WESTERN BALKANS/JOURNALISM AWARDS

Investigative journalism exposes new scandals

Posted by Davor Marko

The 2023 EU Awards for Investigative Journalism has proven to be an exceptional showcase of talent, diversity and shifting journalistic priorities.

More than 200 journalists submitted their stories alongside teams from 35 different media outlets making it a tough job for the judges to pick the winners.

What stood out this year was a significant shift in the types of stories being told to audiences across the Western Balkans and Türkiye. Traditionally, investigative journalism in this region has often revolved around high-profile criminal cases and political misconduct.

This year however saw more stories on health, the environment, and discrimination – issues that have a direct impact on the lives of ordinary people. There was an acknowledgement too of the intersection of these seemingly diverse topics and their broader impact on society: local issues with a global impact.  

We analysed the 70 top-rated investigative stories (10 from each participating country) to show the extent of this evolving trend. The breakdown looks like this: 

  • 25% on political power and political corruption. 
  • 23% on health and environmental themes. 
  • 19% on high-level criminal activities. 
  • 16% on discrimination in various domains, including education and politics. 

Here are a few highlights from some brilliant entries.

Exposing corruption

Kreshnik Gashi

In Kosovo journalist Kreshnik Gashi from Kallxo, won first prize for his two-year long investigation and exposé of a deep-seated corruption scandal involving local businessmen and prosecutors.

A noteworthy example from Serbia is the first prize awarded to the investigative portal KRIK, which continued to shed light on a dangerous criminal group known as the Darko Šarić clan. The four-part series showcases top-quality teamwork, combining traditional investigative journalism methods with advanced technological innovations.  

In Türkiye, the first prize went to Murat Ağırel from Yeniçağ Gazetesi for his captivating print story 'Türkiye in the Grip of Drugs', in which he unveiled a web of crime stretching from Türkiye to Europe. 

Medical malpractice and healthcare reform

The spotlight also turned toward healthcare with some notable examples.  

Bad Blood from North Macedonia provided an innovative documentary approach to addressing dangerous practices within a private hospital during the pandemic, whilst in Montenegro, Đurđa Radulović's Silence surrounding violence highlighted issues in maternity wards. 

Arduana Pribinja

From Bosnia and Herzegovina Arduana Pribinja of Al Jazeera Balkans tackled the transformation of the healthcare system in the Canton of Sarajevo. Her story garnered widespread attention and prompted significant changes in the healthcare landscape. 

And in Albania, journalist Osman Mustafa investigated whether children battling cancer were being given access to potentially life-saving drugs.  

Environmental issues

An investigative journalist in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Stanimirović from Al Jazeera Balkans presented a remarkable two-part documentary exposé, Battle for Neretva on potential ecological disasters facing Neretva, Herzegovina, and Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole. It provided invaluable insights into institutional corruption, environmental mismanagement, and the age-old conflict between human interests and nature. 

Montenegrin journalists from Boka News zeroed in on the problem of illegal landfills in the Boka Kotorska area, and in Serbia, the investigative story by Vreme's journalists centred on the controversy around the arrival of the company Rio Tinto and its potential environmental impact. 

Discrimination and education

In Kosovo, journalist Dafina Halili presented a powerful piece exposing the school segregation of Roma and Ashkali children in Kosovo, "Ghost Schools, Ghetto Schools, and Segregated Shifts". 

Meanwhile Turkish journalists from Ozel Haber brought to light a story about religious education provided to young boys. Many of the children are the offspring of militants whose fathers were involved with ISIS in Syria. 

In summary, it’s clear that this year's awards exemplify the power of investigative journalism to shed light on critical issues and drive positive change. What is also clear is that these journalists are making an impact far beyond the newsroom. Many stories were presented in an innovative way which increased that impact, not only within their respective countries, but to a wider audience.   

Congratulations to all of the winners. 

Davor Marko

Davor Marko

Programme Manager - Central Europe & South East Europe

Davor is Thomson’s Central Europe and South East Europe programme manager. He is actively involved in designing, running and overviewing programmes in this region. 

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