BIRN BiH Journalist Wins Srdjan Aleksic Award

Emina Dizdarevic, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has won the Srdjan Aleksic Journalist Award in the category of nominations by journalists, for her three articles on the challenges facing marginalized groups in Bosnian society.

“Dizdarevic has won the award for shedding light, in a special, analytic and creative manner, on topics already addressed by many other journalists, but she did it in a different way and from a different angle.

“The judges were most impressed with her article on the special ‘obstacles’ placed before the Sarajevo Pride Parade organizers, to prevent the LGBT population from realizing its right to hold peaceful protests,” the announcement said.

Her first awarded article dealt with the rights of LGBT persons in Bosnia. Dizdarevic noted systemic shortcomings that force those citizens to pay a higher price than other Sarajevo citizens to exercise their freedom of assembly.

In the second awarded article, Dizdarevic addressed online radicalization through the example of a 23-year-old man, and the systemic problems of online content, which leads to radicalization. This topic does not receive much attention in Bosnia but is of great importance in its post-conflict society.

The third award-winning story pointed to problem of holding trials during the coronavirus pandemic. Many crime victims have been awaiting justice for years, but Dizdarevic warned of the extent to which COVID safeguards will further slow down the prosecution of complex cases.

Second prize in the category of nominations by journalists went to Hilma Unkic and Ajdin Kamber of Diskriminacija.ba portal, while third prize went to Alema Kazazic of Federation TV.

In the category of nominations made by civil society organisations first prize for professional reporting went to Minela Jasar-Opardija of N1 TV. Second prize went to freelance journalist Kristina Ljevak, while Lidija Pisker of Media.ba portal was awarded a special plaque.

Dizdarevic has worked with BIRN BiH since 2014. Over more than six years she has published over 1,600 researches, analyses, interviews, footages and news on judicial topics, war crimes, corruption and terrorism on Detektor.ba portal.

She graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, where she also obtained her master’s degree.

In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Fetisov international journalist award for articles on transitional justice processes and rights of war crime victims, as well as their families in Bosnia.

As a member of BIRN BiH team, she won a special award of the European Press Prize for 2020 for “efforts and success in securing justice for war crimes victims” and for continuous professional reporting on sensitive issues over many years.

Last year, BIRN BiH’s director, Denis Dzidic, was honoured with a special plaque at the Srdjan Aleksic Journalist Award ceremony for continuous professional reporting on sensitive issues by BIRN BiH over many years.

Dizdarevic’s award-winning articles can be found on the following links: Pride Parade Put in Unequal Position by Additional Security RequestsNo Response by Authorities to Online Radicalization, Coronavirus Safeguards Stop Large-Scale Bosnian War Trials Resuming.

The journalist award is presented for professional and continuous reporting on marginalized and vulnerable groups in Bosnian society and development of socially responsible journalism.

This year’s presentation was organised by the Helsinki Parliament of Citizens of Banja Luka and Peace Building Network with support from Civil Right Defenders. The official ceremony will be held in spring next year.

EU Investigative Journalism Awards Announced in Bosnia

In an online event, the jury said all three stories from Bosnia are of utmost importance as “they point to many anomalies our society suffers, and that the government persistently ignores.”

The EU Awards for Investigative Journalism for Bosnia and Herzegovina were presented on Thursday in an online event on Zoom.

The three winners, who were awarded a total of 10,000 euros for the stories published over 2019, exposed links between the authorities and extremist groups, told a story about the robbery of a former state arms industry company and shed light on officials illegally appropriating the real estate of Sarajevo’s Jews, killed in the Holocaust.

The head of the EU delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Johan Sattler, said that “investigative journalism is necessary for a healthy democratic society,” and urged the Bosnian authorities to find systemic solutions to protect journalists from attacks and threats.

The jury was composed of jury head Zlatan Music, the OSCE Mission to BiH’s Media Freedom officer, Davor Glavas, a journalist and media expert, and Slavoljub Scekic, editor-in-chief of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Montenegro, CIN-CG.

They had a hard task choosing between 14 shortlisted applications. The jury said that all three stories had something in common, which is a “journalists’ complete commitment to the topic itself, which is reflected in the amount of details, data and information”.

“Each of them [the awarded investigations] is socially responsible and points to many anomalies that our society suffers, and the government persistently ignores,” Music told the online audience.

First prize went to Semir Mujkic from BIRN BiH, for a series of articles on Russian influence in the country presenting an original and comprehensive overview of pro-Russian actors, associations and groups and their local political supporters. Mujkic’s colleagues, Lamija Grebo and Emina Dizdarevic, contributed to the investigation.

Mujkic said that the EU award was very important as it is among only a few such awards in Bosnia, where the state itself does not attach importance to investigative journalism.

“Awards like this are not only a recognition but also an obligation for investigative journalists to continue their work,” Mujkic said.

In second place was Amarildo Gutic, of Zurnal, whose short documentary “Prsten oko Vitezita” peaked under the economic lid of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, and the [Bosniak] Party of Democratic Action, SDA, over the past 25 years.

Azhar Kalamujic, from the Centre for investigative journalism BiH, won the third prize for his story on Sarajevo judges, lawyers and government officials who illegally appropriated abandoned apartments and houses in the Sarajevo that had belonged to Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

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 prizes are 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 awards in Bosnia and Herzegovina are coordinated by Balkan Investigative Regional Reporting Network, BIRN Hub, which also runs a regional consortium.

UNICEF Awards BIRN BiH Journalist for Contribution to Children’s Rights

Azra Husaric, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has received UNICEF’s award for contribution to the promotion and protection of children’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the “Internet Work” category for her story on the challenges facing children with developmental difficulties and their parents in online classes during the current pandemic.

The awards were given to journalists on the occasion marking World Children’s Day on November 20 at a ceremony held online this year.

Her article titled “Parents Bear Biggest Burden of Online Classes for Children with Developmental Difficulties” told of a boy with Downs syndrome, Harun Tanovic, who did not have a teaching assistant for several months after the start of the school year.

The six-member jury awarded this article in the “Internet Work” category.

“We really had several works worthy of receiving the award, but the one that stands out as the most complete one, encompassing several angles, is the story about Harun, a boy with Downs syndrome, and problems he and his family are facing in the educational system during the pandemic,” jury member Katarina Marjanovic said during the awards ceremony.

Besides problems caused by delays in assigning him a teaching assistant while following the online classes, Harun did not have adjusted lessons, so his parents had to take the burden of this on themselves.

“Journalist Azra Husaric spent several days of online classes with the boy who says: ‘I can do everything on my own, I don’t need anybody’. This resulted in a truly engaging story about the fight for the rights advocated for by UNICEF. So, we, as the jury, recognized and selected this article worthy of this award,” Marjanovic said.

UNICEF in Bosnia also awarded media professionals for their contribution to children’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the “Television” category, awarding TV N1 reporter Ivana Eric. In the “Blog” category an award was given to journalist Natasa Lazukic. A special award for media contribution to the promotion and protection of children’s rights was given to Otisak portal journalist Zeljko Lazarevic.

This year’s jury, consisting of Zoran Catic, Nineta Popović, Sandra Gojkovic Arbutina, Katarina Marijanovic, Lamija Silajdzic and Benjamin Omerbegovic, also commended Amina Bijelonja and Tahir Zustra for a TV footage, Hana Kazazovic, Brankica Smiljanic, Ivona Grgic, Ilma Kurtovic and Nejra Dzananovic for blogs, and Snjezana Anicic and Anamarija Zadro for internet work, for their contribution in the media to the promotion and protection of children’s rights.

To show support for World Children’s Day the city of Banja Luka and the city of Mostar will “paint” their best known landmarks, namely the Banski Dvor and the Old Bridge, in blue on Friday night. Sarajevo city centre will also be lit up in blue.

UNICEF representative in Bosnia Rownak Khan said during the ceremony to mark World Children’s Day that the pandemic had had a particularly heavy impact on children and their education.

“In tandem, we must do more to ensure that all children have equal access to quality learning. Governments must prioritize keeping schools open and safe for students, teachers and parents. This needs to go hand in hand with improving online learning options, ensuring equal opportunities for marginalized children. As parents worldwide struggle to maintain their livelihoods, governments must scale up social protection measures through programmes and policies that provide life-saving cash benefits, health care, nutrition and education for families,” Khan said.

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.

Bosnian Prosecution Questions War Crime Witnesses After BIRN Report

The Bosnian state prosecution has questioned witnesses who could shed light on the wartime killings of Pero Glavocevic and Pero Bozic in the Fojnica area in July 1993 after BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina published an article about the case on September 11.

The victims’ families have been campaigning for action to resolve the case for 27 years.

The Office for Legal Assistance to Veterans with the General Council of the Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomed the fact that the the state prosecution has finally started working to identify the perpetrators of the murders.

“Of course, I am aware of the fact that, in order to ensure the goals of the ongoing investigation are protected, the prosecution is unable to provide information on the actions undertaken or being undertaken at present, but it pleases me to know that the case has finally taken off, bearing in mind what has been done in that respect in the past. I hope that this article has contributed to that too,” said Zvonko Vidovic of the Office for Legal Assistance to Veterans.

The Glavocevic and Bozic families had previously addressed the cantonal prosecution in Travnik and the state prosecution on several occasions, asking them to resolve the case as witnesses to the crime have been dying.

Vidovic explained that the first criminal report naming a perpetrator had been filed to the then prosecutor’s office in Vitez on November 8, 1994, and then again a year later.

He said that a request was also filed to the Higher Court in Travnik in 1996, demanding an investigation into four former Bosnian Army soldiers for alleged ethnic cleansing in the Fojnica area. 

He said the Glavocevic and Bozic case was finally submitted to the state prosecution in 2011, but no apparent action was taken until now.

BIRN Movie About Underground Hospital Premieres at Sarajevo Festival

A film about a remarkable hospital that functioned underground during the war in Bosnia – directed by BIRN BiH’s deputy editor – has its first showing at this year’s online Sarajevo Film Festival.

A documentary titled “Underground” directed by Dzana Brkanic, deputy editor of the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, will be premiered at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival, taking place from August 14 to 21. The film about a wartime underground hospital will be screened as part of the BH Film programme. 

The film is about a hospital in the town of Olovo that was set up below ground during the 1992-5 war in Bosnia because the town’s old hospital had become exposed to everyday shelling during the war. 

The underground hospital handled more than 1,300 patients each month. Doctors saved hundreds of lives by surgeries and other interventions while midwives delivered around 500 babies. The film follows the young people who were born in the underground hospital during the war. 

“Some time ago I learnt about a hospital built below ground in a very short period of time during the war. Fascinated by the idea, I proposed making a screening of the story, so BIRN BiH produced the story about the superhuman efforts of doctors and other medical staff to save hundreds of lives in inhumane conditions,” Brkanic said.

“It is interesting to note that so many children from Olovo and its surroundings were born there without any complications, four meters below ground, with no electricity and sometimes with no necessary light. We found some of them proudly going through life, claiming that being born in such conditions actually sent a message that ‘they can do anything,’” Brkanic added.

Brkanic was the film director, Denis Dzidic was the producer and Semir Mujkic was the editor. Amel Djikoli, helped by cameramen Faris Dobraca, Jasmin Jatic and Mario Ilicic, was director of photography. Samir Hrkovic and Adis Bazdarevic handled sound while Adnan Musanovic and Elma Selimovic were in charge of music. The song used in the film was written by Mujo Hodzic.

“I am happy to have had the opportunity to be the author of this film and work with these great people, interlocutors and the crew, all of whom shared my enthusiasm for this story and the idea, and agreed that it should be shared with the world,” Brkanic said.

“It is an honour to see this film screened at the SFF alongside the great figures of domestic and world cinematography, and it is a stimulus to BIRN to continue making stories, because they kind of preserve history and the events that happened in this area,” Brkanic noted.

The Association of Filmmakers of Bosnia and Herzegovina organizes BH Film programme as part of the Sarajevo Film Festival, presenting films produced in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as those made by domestic authors living abroad.

This year’s 15th BH FILM programme features 42 films, 31 of which will have their world premieres at the festival.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 26th Sarajevo Film Festival will be screened online on ondemand.sff.ba. Through the platform the audience will have access to accompanying content, such as lectures and interviews with directors.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina Director Given Srebrenica Reporting Award  

Denis Dzidic, director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, was given a Nino Catic Journalism Award on Friday for long-term reporting about the Srebrenica genocide and for contributing to preserving the truth about the July 1995 mass killings.

Dzidic was presented with the award by the Biti Novinar Association from Tuzla at the Srebrenica Memorial Centre a day before the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the genocide.

Other journalists who were given Nino Catic awards included Alema Kazazic for the best TV footage and Ismet Becar for a radio piece. The award was also given to Samir Karic in the ‘written text’ and ‘photography’ categories, while Edina Latif was given the award in the ‘blog’ category.

“I think that every journalist has a special relationship with the truth, as a goal and a challenge. When reporting on genocide and war crimes, the relationship becomes more complex and more important,” Dzidic said during the award ceremony.

“In that sense, the fact that I have been presented with a plaque of recognition, which was named after our colleague Nino Catic, for preserving the truth about Srebrenica over a long period, gives me a sense of honour, but also an obligation for us, at BIRN, to continue reporting on the truth and on Srebrenica,” he added.

Dzidic was appointed director of BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 2019 after working as an editor and journalist for BIRN. He has reported on war-crime trials at the Bosnian state court and the Hague Tribunal since 2008. He has written numerous pieces of analysis and created various TV programmes about the Srebrenica genocide.

Nihad ‘Nino’ Catic was a journalist from Srebrenica. During the war, he broadcast daily reports on the situation in the town. His last contribution to a live programme was on July 10, 1995, and he was last seen on July 11, 1995, when Bosnian Serb forces seized Srebrenica. He disappeared and his remains have never been found.

Biti Novinar also presented special recognition plaques to jury members Almasa Hadzic, Salih Brkic, Marko Divkovic and Marinko Sekulic.

Further plaques were presented to the Srebrenica Memorial Centre, Federal Television, Radio-Television of Tuzla Canton, Federal Journalistic Agency, Al Jazeera Balkans journalist Adnan Rondic, photographer Ahmet Bajric Blicko, RTV Srebrenica journalist Adem Mehmedovic, cameraman Ahmedin Djozic, Federalna.ba journalist Enes Hodzic, teacher Ehlimana Lukacevic-Grbo and humanitarian worker Huso Muratovic.

Nino Catic’s mother Hajra Catic was presented with a gold recognition plaque.

The Nino Catic award ceremony was organised under the patronage of the Federal Ministry of Displaced Persons and Refugees with support from the BH Journalists’ Association, the Organisational Board for Marking the 25th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide, the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Centre, the Women of Srebrenica Association, the Tuzla Cantonal Government and the City of Tuzla.

BIRN Wins European Press Prize for Justice Reporting

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina has won the prestigious European Press Prize for its reporting on war crimes trials, transitional justice issues and the problems faced by victims of the 1990s conflict.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina was given the European Press Prize Special Award for 2020 on Thursday for its groundbreaking work in covering transitional justice topics.

“The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s work ensures a unique archive of all war crime trials, as well as many personal stories of survivors, documentary films about the victims of sexual violence and families of the missing, and numerous other research and analytical stories,” the European Press Prize judges said in a statement.

The judges noted that BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina “was founded in 2005 to provide people in Bosnia and Herzegovina with accurate and timely information about the rule of law in the country and wider region”.

The European Press Prize Special Award is given for excellence in European journalism and has previously been won by the editor of The Guardian for the publication of stories based on the Edward Snowden files, and last year by the Forbidden Stories team “for their mission to continue and publish the work of journalists facing threats, prison or murder”, the judges said.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s executive director Denis Dzidic said the award is important for journalists in the media outlet’s newsroom, but that it also belongs to the survivors of the Bosnian war.

“This award means an indescribable amount to all of us who have spent days, weeks and months writing about war crimes and reporting daily from courtrooms to record the testimony of every victim who has come to tell their story,” Dzidic said.

“This award also belongs to the victims, because our work would be worthless if it were not for the surviving women and men who gathered the courage to share with us the most horrible things they experienced, showing courage, patience and strength that we cannot comprehend,” he added.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina is part of the BIRN regional network, which uses the same methods of covering war crime trials and transitional justice processes across the whole of the former Yugoslavia.

BIRN’s regional director Marija Ristic said that covering war crime trials and transitional justice issues has been one of the core topics for network’s journalists for 15 years.

“BIRN’s first ever news report in 2005 was from a war crime trial. Years later, we continue with the same passion and dedication to providing accurate and balanced reporting and bringing uncompromising stories from a region that is still battling with revisionism and the denial of war crimes,” Ristic said.

One of the members of the European Press Prize judging panel, Alexandra Föderl-Schmid from Süddeutsche Zeitung, said that “the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network… really supports investigative journalism in Bosnia and that is really a difficult task there”.

The managing editor of BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, Semir Mujkic, said that receiving the European Press Prize Special Award is a great honour from the best European journalists.

“The daily commitment of our journalists to writing investigative stories and the perseverance in conveying sensitive and relevant stories has now received recognition and new encouragement,” Mujkic said.

The European Press Prize is one of most prestigious European journalistic awards and is given to journalists and media from 47 Council of Europe countries.

“Never did we have such a diverse list of entrants, nominees and winners,” Thomas van Neerbos, executive director of the European Press Prize, said of the 2020 awards.

“From the newsrooms in Norway to the brave offices of BIRN and DoR [Romanian media outlet Decât o Revistă], from taking on China’s surveillance state, via sexism in sports to a personal account of euthanasia, this is the true scope of European journalism, these are the topics that we ought to debate,” van Neerbos added.

The winner of the 2020 Investigative Reporting Award was ‘Trigger Warning’ by Annemarte Moland, Even Kjølleberg and Ruben Solvang, published by NRK from Norway.

The winner of the Distinguished Reporting Award was ‘The Uyghur Women Fighting China’s Surveillance State’ by Isobel Cockerell, published by Coda Story from Georgia.

The winner of the Opinion Award was ‘How We Stopped Being Comrades’ by Beata Balogová, published by SME in Slovakia.

The winner of the Innovation Award was ‘How DoR Organised an All-Team Pop-Up Newsroom in Transylvania’ by Decât o Revistă from Romania.

BIRN Bosnia Gives Archive Material to Tuzla Memorial Centre

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina handed over a documentary film and an archive of articles about the shelling of Tuzla in May 1995 and the trial of the commander who ordered the attack to the new Kapija Memorial Centre in Tuzla.

The director of the BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denis Dzidic, presented the mayor of Tuzla, Jasmin Imamovic, with archive material and a documentary film on Friday that will become part of a display at the new Kapija Memorial Centre, which should be ready to open by May 25, the anniversary of the shelling of the Kapija area of the city.

The material includes articles on texts on the shelling and reports from the trial of Bosnian Serb Army commander Novak Djukic, who was convicted of ordering the attack.

Dzidic stated that BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina was the only media outlet that has monitored all war crimes trials in the country since the state court started operating, including the proceedings against Djukic in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia.

“We are really happy about this opportunity to give our archive to the city of Tuzla and about the fact that it will be forever available to the citizens of Tuzla and all visitors to the Memorial Centre who want to get information about the search for justice and the killings of civilians at Kapija in 1995,” said Dzidic.

Mayor Imamovic said the BIRN archive material would be an important part of the installation as the case against Djukic is significant for the city because the attack was the biggest tragedy that it has endured.

“Here you have a 25-minute film and complete documentation about the trial of Novak Djukic. Everything that they [BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina] worked on, followed and documented, and that they handed over to us for our Memorial Centre, is a precious gift,” said Imamovic.

The Kapija Memorial Centre will be ready by May 25, but will only open when deemed safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bosnian state court found Novak Djukic, commander of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Ozren Tactical Group, guilty of ordering an artillery platoon to shell Tuzla on May 25, 1995, causing the deaths of more than 70 people.

He was released from prison in February 2014 after the state Constitutional Court overturned the verdict sentencing him to 25 years in prison.

In June 2014, the state court reduced Djukic’s sentence to 20 years, but he had already left the country for Serbia.

A warrant was issued for Djukic in October 2014 because he did not respond to a summons to serve his sentence. Serbia was then asked to take over the enforcement of the verdict.

However, Belgrade Higher Court has postponed hearings to discuss the case several times, and Djukic remains free.

BIRN Wins Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Award

To mark World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, campaign group Reporters Without Borders Austria awarded the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network with its annual Press Freedom Award – A Signal for Europe.

The Vienna office of the Reporters Without Borders announced that the BIRN Network has been awarded for its courageous investigative journalism in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, and for its dedication to the fight for human rights, democracy and justice for the victims of war crimes.

The award also honours BIRN’s founder, Gordana Igric, who served as the organisation’s regional director until May 2018, for her pioneering work in establishing the network.

“We are honoured by this acknowledgment from our Austrian colleagues. It comes at a critical time for our region, where media are often hampered by political or business influences and lack the resources to report beyond their own country’s borders,” said BIRN’s network director, Marija Ristic.

“The award gives us more motivation to continue with our uncompromising reporting despite continuous attacks on our journalists,” Ristic added.

“We are also thankful for the honour given to our founder, Gordana Igric, who had a vision of a free regional media network and paved the way for a new generation of journalists and editors who continue to champion the values of human rights and democracy,” she said.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network was established in 2004 as a network of organisations across the Balkans promoting freedom of speech, human rights and democratic values.

BIRN has country-based organisations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. It also works editorially in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.

BIRN’s structure has the advantage of combining local expertise with unique regional cooperation.

The Press Freedom Award – A Signal for Europe is given every year by the Austrian branch of Reporters Without Borders, a leading international non-profit and non-governmental organisation that safeguards the right to freedom of information. Its mandate is to promote free, independent and pluralistic journalism and to defend media workers.