decade.
Paul Foot died in 2004 at the age of 66.
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