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BTD Grantees Win Investigative Journalism Prize
Two Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD) grantees won a prize for best online investigative journalism for their story on corrupt business practices at a World Press Freedom ceremony in Belgrade on May 8. The Centers for Investigative Journalism in Sarajevo (CIN) and in Belgrade (CINS) won the prize from the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS) and the U.S. Embassy.
The story, “Bought International Awards to Show Off at Home Turf,” revealed that prominent individuals, public companies managers, deans of private universities, and local government leaders from Bosnia and Serbia had bought “awards” from the so-called Europe Business Assembly from Oxford, sometimes using public money to do so. These individuals were trying to fraudulently boost their public profiles by “winning” these “highly competitive awards.” The story was originally published on both CIN and CINS websites in August 2013.
Journalists Dragana Pećo and Dino Jahić from CINS and their colleague, Jasna Fetahović, from CIN were presented with the annual Investigative Journalism Award in Serbia 2014, in the category of online media. In a ceremony that also marked World Press Freedom Day (May 3), U.S. Ambassador Michael Kirby presented the prizes, worth $1,200.
In 2013, BTD gave a grant to strengthen regional partnership and cooperation between the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN) from Sarajevo (www.cin.ba) and the Center for Investigative Journalism Serbia (CINS) from Belgrade (www.cins.rs). The intention was to foster joint investigative reporting projects on the issue of corruption and how it damages the quality of life in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia. The prize-winning story was one result of the grant.
“Wide-spread corruption is one of most significant problems for citizens of the region and an impediment to the rule of law and further democratic development,” said Biljana Dakić Đorđević, senior program officer with the Balkan Trust for Democracy. “It is very difficult for civil society to address and explore cases where public money ends up in private pockets or is being misused for personal gain and very few organizations have capacities to do so.”
“BTD support to two prominent media outlets working solely on investigative journalism demonstrates our commitment to support initiatives working to raise awareness of citizens,” Đorđević continued, “That there needs to be a strong public check and balance to keep government structures in Bosnia and Serbia accountable and transparent in their actions. This is particularly important at a time when there are different threats to media freedom and increasing self-censorship among journalists.”
NUNS President Vukasin Obradovic said that all the nominated reporters deserve a prize for their courage and skills to face the major problems of society, and that strong investigative journalism is a reliable indicator of a society’s democracy.
For the last ten years, BTD has been a $36-million grantmaking initiative that supports democracy, good governance, and Euroatlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. This public-private partnership was created in 2003 by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.