Smooth Operators: T-Mobile’s Macedonian Adventure

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The story of how a global telecoms giant got its foothold in a tiny Balkan country. A tale of mysterious contracts, destroyed documents, shady money transfers, massive corruption penalties – and, for your humble consumer, some eye-wateringly high phone bills.

And yet, despite the evidence unearthed by an investigation in the US, no action has been taken on the ground in Macedonia. Report by Goran Rizaov. My edit for BfJE/Balkan Insight. Featured at the top of The Wall Street Journal’s Corruption Currents.

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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.

Football and Ultra Violence: Balkan Hooligans Escape Penalties

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An examination of the relationship between football hooligans and nationalism in Macedonia and Serbia. The “ultras” believe their violence serves a political cause, and will not be punished by the courts. However, the politicians deny any links with the violent hooligans. Report by Aleksandar Manasiev. My edit for BfJE/Balkan Insight and The Guardian.

Ten Balkan Tales

fellowship_grab

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.