04 Feb 2016 / 11:04

BFJE and Alumni Initiative investigations reach big audiences

Stories by reporters on the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence and alumni of the programme have reached large international audiences in recent months.

An investigation into women from Kosovo who join ISIS, “Few but fanatical” by BFJE alumna Arbana Xharra, had a big impact in online media. The article was published in English, Serbian and Albanian — and the Albanian version alone has been read by more than 20,000 people and republished by most Albanian-language media in Kosovo and Albania.

The article was also picked up by international outlets such as the EU Observer, Daily Mail, Al Jazeera Balkans and many others. Arbana spent six months last year working on her investigation. Previously she has reported on religious extremism and its links with non-governmental organisations and terrorist groups, which resulted in her receiving death threats. In 2015, the US Department of State honoured her with a Women of Courage Award.

Mariya Petkova, a BFJE fellow in 2015, investigated the use of Bulgarian arms in the war in Syria for her fellowship story. Her article was highlighted by Wikileaks and reached more than 40,000 readers. Mariya's research involved extensive travel in Bulgaria and Turkey, taking her as far as the border with Syria. The story was also republished by Middle East Eye. Now a BFJE alumna, Mariya is a freelance journalist covering eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Other 2015 fellowship stories also reached broad audiences, with versions published by The Guardian, the New Statesman, Politico, programme media partners such as Austria's Der Standard and other international outlets

“Hearts and Minds: The battle for Montenegro’s Mamula Fortress” by Nela Lazarevic was another story from the alumni programme to attract a lot of international attention. The article focused on plans to convert an island fortress used as a prison camp during World War Two into a tourist resort. The story was picked up by CNN, the New Statesman, the Daily Mail, the Independent and other international and local media.

Following the attention generated by Nela's story, state authorities and the project investor pledged that Mamula's heritage would be respected as part of the development.

In all, thanks to the support of the ERSTE Foundation and Open Society Foundations, BIRN produced 17 in-depth stories as part of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence and the Alumni Initiative in 2015. Assisted by a team of local and international editors, 19 journalists tackled sensitive, complex and under-reported topics of regional and international importance.


About Us

In order to foster quality reporting, initiate regional networking among journalists and advance balanced coverage on topics that are central to the region as well as to the EU, the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence programme  is supported by the ERSTE Foundation and the Open Society Foundations, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN.

What is the Fellowship?

Journalists from the Balkans are increasingly required to cover complex reform issues, taking in a regional and Europe-wide dimension. The fellowship provides editorial guidance, training and adequate funding to do so.

Our Partners

Prominent German, Austrian and Swiss newspapers, Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, Der Standard and Neue Zürcher Zeitung are media partners of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence programme. Besides being involved in the selection committee, they participate in seminars, support fellows if needed and seek to republish the best articles produced by them.

Contact Us

Please contact us for any additional information about the programme, or if you have suggestions, remarks or complaints about the web site and its content

Selection Committee

The Selection Committee is comprised of seven prominent media figures from the Balkans and Europe. Each year, committee members read, evaluate and select story proposals for the fellowship.

Fellowship Team

Editors and journalists from across the region and beyond all work together to make the Balkan fellowship a truly international experience. Scroll down this page for more information on our editorial team.