March 27, 2024

One of ten winners from nearly 600 entries for prestigious journalism prize

Airwars has won a Sigma award recognising excellence in data journalism, while the organisation’s investigative work has also been nominated three times at the forthcoming Amnesty Media Awards.

The article, titled The Year of the Shahed, was one of ten winners selected by Sigma from a total of 591 submissions by more than 300 news organisations.

The investigation involved gathering all open-source allegations of Russia’s use of the Iranian-made Shahed drone to attack Ukrainian civilians, as well as researching the European links to the specific component parts found in them. It was produced in collaboration with the German newspaper Der Spiegel after a grant by Investigative Journalism for Europe.

A still image from the article

Commenting on the article, the Sigma prize committee said: “The increasing digitisation, mechanisation, and automatisation of warfare is a worrying trend that will likely accelerate in years to come. This story about affordable but highly effective Iranian drones (actually, pseudo-missiles) used by Russia in Ukraine is a good example of what investigative and data journalism can do to warn readers about such trends.”

“The piece combines in-depth data analysis of attack patterns, first-person accounts of their consequences, and plenty of context of both the history of this weaponry and of the way it’s operated. The story weaves the narrative with photographic and audio evidence, along with a simple but effective series of data visualizations, scrollytelling sequences, and well-executed vector 3D renderings of the drones. In summary, it’s a rich multimedia experience.”

The article was written by Sanjana Varghese, Nikolaj Houmann Mortensen, Iryna Chupryna and Rowena De Silva of Airwars, as well as Oliver Imhof and Alexander Epp of Der Spiegel. It was designed visually by Airwars’ Júlia Nueno and Azul De Monte.

Among the other projects recognised by the judges were international news organisations including the Financial Times and Bloomberg, as well as local news organisations in Nigeria, Bangladesh and elsewhere.

The full award ceremony can be viewed below and Nikolaj Houmann Mortensen will discuss the article at a panel discussion during the International Journalism Festival 2024 in Perugia, Italy on April 20, 2024.

Separately, Airwars received three nominations for the forthcoming Amnesty Media Awards. The awards celebrate vital stories related to issues of human rights, with the winners to be announced on on May 9th, 2024.

Airwars was the smallest organisation to have been nominated, with almost all other candidates major international news organisations. Only the BBC and The Guardian received more than three nominations.

Airwars and The Guardian were nominated in two categories for a joint investigation into the hidden civilian toll of British airstrikes in Iraq and Syria during the campaign against the so-called Islamic State. The two-year investigation combined months of document analysis to identify likely UK strikes, with reporting from the ground in Mosul speaking to victims.

The longform reportage from Iraq, written by Emma Graham-Harrison of The Guardian and Airwars’ Joe Dyke, was nominated for Best Written Feature, while the Airwars immersive article was nominated in the digital creativity section. The entire investigation has also been nominated in the Outstanding Investigative Reporting category at the forthcoming Fetisov Awards.

Separately Airwars’ Sanjana Varghese was among four nominees in the The Gaby Rado Award for New Journalist category for her work leading the Shahed investigation.