17th March 2014 was a festive day for Balkan-journalism, but above all for Boris Dežulović who was bestowed with the Commentator Award of the European Press Prize.
A Croatian voice heard in Europe
Boris Dežulović is a Croatian-born satirist, writer and journalist. Having co-founded a political satire supplement of Nedjeljna Dalmacija entitled Feral Tribune, he joined in 1999 the Zagreb-based weekly newspaper Globus. He runs his own column of a suggestive name Ugovor s Đavlom (Contract with the Devil) and cooperates with various media from the region such as Bosnian Oslobođenje or Slovenian Dnevnik. His Vukovar: a Life-Size Monument to the Dead City published in Globus in November 2013 earned him international recognition- the European Press Prize’s jury honoured him with the Commentator Award, attributed for “opinion pungently expressed”. The article commemorates the tragedy of Vukovar, one of the most profoundly harmed victims of the Yugoslav war, dubbed Croatian Stalingrad. In November 1991, the Yugoslav’s People’s Army tortured and murdered almost 300 people, who according to breached agreements with both the Croatian government and international observers, were supposed to be evacuated from a city hospital after the end of the Vukovar’s battle.
The European Press Prize’s tribute for the Balkans
Founded in 2012 by 7 respectable media foundations from the Old Continent such as the British Guardian Foundation, the European Press Prize aims “to salute and encourage journalism of the highest quality”, which constitutes the cornerstone of democracy and modern civilization. Already named “the European Pulitzer”, it rises above national borders and politics, remaining open to journalists from all 47 countries recognized by the Council of Europe. This year’s edition seems to nevertheless make a special regionally-oriented tribute, commented by Peter Preston in European Press Prize: all hail the gritty journalists of the Balkans published by the Guardian. Apart from awarded Dežulović, among the journalists qualified for the short list we could find Neil Arun- the author of Series on items such as corruption, football hooliganism and the unsettled legacy of war and communism published in Balkan Insight as well as Paul Radu, Mihai Munteanu, Luke Harding, Ion Preașcă, Iurie Sănduță and Cristi Ciupercă, whose A Murderer’s Trail was published by The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project of Romania.
A handicapped freedom of press
The support of the European journalistic community for Balkan-advocates of freedom of speech, information and media is priceless. These values, fundamental for both democracy and Old continent’s civilization, are currently jeopardized with wide-spreading organized crime as well as by political tensions and pressures. The results of the World Press Freedom Index, published recently by the international watchdog Reporters without borders, are more than alarming. Whereas the regional leader Serbia is ranked 54th out of 180 countries, two black sheep- Montenegro and the Former Republic Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, are placed at respectively 114th and 123th position, overlapped by among others Qatar, Uganda and Lebanon.
In this context, it goes without saying that “the highest achievements of journalism” originating from the “Balkan powder keg” should be doubly appreciated.