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GRID-Arendal is proud to announce the winners of its latest round of investigative environmental journalism grants. Four journalists will each be awarded 25,000 Norwegian kronor (approximately €2,400) to support their investigations into issues related to environmental crime and the subsequent publication of their findings. GRID-Arendal’s investigative environmental journalism grant programme has been supporting critical reporting since 2015.

“We received many compelling applications this year,” said Siri Olsson, manager of the grant programme. “We are encouraged that so many reporters are committed to exposing environmental crime. It was difficult to choose only four, but this year’s winners stood out for their ambitious, well-planned projects, which we believe will trigger change on the ground.”

Environmental crime threatens not only ecosystems and animals, but also security, local economies, and prospects for sustainable development. It is the fourth largest area of organized crime in the world with an estimated annual growth rate of 6 per cent, and it’s one of the hardest types of organized crime to tackle. There is a pressing need to focus international attention on these crimes, and this is where investigative journalism can make a difference.

The grant winners:

Tatenda Prosper Chitagu, an award-winning investigative reporter based in Zimbabwe, is a former fellow at Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. He will report on an environmental crime currently ongoing in Zimbabwe, the details of which will be made public once his investigation is concluded.

Chikezie Omeje is an investigative, data, and science reporter based in Nigeria who has won several awards for his stories and recently completed a Master of Science in Data Journalism at Columbia Journalism School. He will investigate illegal charcoal exports happening in Nigeria despite a government ban. Charcoal production depletes forests and contributes to climate change.

Lia Valero is an award-winning Colombian reporter and photographer and a fellow in the Poynter Institute’s Media Transformation Challenge Program. In collaboration with another Colombian journalist, María Claudia Dávila, a fellow at the International Center for Journalism, Valero will combine investigative journalism and photography to highlight women defenders in Colombia who are putting their lives at risk to prevent illegal destruction of the environment. Colombia, which has the second greatest biodiversity in the world, is considered to be the most dangerous country for human-rights and environmental activists.

Peter Yeung is a British investigative journalist whose work has been recognized with a Pulitzer Center grant, an Orwell Prize, and numerous other awards. He will conduct a data-driven investigation into illegal logging and palm oil concessions in the Indonesian province of Papua. Deforestation in Indonesia results in massive emissions of greenhouse gases.

Valentin Emelin, leader of GRID-Arendal’s Environmental Crime Programme, says, “We believe these experienced journalists will produce important stories that have positive impact on people and the environment. We look forward to sharing their reporting with the world.”

GRID-Arendal is committed to continuing and further developing its grant program in support of investigative environmental journalism. The next call for grant applications will be announced on our website in the fall of 2021.


Image by European Space Agency (CC BY-SA 2.0): Land in Indonesia being deforested to clear room for palm oil plantations. 

Release date: 01 Mar 2021

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