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openDemocracy nominated for top journalism awards after Clearing House victory

Our work on Freedom of Information and revelations about oil company spying got us into the British Journalism Awards

Adam Bychawski
27 October 2022, 4.48pm

Michael Gove initially dismissed openDemocracy’s reporting as ‘ridiculous and tendentious’

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Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Alamy

openDemocracy has been nominated for two top journalism awards after it exposed BP’s corporate spying and led a campaign against government secrecy which forced ministers to stop vetting freedom of information requests.

Our independent, non-profit outlet has been nominated in two categories, ‘campaign of the year’ and ‘energy and environment journalism’, in a field packed with mainstream commercial newspapers.

Jenna Corderoy, Seth Thévoz and Lucas Amin were jointly nominated for their work campaigning for greater transparency in public life. The work followed revelations in 2020 about the existence of an ‘Orwellian’ Clearing House with the Cabinet Office, which openDemocracy discovered was vetting ‘sensitive’ information requests.

Prompted by openDemocracy's reporting, Parliament’s Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee launched an inquiry into the handling of Freedom of Information requests by the Cabinet Office.

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In April, it released a damning report criticising transparency at the Cabinet Office – an embarrassment for Michael Gove, who had dismissed openDemocracy’s reporting as “ridiculous and tendentious”.

And in August, the government capitulated and announced that it would disband the Clearing House.

Our campaign work also saw reporter Seth Thévoz reveal that Tory treasurers who had made high-value donations to the party were almost guaranteed seats in the Lords.

Martin Williams and Lucas Amin were nominated in the ‘energy and environment’ category for their investigation into corporate surveillance of climate activists.

The investigation, which found that oil giant BP had hired a private intelligence firm set up by former MI6 agents to spy on peaceful climate campaigners, was picked up across national media and cited by politicians across the political spectrum.

openDemocracy’s head of news Ramzy Alwakeel said: “The government spent tens of thousands of pounds trying to stop openDemocracy finding out about the anti-democratic Clearing House. Today, thanks to our reporters’ mastery of Freedom of Information law and abject refusal to give up, journalists across the UK have a better chance of accessing the information they need to hold power to account.

“At a time when the government is clamping down on our fundamental democratic rights, it’s vital that news outlets like ours keep fighting for the public’s right to know.”

The winners will be announced on 15 December.

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