Serbeze won the prize of 4,000 euros for her story about the challenge facing a new court in protecting witnesses to crimes allegedly committed by former guerrilla fighters often regarded as heroes in Kosovo.
The second prize of 3,000 euros went to Masenjka Bacic for her article about the threat to abortion rights in Croatia.
The third prize and 1,000 euros was awarded to Elvis Nabolli for his story about the resilience of the cannabis industry in Albania.
“Serbeze Haxhiaj has written a powerful and brave story about a controversial topic that Kosovar society has been reluctant to address”, said jury member Kristof Bander.
Ten talented journalists from Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Croatia and Greece spent more than six months of 2016 pursuing in-depth stories and investigations around this year’s fellowship theme, ‘Trust’.
The book “Trust: Misplaced. Betrayed. Restored” brings together their work and was presented at the award ceremony in front of 150 guests including media partners from Europe, prominent public figures and more than 50 members of the Fellowship’s alumni network from across the region.
The jury members who selected the winners were Florian Hassel, Central and Easter Europe correspondent for the German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, Remzi Lani, executive director of the Albanian Media Institute, Kristof Bander, of the European Stability Initiative, Milorad Ivanovic, executive editor of the Serbian edition of Newsweek, Elena Panagiotidis, an editor for the Swiss daily newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Gerfried Sperl, columnist of Austrian daily Der Standard.
With the conclusion of this year’s programme, the 10 fellows join the BFJE alumni network, which already consists of more than 80 journalists from 10 Balkan countries who collaborate on stories and promote the highest professional standards.
The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence was launched in 2007 to promote high-quality, cross-border reporting. The programme provides fellows with financial and editorial support, enabling them to travel, report and write their stories and develop their journalistic skills.
A project that promotes the development of robust and responsible press, the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence has evolved into a decade-long platform that has helped shaping journalism standards in the Balkans and the very careers of participating reporters.
The fellowship will issue a call for applications for next year’s programme in January 2017.