Press Release: True Story Award Winners

The winners of the first True Story Award were announced on Saturday, August 31 during the Reportagen Festival Bern in the capital of Switzerland. The jury, made up of eight experts from eight countries, presented the first global journalism award to three journalists for their exceptional and courageous reporting. 

Winner of the grand prize and CHF 30,000 is journalist Shura Burtin from Russia for Monitor 1 – a profile of the Chechen human rights activist Oyub Titiyev who was imprisoned on fabricated charges. The report was first published in Russian in Meduza in September 2018. Burtin was commended for his excellent narrative, in-depth and courageous reporting and the unexpected way he drew attention to a forgotten war.

In second place, winning CHF 20,000, was American journalist Mark Arax for A Kingdom from Dust – a sweeping, in-depth investigation into the world of agribusiness in California. Originally published in the California Sunday Magazine in February 2018, Arax was applauded for the impressive way he wove social themes such as climate change, water resources and California history into the narrative.

The third place and CHF 10,000 went to Chinese journalist Du Qiang for The Vagabond Club, capturing the lives of a rebellious group of immigrant workers in Shenzhen. Qiang’s report was “the most surprising story of all the entries” according to the jury and was praised for the way it captured an unknown aspect of society. 

The winners were chosen from 39 nominees who were selected from among 924 submissions from 98 countries in 21 languages. All nominees were invited to the Reportagen Festival Bern taking place from August 30 to September 1, of which 36 followed the invitation and travelled to Bern to present their stories to a wide audience.

The True Story Award is the first globally-oriented journalism award, aiming to set an example and motivate journalists all over the world. Furthermore, its aim is to make reporters’ voices known beyond the borders of their home countries, and in doing so, to increase the diversity of perspectives offered in the media. The True Story Award is conferred by an independent foundation and honors the work of reporters who have distinguished themselves by the depth of their research, the quality of their journalism and its social relevance. 

See below for the full list of winners.


Shura Burtin
Monitor 1

Original Language: Russian
Country: Russia
First Published: Meduza, Russia, September 26, 2018


Mark Arax
A Kingdom from Dust

Original Language: English
Country: USA
First Published: The California Sunday Magazine, USA, February 4, 2018


Du Qiang
The Vagabond Club

Original Language: Chinese
Country: China
First Published:  腾讯新闻-故事硬核, China, April 18, 2018



Eve Fairbanks, Dry, The Beloved Country; Ewa Wołkanowska-Kołodziej, Prisoners of the Fourth Floor; Daniel Howden and Giacomo Zandonini, Niger: Europe’s Migration Laboratory; Hossam Bahgat, Who’s buying Israeli Gas?; Jan Christoph Wiechmann, Five Brothers; Liu Zichao, Uzbekistan: Finding the Lost Heart of Central Asia; Olesya Gerasimenko, The Rise and Fall of the Most Bizarre Art Group of the World; Rohini Mohan, A Template for Hate; Taina Tervonen, The Missing.



Margrit Sprecher, Switzerland; Rania Abouzeid, Lebanon/Australia; Jon Lee Anderson, USA; Nureddin Farah, Somalia; Leila Guerriero, Argentina; Xiaolu Guo, China/UK; Patrick de Saint-Exupéry, France; Suthichai Yoon, Thailand


Submissions for the True Story Award 2020 can be handed in starting November 1, 2019.