Rabat – Journalist Souad Mekhennet, a German national of Moroccan origin, has received the 2018 Ludwig Börne Prize, one of the most esteemed literary prizes in German-speaking countries.
The Washington Post national security reporter becomes the first Arab and Muslim to win the award since its launch 25 years ago.
At the award ceremony in Frankfurt Sunday, jury president and well-known TV journalist Maybrit Illner highlighted Mekhennet’s meticulous work as a journalist in Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria, and Libya, but also her excellence as a writer through her investigations in radical circles.
Mekhennet is famous for her reports on terrorism and especially her international bestseller “I was Told to Come Alone: ??My Journey Behind the Lines of Jihad,” where she investigated Islamic extremism in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
The 368-page memoir discusses the reporter’s personal experience as a Muslim reporter with a bicultural identity. As a Muslim, Mekhennet has had access to some of the most wanted members of jihadist groups, including Al Qaeda and ISIS, who have refused to talk to Western reporters.
The mayor of Frankfort, present at the ceremony, said he was proud that the award was given to a typical woman from the city “who embodies, by her plural identity, the multicultural diversity that characterizes Frankfurt.”
Mekhennet won the Daniel Pearl Award for courage and integrity in journalism in 2017. According to the Washington Post, the Ludwig Börne Foundation “honors outstanding achievements in essay, criticism and reportage.”
Maybrit Illner said of the journalist: “Mekhennet combines great courage, clear reasoning and genuine passion. The child of immigrant workers became an investigative reporter of international acclaim. Discrimination, arrogance and hypocrisy make her just as angry as it once did Ludwig Börne.”
The Moroccan journalist has worked for internationally renowned media outlets, including the New York Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Daily Beast and German television ZDF. She currently works at The Washington Post.