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Annual Award Ceremony for Best Journalist Materials Publicizing Cases of Corruption
 
On 31 March, 2005 at the American Embassy in Sofia Coalition 2000 organized a ceremony for bestowing the annual awards for best journalistic materials on corruption-related topics published or broadcast in 2004 in Bulgaria. For a first year, two categories were introduced in the contest: for publications in print media and for materials broadcast by electronic media. 22 journalists from over 15 print and electronic media from all over the country publicizing cases of corruption or successful anticorruption activities participated in the 2004 competition. It was conducted for a third consecutive year. In 2002 Coalition 2000 initiated the awards competition for best materials investigating corruption to stimulate the active anticorruption position of the Bulgarian journalists and the media as a whole.

The Third annual awards were bestowed by the US Ambassador to Bulgaria James. W. Pardew. In his welcome address, Ambassador Pardew emphasized the fact that independent media searching for the truth are a major factor for guaranteeing the freedom of speech and democracy. He also objected the use of the judiciary system in Bulgaria for intimidating media investigating corruption cases. Ambassador Pardew congratulated the awarded journalists for their courage to take personal and professional risks to tell their stories about corrupt politicians and organized crime.

A welcome speech to the nominees was also delivered by the Chair of the Awards Board of the Third annual awards Prof. Georgi Lozanov, Chair of the Bulgarian Media Coalition. In his speech Prof. Lozanov stated that the development and increasing popularity of the competition has elucidated the thematic criteria and has allowed, with few exceptions, to award journalistic materials focusing on corruption, in particular, and not on crime in general. This fact supports media analysis defining the blurred line between these two areas and allows the contest to find its place on the broad landscape of investigating journalism.

The first prize in the category print media was bestowed to Dimitar Iliev, for a publication in 168 Chasa Weekly - A Theft Worth 500 Million Leva. The article came out on 28 May, 2004 and investigated a scheme for illegal and fraudulent transfer of investment bonds from the mass privatization. The scheme had affected 200 000 Bulgarians, as the overall embezzled sum was 500 million leva.

The second prize in the print media category was bestowed to Milena Dimitrova, for the article in Pari Daily Corruption The Five-Year Odyssey of the Second Turbine for Maritza Iztok-2 Electric Power Plant. In the article, published on 27 October, 2004, the author reviews a case from 1998 when a consortium with Russian participation Power Engineering won a procurement tender for the supply of a turbine for Maritza Iztok-2 electric power plant with an offer for 11 million leva. The turbine, however, did not comply with the requirements of the tender and subsequently kept on breaking down frequently, which involved losses and forgone benefits. Similar are the prospects for the next forty years, as well, since this is the period of guaranteed exploitation of the turbine.

The third prize in this category was bestowed to Ivan Rachev, Editor in Chief of the appendix of Banker Weekly for legal and policy materials Paragraph 22, for the article The Bulgarian Mayor- a Reformer or a Witch, published on 17 July, 2004. The article sheds light on one of the recurring topics of 2004 – the misdeeds of Bulgarian mayors. At focus of the material was the mayor of Vidin Ivan Tsenov whose behavior was reviewed at a sitting of the governmental Anticorruption Committee. The report of the Committee contained irrefutable evidence for abuse of power for a personal gain, such as: illegal mortgaging of municipal property, severe violations in the application of the law for public tenders, illegal provision of housing to relatives, etc.

A honorary diploma in this category received Todor Gospodinov, 167 Chasa weekly, Varna for the article Elections in Aksakovo, or bai Ganyo Comes Back, published in issue 32(55), 10-16.08.2004 in 167 Chassa weekly. The material reviews schemes for abuse of power by public authorities, who on their turn put him under an extreme pressure and Mr. Gospodinov was forced to publish the material under a false name. The mayor of Aksakovo, however, purchased all the printed copies from the particular issue of the newspaper and destroyed them. As a result of the journalistic investigations Varna Prosecution Office opened a case against unknown perpetrator for documents’ forging. The investigation has already come to an end and the prosecution is expected to announce a verdict.

The first prize in the electronic media category was bestowed to Vassil Ivanov, NTV, for his video material Corruption in the Maternity Ward broadcast on 24 November, 2004. The video shows an investigation of corruption transactions in maternity wards revealing illegal payment for “better” services in the hospital. In the video, the media team has “caught” a doctor who solicits money from future parents.

The second prize in the electronic media category was bestowed to a team of journalists - Evgeni Todorov, Petko Shoylekov, Mariana Kirezieva, Alexander Alexiev, Plovdiv Public TV – for the film: A Corruption Trial, broadcast on 27 October, 2004. On behalf of the team, the prize was accepted by Evgeni Todorov. The film shows a “mock” trial against a corrupt inspector from a Hygiene-Epidemic Inspectorate based on a true case. During the making of the film were involved both real magistrates and actors. It was shown also at a seminar organized by the Union of Judges in Bulgaria.

The third prize in this category was awarded to Miroliuba Benatova, bTV, for the material Tracking the Lost Co-Owner, broadcast on 8 April, 2004. The video is based on an interview taken by the journalist from the notorious Bulgarian mobster Zlatko Baretata.

A honorary diploma in the electronic media category was bestowed to Kristina Koleva, IREX-Pro-Media, for the video Distance Learning at Shoumen University, broadcast on 15 May, 2004. The video exposes an illegal scheme for issuance of higher education diplomas, awarded on behalf of a renowned university. The actual teaching, however, was done through a private foundation for a personal gain. After the video was broadcast, the illegal activity of the pseudo-university was discontinued.

A second honorary diploma in this category was awarded to Ekaterina Aneva, NTV, for the video material A Trade with IDs of Disabled People. With this award Coalition 2000 recognizes the use of hidden camera during journalism investigations, which is still a novel practice for Bulgarian TV channels. In a series of TV documentaries, broadcast in December 2004, the NTV team unveils a scheme for illegal trade with IDs of disabled people, which involved individuals from different institutions: GPs, social services, traffic police, Customs, etc. The video had led to an internal investigation in the traffic police under a personal request from Interior Ministry Chief Secretary, Gen.-Lieut. Boyko Borissov.

Agenda of the ceremony
Keynote Address delivered by Ambassador James Pardew (PDF, 1.93 Mb)
Second Award Ceremony for Best Journalist Materials Investigating Cases of Corruption – 4 March, 2004
First Award Ceremony for Best Journalist Materials Investigating Cases of Corruption – 26 February, 2003
Media coverage
 
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