BIRN Journalists Win EU Investigative Journalism Awards in Serbia

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Jelena Zoric and Sasa Dragojlo won prestigious EU investigative reporting awards for their stories on clinical trials and arms exports respectively.

Photo: BIRN

BIRN Serbia’s Jelena Zoric was awarded second prize and BIRN Hub’s Sasa Dragojlo was awarded third prize at the EU Investigative Journalism Awards 2023 in Serbia.

The jury awarded Zoric for series of stories about a psychiatrist who has been recording false diagnoses into his patients’ medical records for the sake of a clinical trial he has participated in, and about the role Serbian state institutions played in this trial.

Dragojlo won third prize as a part of a team of BIRN and the Centre for investigative journalism of Serbia CINS, compromised of Marija Ristic, Dina Djordjevic and Jovana Tomic, who reported on Serbia’s arms exports to Myanmar following the army coup in the country.

First prize went to the team of journalists from Serbia’s Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, KRIK, for a series of articles on Serbian drug boss Darko Šarić.

This year, the jury in Serbia awarded two second and two third prizes. Along with Zoric, the second prize was also presented to the CINS team – Teodora Curcic, Jovana Tomic and Stefan Markovic – for their series of reports on political parties’ financing.

Along with BIRN and CINS, the third prize was awarded to Vuk Cvijic, journalist for the weekly NIN.

With a series of articles on the abuse of medical ethics, Jelena Zorić told the shocking story about the fate of people given false psychiatric diagnoses and the unwillingness of the system to investigate and sanction the actions of psychiatrist Aleksandar Miljatović at the health centre in Belgrade, who – for the sake of personal gain – manipulated a large number of people from particularly sensitive group of patients for months.

Drawing on testimonies and analysis of extensive documentation, Zoric’s first investigation, on how Miljatović gave false diagnoses to patients, revealed how he abused psychiatric patients, while the second article, “Health centre Palilula: Doubtful clinical trial of a drug approved by everyone”, dealt with the institutional responsibility of all who knew and approved, despite legal prohibitions, the clinical trial of the drug primavanserin to be conducted in one of Belgrade’s public health centres.

Saša Dragojlo, along with colleagues Dina Djordjevic, Marija Ristic and Jovana Tomic, received the award for an investigation into Serbia’s exports of millions of euros worth of rockets to Myanmar in 2021, days after a military coup that has since triggered a civil war – ignoring requirements that the government revoke any arms export permit should conditions in the destination country change and there be a risk that the arms might be used to violate human rights.

This year’s jury members in Serba were Snjezana Milivojevic, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences at Belgrade University, Tamara Skrozza, journalist and a member of Serbia’s Press Council and Sasa Lekovic, president of the Centre for Investigative Journalist of Croatia.

The organiser of the award is Thomson Media, an organisation with decades of experience in media development and the promotion of media freedom on a global level.

The EU Award for Investigative Journalism 2023 is part of the project Strengthening Quality Journalism in Western Balkans and Türkiye II. It aims to recognise and promote outstanding achievements in investigative journalism as well as improve the visibility of quality journalism in the Western Balkans and Türkiye.

The project is funded by the European Union, and is being implemented by a consortium composed of Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – BIRN Hub, Central European University (CEU) – Hungary, Association of Journalists (AJ) – Türkiye, Thomson Media (TM) – Germany, University Goce Delcev Stip (UGD) – North Macedonia, The Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM) – North Macedonia, Media Association of South-East Europe (MASE) – Montenegro and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Kosovo (BIRN Kosovo).