The International Press Institute’s Indian National Committee has named Ritu Sarin, Executive Editor- Investigations, The Indian Express as the recipient of the IPI India Award for Excellence in Journalism. She has been awarded for her “sustained work in investigation of crimes, political assassinations, terrorism cases frauds and economic offences” throughout her career. This is the fourth IPI India award for The Indian Express or its journalists.
Sarin was “unanimously” selected by the jury, IPI said in a statement for her “work of investigation into national and international crimes,” which, it stated is “marked by due diligence, excellent fact-checking, documentary corroboration, meticulous follow-up of event chains, and connecting the dots supported by thorough knowledge of criminal as well as financial laws and regulations”. IPI added that Sarin’s “writing style eschews extreme sensationalism, and allows the facts to narrate and speak”.
The jury this year was chaired by eminent jurist and former Attorney General for India Soli Sorabjee. Other members of the jury included Chairman of IPI’s India chapter N Ravi, who is also a director with The Hindu; former chief editor of Business Standard and Financial Express, Sanjaya Baru; former editor-in-chief of Press Trust of India MK Razdan; and senior assistant editor of Malayala Manorama Riyad Mathew.
The IPI specifically mentioned that apart from her individual work, she has also been awarded for “leading The Indian Express investigation team into the Indian accounts and account-holders mentioned in Panama Papers during 2016”. The Indian Express in collaboration with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists had reported about the Indians named in Panama Papers, a trove of 11.5 million documents pertaining to 214,488 offshore entities linked to Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca.
The team led by Sarin, including National Affairs Editor P Vaidyanathan Aiyar and Associate Editor Jay Mazoomdar, spent eight months investigating over 500 Indians named in the leaked documents.
After the reports were published the union government had set-up a Multi-Agency Group (MAG) consisting of officers from Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The Income Tax department had conducted inquiries in 426 cases, making 395 references to 28 foreign jurisdictions and found 147 actionable cases. As of November 6, 2017 the MAG had found undisclosed credits of about Rs. 792 crores, and five criminal prosecution complaints had been filed.
The Indian Express has won the IPI India award thrice in the past, including the inaugural award in 2003. The first award was for the newspaper’s sustained coverage of the 2002 Gujarat riots and later the victims’ fight for justice.
In 2006 the newspaper won its second IPI award for its reporting on two issues: the investigative reports unveiled that how crores of money meant for the victims of the Bihar Floods in 2005 was siphoned off by politicians and other officials; and the disappearance of the tigers from national parks across the country
The Indian Express had received its third IPI India Award in 2009 for its investigations into the links of Hindu extremists with the terrors attacks in Malegaon in 2006 and Modasa in 2008. A journalist with The Week had also won the award in 2009 for her coverage of sexual and other traumas suffered by widows of farmers in Maharashtra.
The IPI India Award was instituted in 2003 to honour the best work done by a journalist or an organisation and carries a cash prize of Rs. 2 lakh, along with a trophy and a citation. Sarin will be presented the award by former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha at a ceremony on February 23.
The International Press Institute was founded 68 years ago in New York by a group of editors from 15 countries. Now based in Vienna, the IPI is “committed to promotion of free exchange of accurate and balanced news among nations” and has “been in the forefront of safeguarding the freedom of press”.