Observer's Nick Cohen among the €10,000 winners of European Press Prize

The Observer’s Nick Cohen was among the winners at this year’s European Press Prize, announced today.

He won in the Commentator category for his columns on “the cowardice of Nigel Farage”.

In a piece published on 22 November last year, Cohen accused the Conservatives and Labour of failing to fight UKIP’s anti-immigration ideology.

He wrote: “UKIP will not be beaten until those in all parties, who know that most immigrants are not the scrounging scum of UKIP nightmare, say clearly that the debate must be about numbers, not race.”

The judges of the European Press Prize (EPP), chaired by Reuters editor-at-large Sir Harold Evans, praised Cohen for his “zest, rhetoric and clear determination to tackle his targets straight on”.

There are four categories in the awards: Distinguished Writing, Investigative Reporting, Commentator and Innovation. Cohen and his fellow winners took home 10,000 Euros each, to be spent on a new journalistic project.

Elena Kostyuchenko won the Distinguished Writing award for her reporting, for Novaya Gazeta in Moscow, following a Russian woman as she searched for the body of her husband, killed in Ukraine. His death, the piece said, was shrouded in silence by Russian bureaucracy, and the EPP judges said it showed the depth of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s involvement in Eastern Ukraine.

Awarded in the Investigative category was Ander Izagirre for “How to Fabricate a Dead Guerilla”, originally for El Pais in Madrid. Izagirre uncovered how Colombian army officers kidnapped civilian boys, murdered them, dressed them in guerrilla clothes and claimed rewards for the bodies.

The rewards were paid in secret by the former government of Álvaro Uribe for these supposed “slain terrorists”. At the time Izagirre wrote the piece, 4,716 cases had been recorded.

The judges said Izagirre’s work was “compelling, splendidly organised and devastating at a human level. It told a terrible story that no one could forget."

And in the Innovation category, the prize went to “The Migrants’ Files” (pictured), which was worked on by ten journalists from six different countries. The project seeks to accurately calculate and report the deaths of people migrating to Europe.

The project uses a growing database of information on countries, detention centres, individual migrants, and “events” such as the deaths in October 2013 of 360 migrants who drowned off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Events are mapped, or the data can be searched by the user, with links to articles and to related content.

For example, a reader can search for Yarl’s Wood immigration centre in Bedfordshire, and see that on 30 March 2014 Christine Case, a Jamaican woman, died there of a pulmonary thromno-embolism, and was allegedly denied medical treatment.

The EPP judges said: “Because the full extent and horror of the problem is not reliably reported, the tragedies go on. The Migrant Files begins to fill that gap. It is painstaking and necessary work, full of details that challenge our humanity.”

The awards were handed out at a ceremony in Copenhagen today.

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