EJN’s MMI Announces Winners of the First MMI Oceanic Crime and Ecoviolence Media Awards

macro shot of red coral
EJN’s MMI Announces Winners of the First MMI Oceanic Crime and Ecoviolence Media Awards

Internews' Earth Journalism Network (EJN)’s Mediterranean Media Initiative (MMI), a project supported by the Adessium Foundation, is pleased to announce the recipients of the MMI Oceanic Crime and Ecoviolence Media Awards. This award spotlights the contributions and achievements of MMI’s media community in marine journalism within the Mediterranean region. Honoring investigative excellence, this distinguished accolade commends the work of MMI grantees who have demonstrated high standards of journalistic rigor and offered deep insights into ocean-related issues across the region through their innovative stories.

“We warmly congratulate the recipients of the first MMI Oceanic Crime and Ecoviolence Media Awards. Their outstanding work are testimony to their inherent storytelling skills and excellence in investigative journalism and research. The award recipients, along with all of our MMI community of journalists are setting new benchmarks in ocean reporting,” said Mona Samari, Director of the Mediterranean Media Initiative.

Award Categories and Recipients:

1st Prize — Mediterranean Media Oceanic Crime and Ecoviolence Awards

  • Award Recipient: "The Red" produced by Cosmos Media, in collaboration with Jan Scholz from DWTV.
  • Winners: Mabrouka Khedir (Tunisia) and Jan Scholz (Germany)
  • Prize: €1,000

"The Red"— a standout Arabic language documentary about the illicit red coral trade commissioned by MMI, produced by Cosmos Media, directed by Mabrouka and Rochdi Kehdir with the support of  Deutsche Welles’ international correspondent Jan Scholz — is honored with the prestigious first prize at the Mediterranean Media Awards. This collaborative effort between Mabrouka and Rochdi Khedir of Tunisia and Jan Scholz of Germany exemplifies journalistic excellence, meriting a €1,000 prize for their exceptional contribution to investigative journalism. The Red, produced in Tunisia and Italy, is a hard-hitting hour-long documentary on coral trafficking, highlighting emerging smuggling routes in France and Spain as well as concerns related to efficient traceability.

“The Red is an excellent documentary that builds on an equally excellent piece of investigative journalism by DW on a little-known topic. It unearths how coral smugglers are decimating this form of life in the Mediterranean Sea and how those who finally wear red coral jewelry don't even know of the destruction. This story should be widely circulated to make more people aware of the dangers,” said Joydeep Gupta, EJN South Asia Director and Editor-at-Large at The Third Pole.

“Congratulations to Mabrouka Khedir and Jan Scholz for this well-deserved award. In tracing the route of red coral from Tunisia to Italy and beyond, they've called attention to the impacts of this vast and unsustainable trade. Their video stories are a compelling reminder that urgent action must be taken at scale to conserve this small invertebrate — so prized as "red gold" but invaluable alive, in light of all the ecosystem services it provides. It is our hope that this award encourages environmental journalists in the Mediterranean region to combine their strengths more often and collaborate on in-depth and far-ranging investigations,” said Amrita Gupta, EJN Senior Editor and Content Officer.

“The Red is hard-hitting investigative documentary about a marine resource everyone admires but few think about in detail. Khedir shines a light on the harvesting and smuggling of this highly prized animal — and what the implications are for Tunisia and the livelihoods of its local people. It is more than deserving of the Awards' 1st Prize,” said Sam Schramski, EJN Special Projects Editor.

 

2nd Prize — Special Jury Recognition

Juan David Escorcia earns the esteemed second prize with Special Jury Recognition for his captivating three-part series, "Soundscapes of the Mediterranean Sea" on the impact of underwater anthropogenic stressors. Produced by Carijonas in Spain, this innovative podcast series transports listeners through the acoustic environments of the Mediterranean Sea exposing the impact of underwater noise pollution on marine life.

“Our oceans play a vital role in sustaining life on our planet, and yet so much of what goes on beneath their surfaces remains a mystery. This podcast expertly delves into the underreported and invisible issue of marine noise pollution, bringing in key voices from scientists using the latest technology to understand the causes and the devastating impact on marine ecosystems. Highlighting the inextricable link we have to our waters, this story holds a mirror up to the human behaviors that are causing so much damage as well as the actions we can take to protect the ocean from further destruction,” said Jenny Davies, EJN Program Associate.

“With these podcasts, Juan David Escorcia asks listeners to reckon with the mass destruction caused by a form of marine pollution that is invisible and therefore deeply under-reported. Anthropogenic noise pollution disrupts the navigation, feeding habits, reproduction and survival of marine species around the world, and stories like these do much to raise awareness about its consequences and hold polluters and policymakers to account,” said Amrita Gupta, EJN Senior Editor and Content Officer.

“It's no small task to produce a podcast about sonic phenomena, but that's precisely what Escorcia does with this ambitious episode on noise pollution, which is part of a wider series about soundscapes in the Mediterranean. The story combines quality journalistic storytelling with compelling natural sound and music, rendering it more than worthy of the Special Recognition - 2nd Prize,” said Sam Schramski, EJN Special Projects Editor.

“This story is the result of painstaking research on a topic that is almost totally ignored: the impact of human-caused noise on marine animals. The use of audio enhances the story and it's definitely worthy of a special mention,” said Joydeep Gupta, EJN South Asia Director and Editor-at-Large at The Third Pole.

Soundscapes of the Mediterranean Sea

 

Selection process

The recipients were selected after a rigorous independent evaluation process conducted by an international panel of esteemed judges comprising five media experts including Amrita Gupta, EJN Senior Editor and Content Officer, based in the US; Joydeep Gupta, EJN South Asia Director and Editor-at-Large at The Third Pole based in Thailand; Jenny Davies, EJN Program Associate based in the UK; Kiundu Waweru, EJN East Africa Project Manager based in Kenya; Sam Schramski, EJN Special Projects Editor, based in the US.

The judging panel carefully reviewed 11 pre-selected MMI stories produced with support from MMI to identify impactful reporting that exemplifies journalistic excellence, highlighting under-reported issues, through thoughtful and innovative storytelling. 

Five stories were shortlisted by the jury including:


About the Mediterranean Media Initiative 

The Mediterranean Media Initiative (MMI) was launched in March 2022 by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network in response to the deepening Mediterranean Sea conservation crisis, with the aim of enabling journalists and media organizations from the region to expertly report on marine issues.  Over the course of the past two years and with the support of the Adessium Foundation, MMI’S growing community  of journalists in the region have published over 184 insightful stories in 12 countries (Algeria, France, Egypt, Greece, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia) on topics including overfishingdestructive fishing practices such as dynamite fishing in Lebanon and Libyabottom trawling and the impact of discarded fishing nets.

In addition, our grantees have produced in-depth reports on climate change, the  impact of rising sea temperatures on corals in the Mediterranean and the impact of record sea temperatures in Spain and Tunisia.  MMI grantees produced a series of stories on vulnerable marine ecosystems, essential fishing habitats and overfished species, including stories on octopus, turtlesclamsPosidoniamicroalgaesea cucumbers, jellyfishsea birdscoralsraysspongesgrouperspinna nobilis lobsters and sharks as well as Marine Protected Areas, invasive species (red algaeblue crabslion fish).  A set of stories were also produced on the rise of plastic pollution in Greece and Lebanonmarine pollutionwastewater management, aquaculture, and impacted  lagoons.

The social impact of overfishing was also examined with stories produced on women fisherfolk, and the decline of traditional  artisanal fishing practices such as the charfia. MMI grantees have explored the use of artificial reefs in Morocco, the use of sea ranching for aquaculture in Greece, the use of artificial reefs in Algeria and France.

MMI also supported special investigations exposing the scale of unsustainable marine management of the Mediterranean Sea and the transboundary nature of oceanic crime. It launched the Oceanic Crime and Ecoviolence Investigation call in March 2023 to support transboundary investigations looking at unauthorized fishing by industrial or semi-industrial vessels, as well as other harmful environmental practices impacting the marine environment. This includes two in-depth investigations on the red coral trade in the Mediterranean between Algeria, Tunisia, France, Spain, Italy and Asia, the sea cucumber trade between Italy, Greece and Asia as well as emerging anthropogenic stressors such as underwater noise in Spain,  cruise ships in France and Spain, underwater internet cablesgas and oil exploration in Tunisia and flaring in Egypt.

For additional details about the awards and the winners, please reach out to [email protected]


Banner image: A macro shot of red coral / Credit: Arturo Donate via Flickr.

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