BIRN Albania Opens Call for Organised Crime Investigations

BIRN Albania launched a call for investigative stories on November 3, offering grants for three journalists to produce articles on organised crime themes.

BIRN is offering grants for three journalists from Albania to cover organised crime stories, as well as mentoring by experienced editors.

The call is part of the project ‘Raising Awareness and Accountability on Money Laundering in Albania’, supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The goal of the project is to strengthen the fight against organised crime and money-laundering by raising awareness and strengthening the accountability of the system for the seizure and confiscation of the illegal proceeds of crime.

Three journalists will be awarded grants to cover their expenses while conducting investigations and writing their stories about organised crime.

The journalists will have around three months to dig deeper and research their ideas, and will also have the opportunity to work with experienced editors as mentors to guide them through the process of writing in accordance with BIRN standards.

The call only applies to journalists from Albania and closes on November 15.

Click here for more information (in Albanian) about the application procedure.

Click here to download the application (in Albanian).

BIRN Sponsors Development of War Crime Trial Educational Material

BIRN is supporting the development of educational material about war crime trials, focusing on cases from the Hague Tribunal, to help build awareness among young people and challenge the continuing political manipulation of wartime history.

BIRN’s Transitional Justice Programme is supporting a project to create educational content based on archive materials from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, designed by an independent education specialist from Croatia, Tvrtko Pater.

The aim is to build critical thinking, legal understanding and human rights awareness among students in a region where the past is often misused for divisive political goals, and to provide teachers with the tools to foster discussion about complex and controversial topics in an engaging and depolarising way.

Pater was one of 20 people, including journalists, historians, artists and activists, who were awarded grants under BIRN’s Transitional Justice Programme to create work based on the archives of the UN tribunal in The Hague.

Pater used ICTY archive materials as his source for two sets of lesson plans for use in history, civic education or sociology classes, as well as case materials for war crime trial simulations that deal with the topics of the destruction of cultural heritage and sexual violence in conflict.

For one of the lesson plans, Pater focused on accusations against Bosnian Croat general Slobodan Praljak, who was acquitted of destroying the Old Mostar Bridge, a landmark Ottoman-era bridge in Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina but found guilty of other crimes and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Praljak took poison in the courtroom when the sentence was being read and died soon afterwards.

For the other lesson plan, Pater focused on the sexual violence allegations against Dragoljub Kunarac, the commander of a reconnaissance unit of the Bosnian Serb Army in the Foca area of Bosnia.

Kunarac was found guilty of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war – including torture, rape and enslavement – and sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Pater’s case materials for war simulations will be used from 2021 onwards at the Model International Criminal Court Western Balkans, MICC WeB, an educational project that simulates ICTY cases and verdicts for young participants.

“Thanks to the BIRN Transitional Justice Programme grant, the MICC WeB educational programme – with renewed educational materials about the destruction of cultural heritage and sexual violence in times of conflict – will continue to challenge and deconstruct the dominant, divisive war crime trial narratives currently existing in our respective countries; build critical thinking, and develop youth resilience to political instrumentalisation of transitional justice and history, as well as to nationalism,” Pater said.

The wartime history of the 1990s is either not taught in classrooms in the Western Balkans or taught from a one-sided, nationalist perspective.

Transitional Justice Programme coordinator Jovana Prusina said that the materials created by Pater are a great example of using the ICTY’s archives creatively.

“BIRN started its granting scheme aiming to encourage and create opportunity for journalists, researchers, activists and others to explore court archives, thus contributing to the reconciliation and memorialisation processes in the Balkans. Tvrtko’s project is a great example of that,” said Prusina.

“By creating such educational toolkit, many students will be able to learn more about the past from an early age and to participate in creating fact-based narratives about wartime history,” she added.

The MICC WeB educational programme has been implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia since 2014. Operating at the intersection of transitional justice, historical human rights education and civic education, it has brought together more than 400 high school students and 80 teachers from more than 50 schools to discuss and hold simulations of war crime trials.

Acting in teams of prosecution, defence, judges and media in week-long MICCWeB sessions, students investigate their respective legal cases, enhance their understanding and knowledge of transitional justice and international criminal law, and build bonds between their communities.

The lesson plans created in cooperation with BIRN can be found in the document section below.

Download: MICCWeB Cases Selection and Procedure

Download: MICCWeB Lesson Plan – Cultural Heritage

Download: MICCWeB Lesson Plan – Sexual Violence in Conflict

Open Call: Best Stories on Public Spending

As part of its ‘Promoting the Auditor General/NAO’s Role in Kosovo’ project, which is supported by the Dutch Embassy in Pristina, BIRN Kosovo is seeking applications for an award scheme for the best stories on public spending.

Stories written by individual journalists and those written as part of a group are eligible, as long as they meet the following criteria:

  • The stories must have been published between October 1, 2019 and September 30, 2020
  • The stories must have been published by a media outlet that is a member of the Press Council of Kosovo (PCK)

The applications will be reviewed by a professional jury consisting of five members including editors, media workers and representatives from the National Audit Office.

The jury will select the stories by evaluating them on:

  • The impact of the findings on the general public
  • The quality of research and comprehensiveness of information sources
  • Creativity in using public data extracted from audit reports

Applications must be submitted by 23:59 on November 15, 2020 to this email address:

Applicants must submit a brief description of the story and its impact on the public as well as a link or scanned copy of the published version. Incomplete applications, or applications received after the deadline will not be considered. Any questions can be addressed to the same email address.

The winning stories will be awarded the following prizes:

  • 800 euros for first place
  • 600 euros for second place
  • 400 euros for third place

The award winners will be announced in the first week of December.


Thirrje: Çmimet për storiet më të mira gazetareske në fushën e shpenzimeve publike

Rrjeti Ballkanik i Gazetarisë Hulumtuese, BIRN Kosova, në kuadër të projektit të promovimit të rolit të ZKA-së në kuadër të projektit të mbështetur nga Ambasada Holandeze në Prishtinë, shpall Thirrje për:

Tri storiet më të mira në temën e shpenzimit të parasë publike

Kriteret e konkursit

  • Storiet duhet të jenë të publikuara nga data 1 tetor 2019 deri 30 shtator 2020
  • Storiet duhet të jenë të publikuara në televizione, radio si dhe në media online e gazeta që janë anëtare të KMShK-së
  • Gazetarët dhe grupe gazetarësh lejohet të aplikojnë me storiet e tyre Juria do t’i përzgjedhë storiet duke i vlerësuar ato në:
  • Ndikimin i gjetjeve në audiencën e përgjithshme
  • Cilësia e hulumtimit dhe gjithëpërfshirja e burimeve të informacionit
  • Kreativiteti në përdorimin e të dhënave publike të nxjerra nga raportet e auditimit

Aplikantët duhet të dorëzojnë një përshkrim të shkurtër të stories dhe impaktit të saj në publik dhe gjithashtu linkun ose kopjen e skenuar të publikimit.

Të gjitha aplikacionet për Çmimin për storjen më të mirë, do të pranohen deri më 15 nëntor 2020, në ora 23:59, në e-mail adresën:

* Aplikimet e jo të plota ose aplikimet e pranuara pas afatit kohor nuk do të merren në konsideratë.

Çdo pyetje që ka të bëjë me Çmimin për të shkeljet në shpenzime publike mund të drejtohet në e-mail adresën e përmendur më lart.

Çmimi gazetaresk do të shoqërohet me stimulim monetar

  • Çmimi i parë 800 euro
  • Çmimi i dytë 600 euro
  • Çmimi i tretë 400 euro

Aplikacionet e pranuara do të vlerësohen nga një juri profesionale e përbërë nga 5 anëtarë përfshirë redaktorë, punonjës të mediave dhe përfaqësues të Zyrës Kombëtare të Auditimit.

Shpallja e çmimeve do bëhet në javën e parë të dhjetorit.


Poziv: Nagrada za najbolju novinarsku priču iz oblasti javnih rashoda

Balkanska istraživačka mreža, BIRN Kosovo, u okviru projekta koji promoviše ulogu Nacionalne kancelarije revizije (NKR), čiju realizaciju podržava Ambasada Holandije u Prištini, objavljuje Poziv za:

Tri najbolje novinarske priče na temu potrošnje javnog novca

Konkursni kriterijumi

  • Novinarske priče moraju da su objavljene od 1. oktobra 2019. do 30. septembra 2020.
  • Novinarske priče moraju da su objavljene na televiziji, radiju i onlajn medijima i novinskim listovima u članstvu Saveza za štampu Kosova
  • Dozvoljeno je prijavljivanje kako individualnih novinara/novinarki, tako i grupa novinara sa svojim medijskim pričama

Žiri će odabrati priče na osnovu sledećih kriterijuma:

  • uticaja njihovih istraživanja na opštu javnost
  • kvaliteta istraživanja i sveobuhvatnosti izvora informacija
  • kreativnosti u korišćenju javnih podataka izvučenih iz revizorskih izveštaja

Kandidati moraju dostaviti kratak opis medijskog tekst  i uticaja koji je ostvario u javnosti, kao i link ili skeniranu kopiju publikacije.

Sve prijave za Nagradu za najbolju novinarsku priču primaju se do 15. novembra 2020. godine do 23:59 časova na e-mejl adresu:

* Nepotpune prijave ili prijave pristigle nakon roka neće biti uzete u razmatranje.

Sva pitanja u vezi sa Nagradom o prekršajima iz oblasti javnih rashoda mogu se dostaviti na gore pomenutu e-mejl adresu.

Nagrada za najbolju novinarsku priču biće propraćena novčanim podsticajem

  • Prva nagrada 800 evra
  • Druga nagrada 600 evra
  • Treća nagrada 400 evra

Primljene prijave oceniće profesionalni žiri sastavljen od 5 članova, koji će uključivati urednike, medijske radnike i predstavnike Nacionalne kancelarije za reviziju.

Dobitnici nagrada biće proglašeni prve nedelje decembra.

BIRN Albania Holds Discussion on Organised Crime and Money-Laundering

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held on a roundtable discussion on October 27 between investigative journalists and representatives of civil society organisations working to counter organised crime in Albania.

The event, which was attended by more than 20 journalists and representatives of civil society organisations and international institutions working in the field of organised crime, money-laundering and illicit asset recovery, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands-supported project ‘Raising Awareness and Accountability on Money Laundering in Albania’.

The goal of the project is to strengthen the fight against organised crime and money-laundering by raising awareness and strengthening accountability on the system for the seizure and confiscation of the illegal proceeds of crime.

The discussion was also attended by the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Albania, Guusje Korthals Altes, who in opening remarks underlined the important role the media and investigative journalists play in the fight against organised crime.

The discussion was moderated by Redion Qirjazi, the head of the security programme at the Institute for Democracy and Mediation in Tirana. The event produced lively debate about important topics that should be investigated in the field of organised crime and money-laundering as well as the need to build stronger bridges of communication and cooperation between civil society and journalists.

The main topics discussed included the proper implementation of Albania’s law for the integrity of public officials, the reach of organised crime in politics and its possible involvement in the 2021 parliamentary election campaign, the use by the community of confiscated assets of organised crime and efforts made by civil society to turn them into social businesses.

The journalists and civil society experts also discussed the illicit finances of organised crime, including contraband cigarettes, trafficking in narcotics and the laundering of these illicit gains in different sectors of the economy, ranging from tourism and media to the construction sector. Experts asked the journalists to pay more attention to the implementation of strategies against organised crime by the Albanian government and its law enforcement agencies.

The journalists underlined the wide reach of Albanian organised crime in Europe, including the narcotics trade in the Netherlands and other European countries, as well as the difficulties they face in covering this sensitive and dangerous topic, which requires editorial and financial support that their own media outlets do not provide.

The debate will inform BIRN Albania’s upcoming call for an investigation on the topic of organised crime.

BIRN Kosovo Holds Audit Report Debate in Shtime/Stimlje

BIRN Kosovo on Wednesday held the third in its series of debates discussing the findings of its audit monitoring project, which analyses reports on Kosovo’s municipalities published by the National Audit Office, NAO. The debate was held in the municipality of Shtime/Stimlje.

The results of BIRN’s monitoring and analysis were published and discussed in an open debate. Due to the circumstances caused by COVID-19, the debate was followed by a limited number of participants from the municipality, the National Audit Office and civil society organisations. The debate was also streamed live on BIRN’s anti-corruption platform’s Managing Editor Visar Prebreza gave a brief presentation on the project and its findings, stating that there has been progress in the municipality of Shtime/Stimlje in the sense that financial statements are true and present the factual situation.

“As for the number of recommendations that the municipality of Shtime has received from the auditor, we have a worsening of the situation,” Prebreza noted.

According to Naim Ismajli, the mayor of Shtime/Stimlje, the audit report for 2019 is one of the best reports received by the municipality, and shows that the financial statements accurately reflect what is planned and spent.

“The municipality of Shtime has received the best possible opinion on the financial statements and this shows that the financial statements accurately reflect all that is planned and spent,” Ismajli said.

However, Bujar Bajraktari, the head of the audit department, stated when presenting the report that “some shortcomings have been identified”.

In terms of the implementation of recommendations, Bajraktari said that out of 17 recommendations given last year, only seven have been fully implemented, while one has been partially implemented, four have not been implemented and five are considered closed.

Alongside providing an avenue to discuss the implementation of recommendations by the NAO, these debates also give BIRN the opportunity to record promises made both by National Audit Office officials and the Municipality of Shtime/Stimlje, to be followed up through’s fact-checking platform, Krypometer.

The debate was organised within the framework of the project, ‘Support Civil Society to Increase Public Oversight and Accountability of Kosovo Public Institutions’, funded by the British embassy in Pristina. This specific activity is organised as part of the component looking into the compliance of targeted institutions with recommendations from the Auditor General’s reports.

Similar debates will be held across other municipalities in Kosovo, with the aim of presenting BIRN Kosovo’s analysis of the progress made in implementing recommendations made by the Auditor. Every debate will be livestreamed by BIRN Kosovo.

Srebrenica Memorial Centre and BIRN Launch Genocide Testimony Project

The memorial centre in Srebrenica and BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina have set out to film 100 testimonies of surviving witnesses of the 1995 genocide to create an oral history which will become part of a permanent exhibition.

The Srebrenica Memorial Centre and BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina have begun a project entitled ‘The Lives Behind the Fields of Death’ which aims to create an oral history by filming 100 interviews with surviving witnesses of the July 1995 genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces.

“The primary target group in this project is genocide victims, their families and people directly or indirectly affected by the crime, as well as [post-war] returnees to Srebrenica and the broader surroundings,” said BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s director, Denis Dzidic.

“Through this project, BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina will give the victims a much-needed voice and space in the public arena, enabling them to share their stories, while the Memorial Centre will collect and keep victims’ personal belongings that were found in mass graves and use them as exhibits to accompany stories about real lives that were disrupted by the 1995 genocide,” he added.

The Srebrenica Memorial Centre is calling on survivors to share their stories and to donate any items that belonged to them or relatives who were killed, which will be used to accompany the video testimonies.

“Our museum collection currently holds a large number of items which we have gathered over the past few months. Our colleagues have noted down the basic information linking victims to those items. Now we will try to complete the story through a video of victims’ testimonies,” said Hasan Hasanovic, who is managing the project on behalf of the Memorial Centre.

“Each story is important. Every one of us has an obligation to preserve the memory of their loved ones,” he added.

The Memorial Centre and BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina are filming the first five interviews this week in Srebrenica with people who have donated items that belonged to them or their family members.

Of the 100 testimonies to be filmed for the project, which is being financed by the government of the Netherlands, 20 stories which will be used with the accompanying personal items and presented in a permanent exhibition hosted by the Memorial Centre.

BIRN Kosovo Holds Debate on Audit Report in Ferizaj/Urosevac

BIRN Kosovo on Monday held the first in a series of debates discussing the findings from its audit report monitoring project, which analyses reports published by the National Audit Office, NAO, on Kosovo’s municipalities. This debate was held in the municipality of Ferizaj/Urosevac.

The results of BIRN’s monitoring and analysis were published and discussed at the debate in the town’s municipality.

Due to the pandemic, the debate was attended by a limited number of participants from the municipality, the National Audit Office and civil society organisations. The debate was also streamed live on BIRN’s anti-corruption platform

Visar Prebreza, BIRN Kosovo’s managing editor, gave a brief presentation on the project and its findings, stating that the implementation of the NAO’s recommendations increases public well-being, improves governance and above all conserves the municipality’s budget.

Prebreza said that the audit for the municipality of Ferizaj/Urosevac had improved, but added there was still a lot of work to be done.

“The eunicipality of Ferizaj has a very large number of recommendations that it has received from the Auditor General,” he said. “Last year it received 25 recommendations, and this year it received 20 recommendations.”

The deputy mayor of Ferizaj/Urosevac, Arton Gavazi, said that the audit report for 2019 for the municipality shows a better situation than the report for the previous year, and contains fewer recommendations. He pledged that all recommendations given by the Auditor General will be addressed and implemented.

Bujar Bajraktari, the head of the Audit Department for Municipalities at the NAO presented the report, and outlined:

“In addition to the opinion stated in the report we have raised several issues covering various areas of financial management, including revenues, expenditures, asset management, and liabilities, and 20 recommendations were given,” Bajraktari said.

As well as providing an opportunity to discuss the implementation of recommendations by the NAO, the debates also give BIRN the opportunity to record promises made by both the National Audit Office officials and the municipality of Ferizaj/Urosevac. These can then later be followed-up through’s fact-checking platform, Krypometer.

This debate was organised within the framework of the project ‘Support Civil Society to Increase Public Oversight and Accountability of Kosovo Public Institutions’, which is funded by the British embassy in Pristina. This specific activity is organised as part of the component looking into targeted institutions’ compliance with recommendations from the Auditor General’s reports.

Similar debates will be held across other municipalities in Kosovo, with the aim of presenting BIRN Kosovo’s analysis of the progress made in implementing recommendations made by the auditor. Every debate will be live streamed by BIRN Kosovo.

BIRN Serbia Journalist Wins CEI SEEMO Investigative Award

Natalija Jovanovic wins top award for her groundbreaking story on the number of COVID-related deaths in Serbia, which President Vucic initally rubbished, only for it to be confirmed later on.

BIRN Serbia journalist Natalija Jovanovic is the winner of this year’s CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism, promoted by the Central European Initiative CEI and the South East Europe Media Organisation SEEMO.

She is the  frontrunner for the “Young Journalist” award. Albanian journalist and BIRN contributor Esmeralda Keta won the jury’s special mention.

The awards ceremony was held on Thursday online in Belgrade.

Jovanovic is “a tenacious and brave reporter; the jury valued her story focusing on checking different COVID-19 data from different sources, carrying out her journalistic work through in-depth research,” the jury stated.

Her story “Serbia Under-Reported COVID-19 Deaths and Infections, Data Shows”, drew sharp reactions and comments from politicians, health experts, journalists, international organisations and others, and was quoted by influential media outlets across the world.

The subject of her article, published shortly after the June elections in Serbia, has become one of the main political and social issues in the country in recent months.

In July, after Serbian President President Aleksandar Vucic dismissed BIRN’s revelations, a government Crisis Staff member admitted in September that the COVID-19 death toll in June was far higher than was officially reported, blaming a new information system.

Investigations into health system failings won Albanian journalist Esmeralda Keta the jury’s special mention. Keta is an investigative journalist at Top Story show broadcasted by Top Channel and is a contributor to BIRN Albania’s and to BIRN’s regional publication Balkan Insight.

The jury highlighted the way “her model of journalism focuses on the injustices faced by vulnerable groups and the shortcomings in protecting citizens’ rights”

“I am very grateful for this prize and it means a lot to me. This pandemic placed a lot of challenges on all of us, but it has also encouraged us to be insistent and seek the truth, no matter what price is paid,” Keta said during her acceptance speech.“

Cecilia Anesi, investigative reporter at the online media of IRPI (Investigative Reporting Project Italy), was the winner in the “Professional Journalist” category.

This year’s edition of the CEI SEEMO Award gave priority to works covering issues related to the coronavirus crisis.

Before the awards ceremony, a conference, “(Re)Think the Digital – Reliability of the media, economic aspects of the pandemic, sustainable digital transitions in South East and Central Europe”, was organised simultaneously in Belgrade, Fažana, Podgorica, Sarajevo, Sofia, Tirana and Trieste.

Winners of EU Awards in North Macedonia Announced

Jury says it had a tough time evaluating the three best investigations out of a short list, as all three had the most important characteristic of good investigating journalism – ‘digging deeper under the surface’.

The EU Awards for Investigative Journalism for North Macedonia were presented to the winners on Thursday at the Aleksandar Palace Hotel in Skopje.

“This award aims to recognise the specific work of investigative journalists during the year,” David Geer, Head of the EU Delegation in Skopje, said at the ceremony.

“It aims to promote both freedom and responsibility – freedom to investigate and write about issues of public concern without fear – fear of punishment or reprisals. Responsibility: because there is a responsibility on all journalists – and the investigative journalist in particular – to apply the highest professional and ethical standards in their work,” he added.

The jury comprising jury head Vesna Nikodinoska and jury members Milica Saric and Marina Kostova had a tough task evaluating the 11 shortlisted applications.

“We had great responsibility before us,” Nikodinoska said: “We received 11 stories that passed the first selection phase out of 24, and tried our best to be objective. All three stories have the most important characteristic of investigative journalism – digging deeper and under the surface.”

She added: “I encourage journalists to work on investigations, because investigative journalism in this era of pseudo-media is needed more than ever in our developing democracies.”

First prize this year went to the Investigative Reporting Lab Macedonia, IRL, for “Urban Assassins”, which the jury deemed a product of outstanding research.

“What was important for this story was a multi-disciplinary approach. Young directors, animators and most important young journalists all worked on this story. But cooperation with state institutions was also very important as was the reaction of citizens,” Saska Cvetkovska, from IRL, said.

Second prize went to Snezhana Lupevska Sozen, Miomir Serafinovic and Biljana Nikolovska for a justice-related investigation, “Murders in Kicevo – convicted for life and declared guilty for a murder he did not commit.”

“It was hard working on this story having in mind that it needed a lot of ‘digging’, contacts and traveling,” Serafinovic said after receiving the award.

“However, it is much harder for the prisoner for whom this story speaks, who is serving a life sentence, because despite all of our investigation and stories, we did not succeed in awakening the justice system to reconsider all the evidence we presented,” he added.

Third prize went to Petar Klincarski for “Denationalization stuck in corruption and incompetence of the institutions”.

“The process of denationalization, as you have seen, is full of inefficiency and the incompetence of institutions,” Klincarski said.

“There were indications of unlawful behaviour and misuse of power. What is most important is that there is no political will for solving open cases of denationalization and for clearing up suspicions of misbehaviour.”

The EU awards have the overall goal of celebrating and promoting the outstanding achievements of investigative journalists from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, as well as improving the visibility of quality investigative journalism in these countries among the public.

The award for investigative journalism is awarded through the EU-funded project “Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey” in 2019, 2020, 2021 in EU candidate and potential candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, for investigative stories published between 2018 and 2020. In total, 63 awards will be awarded through a three-year period.

The award in North Macedonia is coordinated by the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers in North Macedonia, SSNM, while the regional consortium is led by Balkan Investigative Regional Reporting Network – BIRN Hub.

EU Investigative Awards Presented in Albania

Presenting the annual awards, EU delegation commends authors of probing investigations into voting fraud, shoddy new builds and public officials’ extravagant travel expenses.

In a ceremony held in Tirana on Wednesday October 21, three journalists were awarded for their investigative reporting, exposing the involvement of organised crime in voter fraud, the shoddy construction of buildings that collapsed in the November 2019 earthquake and the lavish travel expenditures of public officials.

In his opening remarks, Sylvain Gambert, deputy head of the Political, Economic and Information Section in the EU Delegation in Albania, said the EU was a stanch supporter of media freedom and freedom of expression.

“This indeed is the fifth year that we are doing this award in Albania and it shows our commitment in supporting investigative journalism and freedom of expression,” Gambert said.

First place went to Klodiana Lala, journalist for Albania’s News 24 TV and a BIRN contributor, for the story titled “Wiretaps Reveal the Role of Organised Crime in Vote Buying”, which the jury called a fine example of careful investigation, proper fact-checking and the determination to shed light on a phenomenon that is present in Albanian society but has rarely been properly verified.

“I am happy this article was recognised because in the end it exposed a phenomenon that was often debated but never proved through documents,” Lala said in her acceptance speech.

“We as journalists are bound by duty to be every day in search of facts, proof and evidence of events that institutions are trying to hide,” she added.

Second place went to Merxhan Daci, a journalist for the Albanian fact-checking service Faktoje, for an article shedding light on the questionable use of public funds by officials and public institutions.

The third place went to the TV reporter Andi Malasi, from Top Channel TV, for his investigation into the abuses related to newly built apartments that collapsed in the November 26th earthquake in Albania.

The ceremony continued with a reception. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the events had to be held outdoors with limited attendance