School for Scandal: How Bribery Devalued the Balkan Diploma

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An undercover investigation into the black-market in educational qualifications reveals how grades are exchanged for money, while plagiarism and cheating go unpunished. The corruption in the universities of Bosnia and Serbia has fuelled a brain drain, driving the region’s brightest students abroad. Report by Dino Jahic. My edit for BfJE/Balkan Insight and The Christian Science Monitor.

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Another Ten Balkan Tales

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Here are all ten of the stories that I edited in 2013 for the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence. Our reporters honoured the annual theme of “integrity” by revealing its absence. So, we have some stories about corruption. We have some stories about migration. And we even have some stories about migration-because-of-corruption.

All very Balkan, you might say. But in fact, many of the problems our reporters uncovered can be traced to the heart of Western Europe, or to the unintended consequences of the EU’s policies in the east.

Other themes include the unsettled legacy of war – still very pertinent – and the troubling politicisation of civil society.

  • Macedonians used to pay some of the highest mobile phone bills in Europe – and not just because they like to talk. Goran Rizaov unravels the murky saga of a telecoms deal that has been ignored in his country, despite leading to a massive corruption settlement in the US.

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.

BBC Radio Four’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’: Legacy of Bosnia’s jihadis

In the decade before al-Qaeda was deemed a direct threat to the West, a small band of jihadis came to Europe to wage war on behalf of the Bosniak government of besieged Sarajevo.

The Bosniak’s foes, the Bosnian Serbs, are keen to project their wartime cause as a precursor to the US-led “war on terror”. But the jihadis’ legacy is fading and they have few friends today on the streets of secular Sarajevo.

Bosnian Serbs sullen and defiant

In the snowy hills above Sarajevo, Bosnian Serbs feel they have been unfairly scapegoated over the Balkan conflict. Report from Pale for BBC News, March 2006

Sarajevo massacre survivor speaks

Interview from Sarajevo with Esad Pozder – market trader and witness to a mortar attack that killed more than 60 people. BBC News, March 2006

Sarajevo finds love after the war

Ten years after the siege of Sarajevo was lifted, young couples in the city are once again breaching the ethnic and religious divide. Report for BBC News, February 2006