The speech from Kjersti Løken Stavrums
I am here on behalf of the jury of Anne Jacobsen's Memorial Award (see the members of the jury under)
Anne was warm, and she was engaged. She was eager to create partnerships and cooperation, contribute to innovation and promote fact-based media – to empower a fact-based society.
Just as Bellingcat, whom we have awarded her prize this year.
I must admit; I miss Anne from all my heart. We in the jury miss Anne. Most of all though, I miss her big hugs.
We shall see if Bellingcat can hug too!
Bellingcat is a renowned open-source investigative journalism collective founded in 2014 by Eliot Higgins. The group has garnered international acclaim for its groundbreaking investigative journalism, which utilizes cutting-edge open-source techniques to uncover hidden truths and verify information. The organization has played a crucial role in exposing numerous high-profile incidents and bringing them to the global public's attention.
Bellingcat is awarded the prize due to their unwavering commitment to transparent and reliable journalism. We, in the jury, particularly highlight Bellingcat's Ukraine database. Starting the collection of incidents resulting in potential civilian harm from the very first day of the Russian invasion, their ambition is to provide digital evidence of war crimes that can hold up in court.
The jury also notes that the organization has consistently demonstrated its ability to hold powerful entities accountable, shedding light on important issues such as the Syrian civil war, the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, among many other cases.
The jury praise Bellingcat's innovative approach to journalism. We think they represent the future of investigative journalism, as they harness cutting-edge technology to expose the truth and foster a culture of collaboration and openness.
Bellingcat's fact-based reporting and commitment to transparency have redefined the media landscape.
Bellingcat has, in essence, expanded the scope of what can be the expected output of world-class investigative journalism. Bellingcat is immensely inspiring in a world often clouded by falsehoods and deception. We proudly recognize their unwavering pursuit of truth.
The Memorial Award committee has the following members:
- Kjersti Løken Stavrum, CEO of Tinius Trust
- Øyulf Hjertenes, Director at Schibsted and Chair of the Board of Media City Bergen AS
- Ragnar Christensen, Former Regional Director at NRK Rogaland
- Leif Ove Larsen, Professor at the Department for information and media sciences at the University of Bergen
- Are Tverberg, Team leader at TV 2
- Petter Ole Jakobsen, Innovation Officer at Vizrt and Former Board Member at Media City Bergen AS
- Geir Terje Ruud, owner/founder of Ruud & Company
- Charlotte Vindenæs, Head of Communication at Media City Bergen AS (Administrative support)
- Helge O. Svela, CEO of Media City Bergen AS (Administrative support)
The speech from Dessi Lange-Damianova from Bellingcat
Thank you Ms Stavrum for your kind words of introduction.
Ladies and gentlemen, dear hosts at Media City Bergen, dear guests and organisers of the Future Week conference, dear family of Anne Jacobsen
I’m incredibly grateful and honored to stand here today and accept the Anne Jacobsen Memorial Award on behalf of Bellingcat and our founder Eliot Higgins. I thank the distinguished members of the Memorial Award Committee for finding the work of Bellingcat worthy of this important prize.
The Anne Jacobsen Memorial Award was established to honor a visionary, who wanted to promote informed public debate and was worried about the disruption of democracy and increased polarization. In announcing their decision, the jury emphasized, and I would like to use a quote, “the inspiring work of Bellingcat in the fight against lies and untruths”. We accept this high recognition with gratitude and are thankful for the acknowledgement of our role in shaping the future of journalism. We accept the award with responsibility, and also with a sense of shared concern. A concern that in these times of incredible human and technological progress, a special award is necessary to emphasize the importance of fighting the destructive forces of disinformation and fake news.
When Eliot Higgins founded Bellingcat almost ten years ago, he had a vision and a concern. A concern about how easily disinformation is produced and used to exacerbate conflict, and a vision to inspire a global community that uses the latest technologies to uncover injustice.
In our journey and investigative work from back then until today, we have seen countless examples, from Latin America to Europe and from North America to Africa, of fake news proliferating at light speed and poisoning the fabric of trust, public debate and well-informed decision-making. It seems that facts and truth have become a rare and expensive commodity, instead of being a common given. Untruths, disinformation and strategic misinterpretation have become the talk of the day, a dangerous virus that destroys not only societies, systems and organisations, but damages families, individuals and livelihoods. The virus carriers are not just distant and unknown, but close and familiar.
Eliot’s concern was unfortunately precise. Luckily, we were also able to commit to his vision. At Bellingcat, we have dedicated our efforts to use innovation, creativity and collaboration to develop investigative methods and tools to find facts in the pursuit of truth, transparency and accountability. Collaboration and innovation were also at the heart of the vision of Anne Jacobsen, and we feel privileged that we share these important interconnected values. At Bellingcat, we see innovation as inspiring and facilitating collaboration, rather than as fueling competition and disruption.
The pursuit of truth and transparency in today’s complex and polarized world is an immense task, which can only be done with a collective effort, especially at times of diminishing resources and eroding trust. We accept this award in recognition of the tireless efforts of all fellow journalists, researchers, investigators and citizens who share our vision for a more informed and a more just society, based on respect, trust and empowerment.
We accept this award with honor and responsibility, and with appreciation of the work of everybody on our team. And above all, with appreciation of the countless efforts and selfless dedication of all the contributors and volunteers in our open-source investigative community. It is thanks to their ingenuity and collective effort that we are able to uncover evidence of wrongdoing and expose injustices around the world, debunk disinformation and contribute to accountability efforts.
New investigative methods and tools, developed by our team and contributors, and the collaborations we formed with media, research, academic and journalistic organizations and individuals in different parts of the world were the driving force behind some of our most prominent investigations - the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, uncovering spy operations in Europe by rogue states, identifying incidents of civilian harm in the war in Ukraine and analyzing the groups responsible for the storming of the US Capitol. Our community also helped in mapping police violence in Colombia, identifying those responsible for a massacre in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, exposing illegal migrant pushbacks by the EU border agency Frontex, and how conflict degrades the environment in Syria, Iraq and Central Asia.
Exposing wrongdoing, fighting disinformation and communicating facts would not be complete without simultaneous work to spread knowledge and empower others to do the same. At Bellingcat, we realized quite early in our work that building a global community of open-source investigators and citizen journalists should combine awareness raising (through our publications) with practical training on how to apply our methods, not just in large international contexts, but also to solve imminent problems of local communities. In the last six years, we have trained, very often for free, numerous individuals and organizations from all walks of life and sectors - international organizations, judges, students, companies, human rights defenders, journalists, media organizations and tech companies, humanitarian agencies, private individuals and many, many others. We are closely working with universities and even secondary schools to develop curriculum modules on how to learn and apply our methods to encourage critical thinking, to use media wisely and to understand how to detect and hopefully develop resilience and immunity against disinformation and fake news.
Next to our investigative and training work, we are also developing new methods and tools that can support our team and our community in their research and educational work. We share these methods and tools freely for anyone to use and publish guides and methodology materials on our website.
Distinguished guests, members of the Memorial Award Committee, hosts at Media City Bergen, and everyone who made this prize possible,
As we accept the Memorial Award on behalf of our team and our global community of open source researchers and citizen journalists, we commit ourselves to continue the efforts, no matter how challenging or dangerous the circumstances. This award is a reminder of our joint responsibility to make a difference.
Thank you once again for this honor!
From the left: Jan Jacobsen (Anne Jacobsens husband), Henriette Jacobsens (Anne Jacobsens daughter), Dessi Lange-Damianova and Kjersti Løken Stavrum.