On 9 December 2016 ESI's Kristof Bender participated in the jury for the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, awarded by Erste Stiftung, the Open Society Foundation and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network BIRN. The three winners were:
1. Serbeze Haxhiaj (Pristina, Kosovo), Hiding in Plain Sight - Kosovo's Protected Witnesses, published 14 February 2017
A new court faces old problems in protecting witnesses to a dark chapter in Kosovo's fight for freedom
2. Masenjka Bacic (Split, Croatia), Abortion Rights under Fire in Croatia, published 30 November 2016
Croatian women struggle to exercise their right to abortion, driven into the shadows and illegality by the rise of a hostile conservatism.
3. Elvis Nabolli (Shkoder, Albania), An Albanian War on Drugs, published 16 November 2016
Albania is uprooting cannabis at an unprecedented rate, but endemic corruption and a failure to target the kingpins behind a multi-billion-euro industry give the lie to the NATO member's 'war on drugs'
For this fellowship, each year ten Balkan journalists are competitively chosen to receive funding and professional support to conduct their own research project. The fellowship features an introductory seminar in Vienna, mentorship of each fellow's research and reporting, individual research trips to countries of the region and the EU, as well as a concluding seminar and award ceremony.
Experienced editors from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network provide hands-on support to fellows throughout their work, while seminars ensure that fellows learn about current issues of concern in the EU and the region, meet important social, political and economic actors and establish contact with media professionals.
Fellowship reports are disseminated widely in all local languages as well as in English and German, and published in an e-book which assembles the ten works that have been produced in the course of the fellowship year.
A new call for 2017 is open until 8 March 2017.
- BIRN, "Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence - 2016 winners chosen", 10 December 2016.
- Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence - Call for 2017 on the topic "Change"