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Balkan Fellowship For Journalistic Excellence 2009: Families pay the price of emancipation in South Eastern Europe

12. January 2012

In framework of the annually organised scholarship programme, the best three articles from among a group of ten South Eastern European journalists were awarded. The programme was initiated by ERSTE Foundation and the Robert Bosch Stiftung in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, (BIRN). Second prize was awarded to Momir Turudic (Serbia) for his article ‚Germany’s a Dream for Serbia’s Roma Returnees’. The article of the Bulgarian journalist Yana Buhrer Tavanier ‘Institutions Remain Dumping Grounds For Forgotten People’, won the third prize.

Maja Hrgovic, 29, received the EUR 4,000 worth first prize of this year’s Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence for her article ‘Families Pay the Price as Women go West’. The Jury recognised the quality of her reporting and noted particularly the excellent international research into what they agreed was a new and important phenomenon of the region and Europe as a whole.

The number of women looking for work in Western Europe is growing, while their husbands and children are left behind in their home villages. Hrgovic, who is working as a culture journalist for the Croatian daily Novi List, describes the sociological consequences of having entire villages in the Balkans inhabited only by men, or children raised by their grandparents, suffering under the loss of their mothers. She describes the mothers in emotional portraits, disrupted by the various expectations.

The second prize, amounting EUR 3,000 was awarded to Momir Turudic, editor in the Serbian weekly Vreme. In his article ‚Germany’s a Dream for Serbia’s Roma Returnees’, he writes about the children of refugees, who were forced from their homelands by war in the early 1990s, and who have since been forced back to homes they had forgotten. Yana Buhrer Tavaniers investigative article ‚Institutions Remain Dumping Grounds For Forgotten People’ is dealing with state institutions for people with intellectual and mental health disabilities in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia, revealing the shocking living conditions which still prevail in these countries. Her article came in third, winning EUR 1,000.

The topic of this year’s Balkan Fellowship of Journalistic Excellence was Identity. The ten Journalists approached it from different perspectives, dealing with issues such as homophobia in Montenegro, fake personal IDs in Romania, mixed marriages in the countries of former Yugoslavia, or the conscious ‘antiquisation’ of the Macedonian national identity. As it was the case in the previous two years, all articles were published in a book. ‘Identity: The search for belonging in a changing Europe’, will be distributed in the coming weeks at events to be held throughout South Eastern Europe, and will also be available online.

Cooperation of two foundations and network of journalists

The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence was initiated by ERSTE Foundation and the Robert Bosch Stiftung in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, in order to foster quality reporting in South Eastern Europe and encourage regional networking among journalists. The aim is to broaden their knowledge of political issues of particular concern in the EU to enable them to provide better information to the public in South Eastern Europe. Furthermore, the programme seeks to raise interest among the fellows in the work being undertaken in the media of their neighbouring countries.

EUR 2,000 fellowship grant plus EUR 2,000 travel allowance for cross-border research

Each year up to ten experienced print journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia are invited to participate in the seven month programme. The selected journalists receive a fellowship grant of €2,000 plus a separate budget for travel expenses of up to €2,000. These funds are to enable journalists to travel to at least one country in the European Union and to neighbouring countries to conduct research. During the research phase, the fellows are assisted by experienced journalists. Seminars held in Vienna and Berlin introduce participants to journalistic methods and standards and discuss the required competences depending on the specific topic of the competition. The fellows are also given the opportunity to talk with politicians, businesspeople and media representatives. At the end of the programme, the Jury selects the best three articles which are awarded a prize money of EUR 8,000 in total.

Jury 2009: Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, Editor in Chief of Der Standard; Drago Hedl, editor and journalist from Croatia, Tim Judah, the Balkan Correspondent of the Economist, Gerald Knaus, President of the European Stability Initiative (ESI); Remzi Lani, Executive Director of the Albanian Media Institute, Tirana; Christiane Schlötzer, Vice Editor in charge for Foreign Policy at Süddeutsche Zeitung; Gerfried Sperl, Former Editor in Chief of Der Standard, Wolfgang Wähner-Schmidt, editor and journalist from Germany.

Photo: Maja Hrgovic at the opening seminar of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence 2009 in Vienna. Reprint of photo free of charge.