La Gran Plaza Piazza Maggiore Bolonia
The Big Square in Bologna, a metaphor for the ideal of a peaceful, diverse community space—and the name of the new journalism prize announced in March, 2019. Photo courtesy of Anita Malina, shared CC 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

En Asociación Internacional de Periodistas de Religión (IARJ) y Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII (FSCIRE) are proud to announce the members of the international jury of the 2019 Piazza Grande Religion Journalism Award, which will be presented to its winner at the 2020 annual conference of the European Academy of Religion (EuARe), next June. The contest is managed by the IARJ through a coordinator assisted by a secretary.

The seven members of the jury are:

Endy Bayuni, Indonesia

Endy Bayuni, executive director of the IARJ, was editor-in-chief of El Jakarta Post from 2004-2018. Earlier in his career, he had stints with Reuters y Agence France Presse as their Indonesian correspondent. His opinion columns and analytical articles have been widely published in national and international media, including Foreign Policy, El New York Times y The Washington Post. He is a recipient of the East West Center senior fellowship in Washington DC, in 2010, the Jefferson Fellowhip at the East West Center in Honolulu, in 1999, and the Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 2004.

Irene Hernández Velasco, Spain

Irene Hernandez Velasco is a journalist for El Mundo, a prominent Spanish newspaper. She has been foreign correspondent in Rome for El Mundo for ten years (2004-2014), covering the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church and reporting on religious issues. Hernández Velasco holds a journalism degree from Universidad Complutense de Madrid, and has also been foreign correspondent for El Mundo in London and in Paris. She has also been a special envoy to cover various important events, including the Paris and Nice terror attacks in 2015 and 2016, the US presidential elections in 2016, the Italian constitutional referendum in 2016, the French presidential elections in 2017 and the 2019 Greek general elections. She specializes in interviews. She is also a regular contributor to the BBC Spanish Service.

Alberto Melloni, Italy

Alberto Melloni is a full professor of History of Christianity in the University of Modena-Reggio, director of the Fondazione per le Scienze Religiose Giovanni XXIII (FSCIRE), chair holder of the Unesco Chair on Religious Pluralism and Peace at the University of Bologna, and senior advisor at the Institute of the Italian Encyclopedia Treccani, in Rome. He is a columnist for Corriere della sera since 2000 and for RAI, the Italian public television. He commented on the conclave of 2013 for CNN, NBC, CBS, TF5, and for various newspapers such as El New York Times y Financial Times. Professor Melloni studied history and church history in Bologna, Cornell and Fribourg (Switzerland). He spearheaded the establishment of the European Academy of Religion (EuARe), a research platform which includes institutions, associations, academies, publishers and reviews concerned with the study of religion throughout Europe, the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, the Caucasus and Russia.

Fariba Pajooh, Iran

Fariba Pajooh is a journalist from Tehran with over 15 years of experience, traveling across the globe to report on contemporary conflicts and issues –including Saddam Hussein’s fall in Iraq and the Lebanon War. She was the original correspondent for Tehran Bureau, the online news magazine now in partnership with American PBS Frontline, and she also worked with Radio France Internationale-RFI. In 2009 and 2013, she was imprisoned in Iran for almost six months –including solitary confinement for 50 days- for her reporting. In 2014 and 2015, she was based in Kabul reporting for Iran’s Shargh daily y Euronews and returned there in October 2018 to cover the Afghanistan parliamentary elections. She has also reported on the Chaldean Catholic Church in Baghdad (Iraq). She holds master degrees in journalism from Medill School at Northwestern University in Chicago. In her time in Afghanistan, she taught journalism as a volunteer instructor at the Nai School at Kabul University.

Barış Soydan, Turkey

Barış Soydan is currently a columnist at T24.com.tr, a prominent Turkish news site. From 2007 to 2014 he was the managing editor of Sabah, a relevant Turkish daily, where he also wrote a regular column on ethical issues. From 2014 to 2018 he was the editor-in-chief of Turkishtime, a monthly Turkish business magazine. Soydan is among the founders of the Turkish Media Ethics Platform, and he is also a founding member of the International Association of Religion Journalists.

Peggy Fletcher Stack, United States

Peggy Fletcher Stack has worked full time since 1991 as a religion writer for El Salt Lake Tribune, launching the newspaper’s award-winning Faith section. Stack has reported from Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Vietnam, China, Indonesia, and somewhere in the North Sea. Stack also served on the executive board of the Religion Newswriters Association (RNA), an American network of journalists who cover religion, and has won the Cornell Award for the best religion reporting at midsized papers four times. In 2013, Stack collected the American Academy of Religion’s top award for religion writing. She also was a co-author of one of the stories in El Salt Lake Tribune’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of sexual assaults at Utah colleges. Fletcher Stack is the IARJ Regional Representative for North America.

Douglas Todd, Canada

Douglas Todd writes on religion and migration mainly for The Vancouver Sun y Noticias Postmedia, which is Canada’s largest newspaper chain. He has also been a long-time correspondent for Religion News Service (RNS), which is based in New York. He has received 33 national and international journalism prizes. He is a two-time winner of the Templeton Religion Reporter of the Year Award, winner of a Canadian National Newspaper Award and has been given the top prizes for commentary from the American Academy of Religion. His blog garners more than two million page views a year. He is the author of two books and editor of Cascadia: la utopía esquiva - Explorando el espíritu del noroeste del Pacífico. In 2015 he was elected chair of the International Association of Religion Journalists.

The IARJ coordinator of the award is:

María-Paz López, Spain/Germany

María-Paz López is the foreign correspondent in Berlin and religion columnist of La Vanguardia, a Spanish daily based in Barcelona. From 2003 to 2009 she was its Italy and Vatican correspondent, and has been writing about religion for almost 20 years both in Spain and abroad. She was the IARJ’s first chair, and since 2016 she serves as its European Board director. López holds a BA degree in Mass Communication from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and a MS in Journalism from Columbia University in New York City, earned in 1997 in a sabbatical year as a Fulbrighter. She has taught journalism at the master’s degree BCN-NY, a Barcelona-based joint program in Spanish of Universitat de Barcelona (UB) and Columbia University. López is the author of the e-book Al rescate. Crónica de los viajes de Benedicto XVI a España, a chronicle of the three trips of Pope Benedict to Spain. In her home country, she has been awarded the First National Journalism Prize Manuel Alcántara.

The IARJ secretary of the award is:

Elisa Di Benedetto, Italy

Freelance journalist Elisa Di Benedetto is the IARJ regional representative for Europe. A founding member of the association, she is currently a co-managing director and web editor of the IARJ. As a journalist, over the past 18 years she has covered cross-cultural and cross-religious issues, migration and religion. She reported from Afghanistan, Lebanon and Kosovo. She holds a MA in Communication Studies-Mass Communication from Alma Mater Studiorum University in Bologna, and a post-graduated master’s degree in Peacekeeping and Security Studies from Roma Tre University. She is a recipient of the Henry Luce Fellowship in Washington DC (2013), and was awarded the Giornalisti del Mediterraneo International Award (2010) and the ICFJ Joint Reporting Award (2013). Di Benedetto is the author of the book La diga di carta. Giornali e giornalisti sul Vajont, an analysis on how the Vajont dam disaster in Italy was covered by the media at that time.


THE ONLINE ENTRY PAGE contains a general introduction to the new program. Scroll down and you will find boxes where you can submit your information, plus a final area where you can submit your story from your computer. So the page is easy to remember, the URL is short: https://theiarj.org/contest/

GOT MORE QUESTIONS? We already are responding to many Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about this new award program.

CARE TO LEARN MORE? The award program originally was announced this spring. Here is the original IARJ news story.