All the DIG Awards 2021 winners

Co-host Silvia Boccardi on stage (picture by Barbara Pasquariello)

A very successful and inspiring seventh edition DIG Festival’s came to a close on Sunday, October 3 2021.

During the four-days event, our International Jury assigned the 2021 DIG Awards to the winners, in a ceremony hosted by Valerio Bassan and Silvia Boccardi inside the beautiful Church of San Carlo, in the historical centre of Modena.

During the ceremony, 8 DIG Awards were assigned in the following categories: Investigative Long, Investigative Medium, Reportage Long, Reportage Medium, Short, Audio, Pitch, plus the “Watchdog Award”, given to those journalists who distinguished themselves for courage, dedication and public service.

This year’s Jury was chaired by Paolo Pellegrin, and included Gabriela Manuli (Deputy Director, GIJN), Andrea Scrosati (Ceo Europe, Fremantle), Margherita Pescetti (Director), Juliana Ruhfus (Senior Reporter, Al Jazeera English), Tim Travers Hawkins (Director), Anne Koch (Program Director, GIJN), Alberto Nerazzini (Dersu/DIG), Alexandre Brachet (Ceo, Upian), Nils Hanson (Senior Reporter, SVT). 


The 2021 winners and Jury motivations



For video investigations, both released and unreleased, of a minimum duration of 30 minutes. Filmmakers must use original sources and investigative techniques to bring out elements of novelty in relation to the subject matter.


● All the Prime Minister’s men

Al Jazeera Investigative Unit | Qatar/UK 2021 | 60′

“This astounding revelation of corruption puts the viewers in the rooms where these brazen callousness of abuse are folding out. Thanks to the bravery of a whistleblower and the team’s ability to track down and film the top men, we get a unique insight into a state captured by organized crime and corruption. This extraordinary investigation, that caused a firestorm in Bangladesh, holds power to account at the very highest level.”


Dirty clothes
Mission Investigate SVT | Sweden/Lithuania 2021 | 58′

“For skillful storytelling with a movie structure that catches the viewers’ attention from the beginning to the end.”



For video investigations, both released and unreleased, of a maximum duration of 30 minutes. Filmmakers must use original sources and investigative techniques to bring out elements of novelty in relation to the subject matter.

● Lagos inferno
BBC Africa Eye | UK/Nigeria 2020 | 17′

“Using innovative methods, the team could reveal the official lie behind the explosion in Lagos, Nigeria, in March 2020 that killed 23 people. This cutting-edge open-source investigation also holds power to account. Combined with solid storytelling, it conveys what the Nigerians have to endure.”

The shameful mistake
Le Monde | France 2021 | 24′

“For the technical quality in an investigation on unjustified violence used by the police, convincingly proven by the frame-by-frame video.”



For video reportages, both released and unreleased, of a minimum duration of 30 minutes. Filmmakers must address themes of social relevance, using original points of view and journalistic approaches.


● Oil promises
Berlin Producers Media GmbH | Germany/Ghana 2020 | 80 

The commitment to telling a story over ten years is very rare. The consistent filming makes it feel very coherent and proves the strong vision of the filmmakers, revealing the tragic and upsetting betrayal of the locals in this coastal region. The cynicism of the oil industry and global capitalism is exposed effectively. This compelling story is an amazing achievement for the team behind this ten-year project.



For video reportages, both released and unreleased, of a maximum duration of 30 minutes. Filmmakers must address themes of social relevance, using original points of view and journalistic approaches.

● Syria: lost chilhood
Découpages, ARTE | Francia 2020 | 24 

“A touching story by a team of Syrian journalists about the children who are forced to be adults to survive in war-torn Idleb. We have the story of a 12-year-old boy who is the breadmaker of the family, working in a garage for miserable wages. The story about him and other children who have to sacrifice their future is told in an unsentimental way, which makes it even more compelling.”



For video investigations and reportages, both released and unreleased, of a maximum duration of 15 minutes.


● Moruroa files
Disclose | France 2021 | 5

“Using technology in a new way, the team reveals the real devastating impact of the nuclear tests in French Polynesia during the 1960s and 70s. Thanks to the collaboration with academic researchers, the team could reconstruct three nuclear tests and their fallout. This groundbreaking new research exposes a historical injustice. More than 100.000 people can now claim compensation for being exposed to high levels of radiation.”


Untold stories behind screen dreams
Asaad Al-Zalzali | Iraq 2020 | 14′

“The jury felt a special mention was needed to acknowledge the bravery and courage of the Iraqi women who spoke out in the film ‘Untold stories behind screen dreams’ to expose the sexual discrimination in our industry.”



For journalistic audio storytelling products (single podcasts and full audioseries) dealing with current issues with a range of investigative elements, using innovative approaches and an original slant.


All the Prime Minister’s men (Ep. 3)
Al Jazeera Investigations Unit | US/UK 2021 | 33′

“This work encompasses all the most interesting elements of an investigation: the bravery in digging in a story, the high-level quality of its syntax and writing, the brilliant audio recording and editing.”

Buco nero
Arianna Poletti, Gabriele Cruciata

“An undercover journey into the virtual den where Italian white suprematists hide and organize. A place inspired by famous forum 8chan, ‘the Internet’s darkest place’, where racist and hateful content spreads around uncontrolled, alongside books explaining how to organize an ethnic war and uncensored terrorists attack videos.”



This category is reserved for investigative projects or video reportages at the development or production stage, focusing on issues of international relevance. Pitched projects will compete during DIG Festival and DIG’s international jury will award one of them. The prize is a funding of 15.000 euros.


● Untitled Kim’s video project
David Redmon, Ashley Sabin, Francesco Galavotti
The project was awarded €10.000


The deserter
Giuseppe Borello, Andrea Sceresini, Tatsiana Khamliuk
The project was awarded €5.000



A category that awards journalists and projects who distinguished themselves for their work, courage and impact. Winners are chosen by the DIG board.


Forbidden Stories

The 2021 DIG Watchdog Award goes to an investigative project that contributed to unveil the profound ramifications of digital surveillance and the repercussion of the phenomenon on journalism freedom and safety.

This investigation has shown with unprecedented evidence how the surveillance technologies market and the companies involved in it operate without the needed regulation and supervision and with extremely limited transparency. Moreover, the investigation demonstrated once more how state actors systematically use spyware technologies to intercept activists’, lawyers’, academics’ and journalists’ private communications.

Spyware can grant attackers remote access to victims’ digital devices, without leaving any trace of this happening. Everything stored on a device can then be exposed: saved data, contacts, communications. The entire digital life of a victim targeted with spyware can be exposed and exploited. For journalists in particular this is the ultimate nightmare scenario, as spyware has the capacity to jeopardize all other source protection and information security practices.

The investigation we award tonight has demonstrated how one such spyware, Pegasus, is widely used, easy to access and use and eminently dangerous and malicious. The investigation has shown the use of Pegasus in at least 50 countries and how 180 journalists have been targeted in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Marocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Hungary, a EU member state. Yet, it is totally plausible that such a list of countries and victims could be longer and that what emerged from this impressive investigation may be just a piece of a broader and more complex puzzle.

16 international news outlets, together with Amnesty International, worked jointly on the investigation. Forbidden Stories, a Paris-based newsroom focusing on collaborative and cross border investigations, has coordinated the work of the media partners. Forbidden Stories specializes in supporting and protecting investigations by threatened or in danger journalists. For instance, they “unmuted” Daphne Caruana Galizia’s work after her homicide in Malta, in 2017.

The “Pegasus Project”, coordinated by Forbidden Stories, is a reminder of how, even in strong democracies, journalists’ work is still under constant threat and how digital weapons such as spyware are some of the darkest elements of digitalization and a matter of international regulation or moratory on their use. The investigation that also reminds us about how relentlessly and powerfully those in power are using digital surveillance to “mute” and silence the voices of journalists all around the world.