The Webber Wentzel Legal Journalist of the Year Award recognises outstanding work in the field of legal journalism. It was founded in 1999 to acknowledge the role played by journalists in promoting knowledge of the judiciary and understanding of the country's civil and criminal justice systems.
There are three categories: Print (including Online), Radio and Television, and a R50 000 prize for each category.
Entries for the 2015 awards are now closed.
The 2014 winners were announced on 5 November 2014 as follows:
Ruth Hopkins was named winner of the print category, while Joe Thugwana won the television category. Ruth Hopkins' winning submission was for two articles which deal with the injustices faced by accused people awaiting trial in South African jails. The first article "Presumed innocent, rotting in jail" was published in the Mail & Guardian and the second, "Eight years stuck in jail" was published in the City Press.
According to the judges, both articles were of an exceptionally high standard. Highlights of their assessment include the facts that the articles describe the applicable legal rules, illustrate systematic problems of the criminal justice system, and convey the magnitude of the problem relating to the incarceration of awaiting trial prisoners in South Africa.
Ina Skosana was named runner-up in the print category. Her article "Foreign mom’s neglect turns fatal" explores the xenophobia and discrimination experienced by foreigners who attempt to access health care facilities in South Africa. It was published in the Mail & Guardian.
The judges felt that the article accurately describes the relevant policies that govern the issue and link the policy to the demands of the Constitution, which guarantees everyone (not only South African citizens) the right of access to health care services. The judges noted that the reporting is effective, not only because it describes a systemic problem, but also because it illustrates the problem.
Joe Thugwana's winning submissions in the television category were titled, "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" and "Homeless in Despair". They which were included in "Cutting Edge" broadcast by the SABC. The stories demonstrate the struggle faced by South Africans in enforcing their constitutional rights.
The judges mentioned that because both stories were produced in isiZulu with English subtitles, they were able to reach a broader audience than what otherwise would have been the case.
Adel van Niekerk was named runner-up in the television category. Her story entitled "Homes of Horror" deals with the poor handling of child rape and abuse cases by the South African Police Service and appeared on "Special Assignment" broadcast by the SABC.
Click here to read the press release announcing the winners.
Print: Tony Beamish, MoneyWeb
Broadcast - Radio: Paul McNally, Thetha FM
Broadcast - Television: Adel van Niekerk, Special Assignment
Click here to hear what the 2013 winners said about their awards.
Print: Ruth Hopkins, Mail & Guardian, The Star and The Saturday Star
Broadcast - Television: Odette Schwegler and Nicola de Chaud, Carte Blanche
Print: Carolyn Raphaely, Wits Justice Project
Broadcast - Radio: Stephen Grootes, Eyewitness News
Broadcast - Television: Megan Small, Etv
Print: Franny Rabkin, Business Day
Broadcast - Television: Michael Duffet, Face to Face Films
Print: Franny Rabkin, Business Day
Broadcast - Television: Hazel Friedman, SABC