The Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) won the prestigious award European Press Prize in the investigative journalism category on Thursday, 20 April 2017 at the ceremony in Amsterdam. CINS was awarded for a series of articles on corruption and organized crime in Serbia, supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (MATRA program) and the EU Delegation in Serbia.
Commenting CINS victory, the judges said they believe that investigative journalism can help bulwark democracy, sometimes when it exposes global levels of corruption, but sometimes when it brings light and life to local communities.
“There was open admiration for the unflagging work and range of investigations mounted by CIJ journalists in Serbia – stories that exposed corruption charges framed and then forgotten; cases allowed to sink into the sands of time; a judiciary vulnerable to all manner of official and unofficial pressure; indeed, a legal system that promise justice but too often fails to deliver it”, the judges explained and concluded: “These are revelations of the utmost importance to Serbian society. They fulfil the most basic promise of investigative journalists to their readers: they lift the curtains of corruption and let the light shine in. “
Receiving the award, CINS editor-in-chief Dino Jahić said: “We are a team and we did the entire investigation as a team. We did not expect to win the award – it is a great privilege to be nominated in this group of superb journalists and stories – and to win the award is incredible, especially when people in Serbia are now protesting in the streets for media freedom and unbiased journalism. We see this award as a great incentive for our future work and recognition of what we did so far.”
CINS has worked on these stories for more than eight months, supported by Dutch MATRA program and the EU delegation to Serbia. It submitted hundreds of FOI requests, and only one of the databases it produced has 23.000 entries.
“Changes in Serbia happen very slowly and there are no real changes on this front yet. We will not stop working on this project and the issues we were awarded for. Our plan is to attract more young journalists to work with us and take part in real, solid journalism,” Jahić added in the end.
CINS investigations showed how inaccurate the allegations of the authorities’ representatives are that the fight against corruption and organized crime is successful – instead, it boils down to arrests on camera. Trials for the most severe crimes last for years. In early 2016 there were as many as 583 criminal court proceedings which have gone on for over a decade, among them the trial of Mirjana Marković, Slobodan Milošević’s wife, with no end in sight.
Judges and prosecutors are intimidated and under constant pressure by the authorities. There is a small number of privileged lawyers that earn incomparably more than their colleagues because they are engaged far more frequently as duty counsels. At the same time, the state ignores anti-corruption bodies and officials refuse to accept their decisions, all with no consequences.
Owing to the acquaintance with the Serbian Government’s secretary general, Novak Nedić, a sports management agency began cooperation with the Football Club “Partizan” and in less than two years since it foundation it started to represent some of the most promising young footballers.
More than 600 articles from 40 European countries were submitted this year for the European Press Prize.
Along with CINS, this year’s finalists in the investigative journalism category were:
* Panama Papers project (by Frederik Obermeier, Bastian Obermeier and many others, published by Süddeutsche Zeitung, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The Guardian, Le Monde and 39 other European media outlets, Germany)
* Dark Money: London’s Dirty Secret (by Tom Burgis , published by Financial Times, United Kingdom),
* Babies for Sale: (by Kostas Koukoumakas, Thanasis Trobouki, Millen Enchevs, Laurent Laughlin, published by VICE Greece),
* Mapping the Weapons of Terror (by Arfi Fabrice (European Investigative Collaboration), published by Mediapart, France),
* Anabolics Mafia (by Rata Mariana, published by Anticoruptie.md, Moldova),
* Misuse of EU-funds: Messerschmidt’s foundations investigated for fraud (by Per Mathiessen, Jonas Sahl, James Kristoffer Miles, Peter Jeppesen, Kristian B. Larsen, Wojciech Ciesla, Michal Krzymowski, Sarunas Cerniauskas, published by Ekstra Bladet, Denmark).
The winners in other categories are:
* The Commentator Award: Fintan O’Toole for Brexit Columns published by The Irish Times, The Observer, The Guardian,
* The Distinguished Writing Award: Dialika Neufeld, published by Der Spiegel; Claas Relotius, published by Der Spiegel; Felix Hutt, published by Stern,
* The Innovation Award: Christiaan Triebert, published by bellingcat, The Netherlands,
* Special Award: Irina Tacu, web editor at Decat o Revisita in Romania.
The investigative reporting award has been administered since 2014 and the winners have been: Reuters for the investigation of the Assets of the Ayatollah in Iran (2014), El Pais for the story about crimes of Columbian military officers (2015), and Revue XXI (France) for a story on mass rapes in Congo (2016).
Some of the past winners in other categories are: Die Zeit, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Observer, Novaya Gazeta.
CINS is a member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a network of investigative centers and journalists, Global Investigative Journalism Network and some regional and Serbian networks and coalitions. It has won six national awards for investigative journalism. The organization was founded in 2007.