KRIK received this year’s prestigious global Data Journalism award for its online database that tracks the assets of Serbian politicians.
The Global Editors Network presented the award in June to KRIK’s editor in chief, Stevan Dojcinovic and journalist Dragana Peco.
Now in its sixth year, the competition celebrates outstanding work in ten categories of data-driven journalism.
KRIK was among five finalists in the Open Data category that featured distinguished world famous investigative publications such as ProPublica.
The awards were presented at the Global Editors Network summit in Vienna where more than 750 editors and journalists from 70 countries were present.
This year’s competition attracted a record-breaking 573 applications from across 51 countries.
About the Database
KRIK’s investigative team spent months gathering and analyzing public records and official documents related to the assets of Serbian politicians and their families. It hired a real estate appraisal service to determine market valuation of properties.
The project is a first of its kind to include detailed information about the families of Serbia’s elite who are often the signatories of cached assets.
The comprehensive database is available on KRIK’s website at imovinapoliticara.krik.rs.
What We Uncovered
KRIK found that numerous officials engaged in dubious business dealings, failed to register properties and were linked to organized crime.
The project began in January 2016 when KRIK journalists began to investigate the possessions of Serbia’s president Alexandar Vucic, who was a Prime Minister at the time.
He claimed to be one of the least affluent of regional leaders registering only one studio apartment under his name.
Yet earlier he had bragged to the media about his expensive collection of wine that he keeps at his family’s home in Jajinci. This is where KRIK’s work began.
Over the course of several months, journalists discovered six properties under various members of Vucic’s family worth 1.2 million euros.
Other politicians’ assets including those of Minister Dusan Vujovic were also assessed to be in the millions. Data shows that Minister Vujovic owns two luxurious homes in the United States, and three apartments in downtown Belgrade.
KRIK further discovered that Serbia’s first openly gay female politician, Ana Brnabic owns an apartment in Dedinje, Belgrade’s upscale neighborhood, that is worth half a million dollars. Brnabic reported that she owns a house in Krk, a Croatian island in the northern Adriatic Sea. Journalists uncovered that she also owns a section of the island that was never reported to the Anti-Corruption Agency.
And former defence minister Zoran Djordjevic established an offshore firm, which won at a great value public procurement of a state-owned company. The offshore firm is now inactive.
KRIK’s investigations also uncovered numerous links between Serbian politicians and criminals.
Most notably, KRIK was able to prove a link between Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar and the member of the deadly Zemun clan. This link for years only existed as a speculation.
Furthermore, an investigation into the Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic and his sister found that she was married to a drug lord with whom she co-founded a company that produced raw materials for synthetic drugs.
Obstacles and Challenges
KRIK encountered numerous obstacles in working with government agencies to obtain records for its database. Institutions found copious excuses to reject access to public information.
Journalists were monitored and recorded, and KIRK was subjected to smear campaigns.
Our editor in chief, Stevan Dojcinovic was dragged through the mud and ridiculed on the front pages of pro-government media.
Nevertheless, KRIK persevered in its efforts to force public accountability and transparency.
This year, KRIK added to its database the profiles of all candidates of Serbian Presidential election.
KRIK will continue to update its database with property cards of new government and opposition politicians.