The 2016 contests for EU awards for investigative journalism in Western Balkans and Turkey are now closed in all seven countries.
THE IMPACT OF MY STORY by Bojana Barlovac
After the investigative story: "Major powers tailored Serbian media legislation for ‘Balkan CNN’".
Here is what Bojana Barlovac wrote about what followed after her story, supported through SEE Media Observatory project, was published:
It is the best of times to be a journalist, it is the worst of times to be a journalist - we can rightfully paraphrase Charles Dickens’s famous words.
There are plenty of under-investigated issues of public interest all around us, and it is our obligation as journalists to shed light on them. This is how I felt when I figured out that something strange happened in Brussels last year, when the set of Serbian media laws was revised before adoption in the Serbian parliament in August 2014. The investigation revealed that people working at the European Commission Directorate General for Enlargement’s Unit on Relations with Serbia have adjusted the country’s draft laws in a way that was enabling distributors/operators to produce content. These changes are threatening to undermine media pluralism in the country.
After being published in the Serbian weekly paper Vreme, as well as on the websites of SEE Media Observatory and Media Center in Sarajevo, the investigation had made a buzz on social media, with media experts like OSCE RFoM and many influential people sharing it and posting positive comments.
Soon after, the story was republished on Cenzolovka, website reporting on media policy, website of Serbian Anti-corruption Council, portal Magacin, and it was also republished in the region. However, the story failed to reach mainstream media, which might be precisely because of its critical stance towards the EU. No one before questioned decisions made in Brussels, but they have only got the nod. For more than a decade, Brussels has been standing as the biggest authority for Serbian governments on their EU integration path.
In the article published in the Politika daily paper, which was referring to our investigation, United Group, owned by private equity fund KKR, denied the accusations on lobbying in Brussels for the legislation changes and emphasized the laws will only contribute to greater media pluralism in the country.
During a media conference held in June in Belgrade’s Media Center, I was publicly accused by one of the managers of the United Group of spreading lies about the way the laws were changed in Brussels.
The story did not have big follow-ups, or incite major changes. This is often the case and journalists thus feel discouraged. But, if we perceive the change as a long-lasting process and journalism as intrinsically a public service, we are taking a different approach. My story has shed light on corruptive practices in spheres where corruption was never investigated before. It has thus set up a path for journalists to investigate similar cases, involving questioning of the role of Brussels as well. This is what I see as the biggest success of this investigation and I am confident that the story has contributed to integrity of media, as one of the main pillars of a democratic society.
Finally, the investigation has also contributed to my professional career and status, given that the story is still receiving praises from media experts.