Meet the People Behind BIRN: Lamija Grebo

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Each month, BIRN introduces you to a different member of its team. For October, meet Lamija Grebo, a BIRN BiH Journalist.

Photo: BIRN BiH

Lamija joined BIRN BiH in January 2014 as a web archive assistant and intern. She wanted to contribute to the betterment of society and to changes in the postwar country and was recently awarded by the EU. Let’s meet her!

  1. Why did you decide to become a journalist?

I became a journalist probably because I wanted somehow to contribute to the betterment of society and to the changes we faced as a postwar country. I guess that’s something that motivated most of my colleagues in those early days. Love for this job, even with all the difficulties, is something that still makes me want to do my job the best I can.

  1. What was the most challenging situation during your career so far?

I can’t think of a specific one, but I think it is normal that now and then, with the situation in the country, region, or even on a global level, you ask yourself, is it all in vain, is it worth it, if they come, then why are the changes so slow? The stories that we do are worth it. They matter and should be told. The people we talk about within our stories should have a way for their voices to be heard, and we can give them that space and tell their stories in the most professional way.

  1. What are the three words that should describe journalism?

Truth, freedom, professionalism.

  1. You recently won the EU Investigative Journalism Award for an investigation into court verdicts over the past ten years for hate crimes (but that’s not the only award you won). Can you tell us more about this and its importance?

This is my first individual award that I share with my deputy editor, Džana Brkanić. For its groundbreaking work in covering transitional justice topics, BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina was given the European Press Prize Special Award for 2020, so that is the one that I share with all my coworkers.

When it comes to the EU Investigative Journalism Award for 2023, Džana and I appreciate that the jury recognized the importance of our investigative story. Many hours of browsing through hundreds of court and prosecutorial decisions, numerous queries, and interviews with experts, but also with our fellow citizens who have still not seen justice after 20 years, stand behind this investigation. The value of the award is reflected in the additional visibility of investigative stories, which bring changes to society.

The awarded investigative story is a multimedia data research, which showed that hate crimes were mostly sanctioned with suspended sentences, with only one-quarter of those convicted being imprisoned, and investigations in some cases taking more than 20 years.

Suspended Sentences Do not Prevent the Spread of Hate” was based on verdicts passed down before all courts in Bosnia over ten years. It also revealed that there was no unified system for registering such crimes, which has made the monitoring and investigating of those cases more difficult.

  1. Do you have a story that you feel especially proud of, and what do you like most in your job?

Over the past almost ten years, there have been a lot of stories, and I take special pride in all of my stories. Most of my stories are about transitional justice, war crimes, and how the war affected and still affects people’s lives 30 years afterward. Every time I do a story and see that I have justified the trust that the people I’ve talked to gave me, I feel very proud. These are very delicate stories, and their importance for our society is enormous. After some of my stories were published, some indictments were filed for war crimes. A permanent exhibition is opened in Srebrenica Memorial Center as a part of the project I was involved in called “The lives behind the fields of death,” where we filmed testimonies of surviving witnesses of the 1995 genocide – a project BIRN BiH did with the Srebrenica Memorial Centre.

  1. What is your advice to someone who wants to work as an investigative journalist in our region?

Working on investigative stories is not an easy job, but with a lot of professionalism, courage, and knowledge, it is a rewarding one. Ask for help from your coworkers and editors, stick to our professional standards and ethics, tell those important stories, and try to make a tiny shift in our society.