In a ceremony held in Tirana, on 14 November, during the South East Europe Media Forum, the CEI proudly presented the winners of the CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism. This prestigious prize seeks to promote excellent achievements in investigative journalism as well as to improve the visibility of quality journalism as a contribution to safeguarding media freedom and pluralism. This year, the focus was put on the role of journalists in connection with major crises and emergencies, such as the war in Ukraine caused by the Russian aggression, and the challenges they face to provide accurate and reliable information, often working under difficult conditions and personal risks.
Jure Tepina, journalist and editor-in-chief of digital assets at PRO PLUS, a leading Slovenian multimedia company, is the winner in the “Professional Journalists” category. Tepina has a long-standing experience as a defense and war reporter, covering wars in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine. In particular, he was the first Slovenian reporter to reach besieged Kyiv in the first week of the Russian invasion. He visited the crime scenes in Borodyanka, Bucha, Irpin and traveled to Kherson where he reported on the stories of the Russian torture chambers and methods of interrogating innocent civilians. The jury has recognised his commitment to uncovering stories from diverse and challenging environments in different war zones, with an extensive experience in Ukraine.
Azra Husarić Omerović, a graduate in Journalism at the University of Tuzla, and currently a journalist at BIRN BiH, works as a court reporter and is the frontrunner for the “Young Professional Journalists” category. Her journalistic work primarily focuses on human rights protection, the rights of children with developmental difficulties, but also on hate speech, discrimination, and electoral irregularities. The jury praised her investigative work producing a story about a group of self-styled healers that led to a tragic death, a valuable example of commitment to uncovering lesser-known stories in a modern and multimedia format.
The CEI strives to promote and protect media pluralism, transparency, and independence as core elements of the EU integration process; it acts as a platform for implementing appropriate activities in this respect (CEI Plan of Action 2021-23).
The CEI SEEMO Award continues to play a vital role in recognising and promoting excellence in investigative journalism across the CEI region, providing support and visibility to outstanding reporters, often young, working with commitment and dedication.
Notably, the CEI SEEMO Award also granted special mentions to Ukrainian journalist Taras Zozulinskyy, Chairman of the Board Bureau of journalistic investigations "Detectives," for his extensive documentation of war crimes during the Russian aggression in Ukraine. The team of Slidstvo.Info, represented by Anastasiia Stanko, was also commended for their outstanding investigative documentaries exposing corruption in Ukraine.
The jury, consisting of distinguished members including Aleksandra Bogdani (Albania), Marina Constantinoiu (Romania), Saša Leković (Croatia), Lucie Sýkorová (Czech Republic), Oleksiy Soldatenko (Ukraine) - under the coordination of Barbara Fabro (CEI) and Oliver Vujovic (SEEMO) - carefully evaluated the submitted candidatures, acknowledging the high quality and impact of the investigative journalism works presented.