Jovan Nikitovic, a journalist with the daily Pobjeda newspaper, won the European Union’s first award for a series about the causes of the disappearance, theft, damage and destruction of 14,475 exhibits at the National Museum. The second award went to Maja Boricic, a journalist at the Centre for Investigative Journalism, for her story on the disposal of medical waste. Dejan Milovac and Lazar Grdinic received the third prize for research on the citizens' donations and black foundations during the elections in Montenegro.
The journalists received the awards from the European Union funded project "Strengthening the Quality of News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey," implemented by the Balkan Investigative Regional Network (BIRN) with multiple partners. The national award coordinator in Montenegro was the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Montenegro.
Awarding journalists in the premises of the EU Info Centre, the EU Ambassador to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, said that the EU encourages and supports investigative journalism because, in terms of professionalism and ethics, investigative journalism represents an added value for the rule of law. He said that investigative journalism contributes to exposing cases where public officials misuse State funds or abuse power. In this way, the media can hold institutions accountable.
“Yet, investigative journalism is not possible without freedom of expression. That is why the EU works with all enlargement countries to eradicate violence and intimidation against journalists and to fight impunity by fully processing all such cases from the past. In that regard, investigative journalists are particularly vulnerable and should be protected, and, by no means, stigmatised as public enemies,” said Orav.
The winner of the first prize, the journalist Jovan Nikitovic, said that he had been working on the series of texts for months and that he was faced thousands of pages of documentation that needed to be checked. He also said that he was pressured during his work, but that a series of more than 40 texts showed years of reluctance and resilience by institutions.
"In this series of texts, a great deal of effort has been made to facts that can be backed up by solid evidence which have been gathered publish over the course of months of research. I have succeeded in using all available journalistic mechanisms to gather information," said Nikitovic.
The winner of the second prize, Maja Boricic, said that she was happy that an international jury recognised the importance of her topic. The research, she said, showed that large quantities of medical waste are not under the control of institutions, but also that a large number of citizens do not know how to properly handle waste.
"Our main task is to work in the interest of the public. Critical investigative journalism is certainly the key to free journalism, but also to a society we aspire towards," explained Boricic.
The third prize went to Milovac and Grdinic for their research on the citizens' donations and the black foundations during elections in Montenegro. Milovac said that the authors are proud of the story they were awarded where they documented the misuse of State funds and what the public knew unofficially.