Collective Punishment: A Forlorn Tale of Farm Privatisation in Croatia

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An investigation into the mismanagement and suspicious deals that stripped bare a Socialist-era farm – one privatisation scandal among many in the breadbasket of the former Yugoslavia. Report by Ana Benacic. My edit for BfJE/Balkan Insight and the Christian Science Monitor.

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Better a Polish Plumber than a Romanian Builder

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An investigation into how British restrictions on EU workers have created a supply of underpaid and unprotected manpower for the construction sector. The UK government insists that its rules are meant to stem the tide of migrants. Report by Sorana Stanescu. My edit for BfJE/Balkan Insight and the New Statesman.

Ten Balkan Tales

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Here are all ten of the stories I edited in 2012 for the Balkan Fellowship of Journalistic Excellence, an annual award for investigative and long-form reporting. The stories were published by Balkan Insight, as well as in the international and regional press.

  • Top prize-winner Sorana Stanescu reveals how British immigration laws – a door left half open – have led to the exploitation of Romanian and Bulgarian builders.
  • Second prize-winner Saska Cvetkovska investigates why so many Macedonian youngsters are locked out of a deeply politicised job market.
  • Third prize-winner Aleksandra Bogdani examines why the former prisoners of Albania’s gulags have yet to be compensated for their suffering.
  • Aleksandar Manasiev reveals how violent football hooligans keep ethnically divided Macedonia on edge.
  • Arbana Xharra examines how Muslim hardliners are sowing conservatism among Kosovo’s poor, sparking resentment in a traditionally secular society.
  • Ana Benacic’s investigation into the collapse of a Croatian farm shows how bad privatisation is a modern version of the Biblical plague of locusts, stripping the land of its wealth.
  • Dimiter Kenarov asks if poverty and murky politics in Bulgaria can stop the seemingly unstoppable rise of the environmental movement.
  • Eldin Hadzovic asks why the dysfunctional state in Bosnia seems to care least for its most vulnerable citizens – the thousands of children abandoned by their families.
  • Samir Kajosevic travels among ethnic Albanian minorities in Montenegro and beyond, discovering some hope amid economic desperation.
  • Miodrag Sovilj asks the activist-squatters of Croatia and Slovenia how they fought the state and won, while their counterparts in Serbia failed.

‘Pssst! Wanna buy EU citizenship?’

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Investigation into the racket in Romanian passports for fake applicants. Report by Adrian Mogos and Vitalie Calugareanu. My edit for Balkan Insight.

Prospect: Activism and apathy in Brixton

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Revolutionary hubris in south London. Prospect reveals the full story behind Unflappable, my documentary with director Will Aspinall, premiered at the Ritzy Cinema in July 2012.

Frontline Club: Iraq film premiere and debate

How has risk rewritten the rules for Iraqi journalists? The Frontline Club in London premieres A Strange Animal, a short film featuring me and my colleagues in Iraq. The film, directed by Richard Pendry, reveals some of the techniques reporters have developed in a conflict where they are targeted for kidnap and murder.

The screening at the Frontline Club was followed by a debate about the growing role of local journalists in covering conflict. The Frontline website has a short article summarising the debate, as well as video and podcast of the entire proceedings. A short version of A Strange Animal was screened by Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

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Hiding Behind the TV Screen

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An investigation into Avala, a struggling Serbian broadcaster, reveals loopholes in regulation that allow media owners to circumvent laws against establishing monopolies. Report by Bojana Barlovac. My edit for Balkan Insight. The story was shortlisted for an investigative journalism award in Serbia.

Vanity Fair: Iraq’s Homegrown ‘Hurt Locker’ Team

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Top story for Vanity Fair’s homepage: “In 2008 The Hurt Locker introduced the Americans who defuse explosives in Iraq. Now that all US troops will be gone by 2012, meet the Iraqi soldiers left carrying the fuse.”

Photograph by Kamaran Najm/Metrography

The Daily Beast: Raid in Kirkuk

Can the thrill of frontline reporting offset the pressure of a desk job?

Richard Pendry interviews me in this five-minute film for The Daily Beast, examining the risks and rewards of embedding with an Iraqi police unit.

Photograph by Kamaran Najm/Metrography

Sunni Militia’s Struggle for Relevance

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A bomb attack outside an Iraqi military base has killed scores of Sunni Sahwa militiamen who were queuing for their wages. The manner in which the men died seems to embody their leaders’ concerns: picked out by vengeful enemies at the gates of an institution that remains wary of them. The Sahwa (Awakening) fighters partnered the US against their former allies in al-Qaeda – but now feel betrayed by the Iraqi state.

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Iraqi Interpreter’s Killing Pits Faith Against Law

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An Iraqi man who worked as an interpreter for the US military is shot dead for having apparently converted to Christianity. The reaction to his murder illustrates the difficulty of balancing ancient articles of faith against a democratic obligation to guard religious minorities.

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Tussle Looms Over Iraqi Jewish Archive

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Baghdad is urging the US to return a trove of artifacts that date to the now-extinct Jewish presence in Iraq. However, Jewish groups also want access to the valuable archive – which may not be possible if it is returned to Iraq.

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Storm Gathers Over Slain Journalist in Iraqi Kurdistan

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The unsolved killing of a student journalist and critic of the Iraqi Kurdish authorities renews fears for press freedom in the region.

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Rise of Iran Reveals Polarised Iraq

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After an inconclusive election, Iraq’s political rivalries are best understood in terms of contrasting attitudes towards Iran – showing the extent of Tehran’s influence over its neighbour.

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Financial Times: Health care in Iraq

Weakened by sanctions, Iraq’s health care system was brought to its knees by the conflict that followed the US-led invasion. Recent security gains have allowed some hospitals to recover – but the doctors working in them still fear for their lives.

Article for Financial Times’ Special Report on Health, September 2009
(Available free after registering at FT.com.)

High Stakes in Kurdish Poll

Everything you wanted to know about the Iraqi Kurdish elections but were afraid to ask. Analysis from Erbil for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, July 2009

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