The decision on investigative journalism awards for 2020 was announced at a ceremony in Belgrade on November 16.
The journalist of the Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) won an award for research whereby she had discovered, among other things, that the Zijin Bor Copper company had ended up in court because of pollution in Bor, i.e. that the Ministry of Environmental Protection had launched court proceedings against the company because it had released dangerous substances into the air in November 2019 and January 2020.
Furthermore, she wrote that Serbia has not had a realistic image of the quality of air for years now because pollution is higher than what the official data show, but also that in some places the official data are late with warnings about harmful air. She also investigated why the air was polluted during a curfew despite the fact that citizens’ activities were reduced at the time.
The jury’s explanation states that through these articles, using clear, specific and simple narration, Đorđević presented a complex research topic to the readers. The jury highlighted the abundance of relevant sources as a special value of the investigative story on Zijin, so the journalist skillfully presented the truth and the facts through the testimonies of citizens, activists and experts, by obtaining official documents, information and explanations from multiple sides, and by spending some time in Bor:
“It is exactly this meticulousness and perseverance in searching for, insisting on information, and then analyzing and compressing information, with investigative work on the ground, that give a special freshness to this topic and intensify the credibility of the facts and assessments presented.”
According to the jury, the stories were written skillfully and were enriched with additional multimedia elements, accessible and comprehensible to both the expert community and the citizens who are not too familiar with environmental topics:
“In that way, they raise awareness of pollution and [its] consequences for health, with the discovery of individual and systemic problems which the authorities are not dealing with.”
The jury, comprising South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM) Executive Director Tihomir Loza, editor of the KoSSev website Tatjana Lazarević and journalist and former editor of the Južne Vesti website Predrag Blagojević, handed over two more awards. Second prize went to journalists Saša Dragojlo and Dragana Pećo for a story on a former chief urbanist of the City of Belgrade, Milutin Folić, while third prize went to Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Serbia (BIRN Serbia) journalist Natalija Jovanović for an investigative story on the number of coronavirus deaths and cases of infection.
A total of 13 investigative pieces were shortlisted for the awards, including CINS’ How Much Does an MP Cost? database and the accompanying articles. The jury especially lauded this database.
The awards were established by the Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission in line with the EU Enlargement Strategy. Aside from Serbia, the awards are also handed over in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Turkey, with the aim of bringing attention to and promoting outstanding achievements by investigative journalists and increasing the visibility of quality investigative journalism in these countries.