EU Award for Investigative Journalism in Kosovo given to Vehbi Kajtazi

EU Award for Investigative Journalism in Kosovo given to Vehbi Kajtazi

On June 10, 2015, in Prishtina, Press Council of Kosovo gave three prizes for the EU Award for Investigative Journalism.

The first prize was given to Vehbi Kajtazi, journalist in daily Koha Ditore, for the investigative story "Dyshime të forta për korrupsion në EULEX" (Strong suspicions about corruption in EULEX). The prize was handed by Nehat Islami, Executive director of Press Council of Kosovo and jury president. On this occasion, Mr. Islami said: "The work that the authorities could not do was done by journalists through their investigative stories on corruption, abuse of power, and organized crime. In the end, I consider that as one of the noblest duties of investigative journalism - to collect information that at the beginning doesn’t tell anything, and then those pieces tell the truth about a story."

The second award was given to Jeta Xharra and team: Qëndresa Mustafa, Kreshnik Gashi and Mehdi Mulaj for their investigative story "Skandalet e mjekëve me stenta" (Stents scandals). The award was handed by Arbana Xharra, editor in chief of daily Zëri.

Third award of the contest, that was launched on March 16, 2015, was given to Lavdim Hamidi and Alban Selimi from daily Zëri for their series of investigative stories: "Vilat e trafikimit, Subotica, Kosova në miniaturë, Serbia toleron trafikantët." (Trafficking villas, Subotica, Kosovo in miniature, Serbia tolerates traffickers). The award was handed by Thomas Gnocchi, Chief of Political, Economic and European integration section of EU office in Kosovo. Mr. Gnocchi addressing the guests said: "We are here today, for the first time, to celebrate the winners for investigative journalism. Independent and free media are essential in every democratic society. Without free expression and free thoughts, the rise of active society is impossible."

The jury justification, which was comprised by Nehat Islami, Director of Press Council of Kosovo, Bardh Rugova, professor at University of Prishtina and publicist, Anamari Repic, Deputy Director of Radio Television of Kosovo, Lorik Bajrami, Executive Director of organization COHU and Artan Mustafa, independent journalist, was delivered by Bardh Rugova.

"They came in Kosovo to provide justice and law. An international credible mission called EULEX. However, after a period of time even its prosecutors did not believe in the justice of this mission. For the investigative story supported by official documents on the suspicions on corruption and abuse of power in the mission of European Union, the jury decided to give the first prize to the journalist of daily Koha Ditore, Vehbi Kajtazi, for the story "Strong suspicions about corruption in EULEX" – said Rugova.

"The accusations about corruption in the health sector in Kosovo have been known for a long period of time. Nevertheless, an investigative story has managed to identify the cases, in which some doctors started to gain amounts of money by lying their patients, who believed they were saving their lives." - Rugova said.

"For the research, which not only identifies the problem of stents in private hospitals in Kosovo, but also discloses the net of organizations which profited through this phenomenon, Jeta Xharra and team are the winners of the second prize of EU award for investigative journalism with the story “Skandalet e mjekëve me stenta” – added Rugova.

"No one exactly knows why the wave of immigration towards European countries started in 2014. However, an investigative story discloses the road of immigrants towards these countries, and gives details of illegal crossing of borders by thousands of people. Therefore, for their series of investigative stories: “Trafficking villas, Subotica, Kosovo in miniature, Serbia tolerates traffickers", Lavdim Hamidi and Alban Selimi, journalists of daily Zëri, are the winners of the third prize of EU Award for Investigative Journalism for 2014", - Rugova ended the justifications of the jury.

The ceremony of EU Award for Investigative Journalism for 2014 was held at the National Library of Kosovo in a very welcoming environment. Different local and international journalists and representative of cultural life in Prishtina were present at the event.

EU Award for Investigative Journalism will be awarded in the two following years, in 2016 and 2017.