Panama Papers investigation wins Pulitzer Prize
A collaborative effort of explanatory journalism into the secrets of the worlds wealthiest individuals wins prestigious prize.
The Panama Papers investigation into the leaked documents of the globe’s wealthiest individuals has won a prestigious Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting.
The Pulitzer Prize Board awarded the Panama Papers the win 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 investigation was originally entered in the international reporting category. However, it was moved to the 2016 explanatory reporting category.
The Panama Papers were a series of articles published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that exposed offshore entities’ secrets, owned by Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider, Mossack Fonseca, one of the world’s largest providers of offshore services.
The collaborative effort consisted of an international network of journalists from across the globe that investigated confidential emails and corporate documents, written in several different languages across more than 100 news organisations.
The investigation ran for over a year with the first articles published in April 2016.
The investigation began with German news organisation Süddeutsche Zeitung in which journalists Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier received an anonymous tip from a whistleblower named “John Doe”.
Obermaier said: “The Panama Papers showed that there is a whole parallel world offshore in which the rich and powerful enjoy the freedom to avoid not just taxes but all kinds of laws they find inconvenient. We would argue that if we don’t dismantle this world, if we allow this second set of rules for the 1% of rich people who know how to exploit it, our democracy is at stake.”
Obermayer and Obermaier went on to publish a book called The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money, which detailed the events.
The leaked documents also contain identity information about the shareholders and directors of shell companies set up by Mossack Fonseca, as well as some of their financial transactions.
In the UK, a few Members of the House of Lords were named, several of whom were donators to David Cameron’s Conservative Party.
David Cameron also admitted he benefited from a panama-based offshore trust set up by his late father, Ian Cameron. Cameron’s father ran Blairmore Holdings Inc, an offshore fund set up by Mossack Fonseca which had avoided paying taxes for over 30 years.
According to The Guardian, “More than £170bn of UK property is now held overseas. Nearly one in 10 of the 31,000 tax haven companies that own British property are linked to Mossack Fonseca”.
In addition, Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson was forced to resign after revelations that his family had sheltered money in one such offshore firm.
The founders of the Panamanian law firm, Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca, were arrested in February. They are suspected of money laundering following a crackdown by prosecutors across Latin America.
Paúl Mena Mena, a journalist involved in the investigation at El Universo in Ecuador, said “Thanks to the Panama Papers, two colleagues of mine, Mónica Almeida and Xavier Reyes, and I could publish some pieces on the Ecuadorian Newspaper, El Universo, exposing possible corruption related to public contracts, illegal enrichment, tax evasion and oil commerce.”
“In Ecuador, president Rafael Correa has raised a propaganda state attacking independent journalists. When the ICIJ launched the leak and we published our pieces, we were attacked by the government’s media because Correa considered our investigations to not be a journalistic issue but a political one and said we only wanted to harm his regime.” Mena Mena said.
“The government used social networks to spread a smear campaign and organized demonstrations against us.
“In countries with authoritarian governments, this prize shows the necessity of freedom of expression and press freedom,” he added.
“For journalism, the Panama Papers shows the importance of collaborative work with shared knowledge and information with colleagues in Spain, Netherlands and Canada. It also underlines ethical issues regarding leaks that some activists do not,” Mena Mena said.
The ICIJ has raised over $20,000 of their goal of $50,000 to contribute towards their next investigation dubbed the “next Panama Papers”.
You can pledge here: www.gofundme.com/icijorg2017