MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Center For Investigative Journalism has won Agence France-Presse' s Kate Webb Award for its fearless work in the world's deadliest country for reporters, the agency announced Thursday.
The PCIJ has for two decades braved the wrath of powerful interests in the Philippines to expose corruption, the dangers of which were highlighted last month when 31 Filipino journalists were killed in a political massacre.
PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas said it planned to use the 5,000 euros (7,250 dollars) in prize money from the AFP Foundation to train Filipino journalists in how to safely do investigative reporting on the nation's elite.
"The last stories of journalists killed in the Philippines are typically about local graft, local corruption and local criminal activities," Mangahas said.
The PCIJ is the second winner of the annual prize, which was created in memory of Webb after she died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 64.
New Zealand-born Webb was one of the finest correspondents to have worked for AFP, and earned a reputation while covering the biggest events in the Asia Pacific as a brave and compassionate reporter.
The Kate Webb award is for local reporters or media organisations in the Asia Pacific who have produced exceptional work in dangerous or difficult circumstances, or have demonstrated moral or physical courage while reporting.
The award is administered by the AFP Foundation, a non-profit organisation created to promote higher standards of journalism worldwide.
The AFP Foundation commended the PCIJ for 20 years of work worthy of the award, while also paying tribute to a series of in-depth reports in 2008 on the southern province of Maguindanao where last month's massacre occurred.
"The PCIJ's body of work is of the highest standard and we hope it will continue to inspire Filipino journalists to do their best even in the most difficult working conditions," said AFP Asia Pacific director Eric Wishart.
Mangahas said she wanted this year's Kate Webb award to recognise all reporters who worked courageously in the Philippines, particularly those 31 murdered in Maguindanao.
"It is very difficult, almost discomfiting, to say our situation as journalists from Metro Manila could even come close to the vulnerability of our colleagues in Maguindanao or in the provinces of the Philippines," she said.
"So I think a fitting tribute is to accept it in their honour."
The 31 local reporters were among 57 people abducted then shot dead in a massacre allegedly orchestrated by members of the province's ruling clan who were seeking to maintain their hold on power.
Those deaths brought the number of journalists killed in the Philippines since the fall of dictator Ferdinand Marcos 23 years ago to 134, cementing the nation's reputation as the world's deadliest place in which to report.
The training programme to be set up with the award prize money will focus on teaching reporters how to stay out of danger while carrying out investigative reports on the nearly 200 families that dominate Philippine politics.
The reporters, to be gathered from outlying regions of the Philippines, will then produce material to be published on the AFP Foundation's website as well as by the PCIJ.
"We hope this training programme will help promote professional safety, strengthen ethical standards and sharpen investigative reporting skills among Filipino journalists. And, quite possibly, save lives," Wishart said.
The PCIJ, a non-profit organisation that operates out of a small office in a Manila suburb, has a staff of 10 people and a large network of fellows who contribute investigative reports.
One of its highest-profile achievements was a series of reports on the ill-gotten wealth of then president Joseph Estrada, which played a key role in his downfall in 2001.
The Kate Webb award will be given to the PCIJ at a ceremony early next year in Manila attended by AFP's regional managers and members of Webb's family.