Archive for October, 2010

1,1 million euro to journalists

Journalists with a good idea for an investigative story with a European angle can now apply for research grants from the European Union. 1,1 million Euro will be distributed in two rounds of applications. The first deadline is on January 15th 2011.

The EU offers research grants for investigative stories, which involve two or more EU countries. Journalists with a good idea for a European or a cross-border story must team up with a colleague from at least one other EU country, find ¼ of the funding for their project and then they can apply.

The independence of the money will be safeguarded by an external “Assistance Body”. It will appoint a jury, maintain a website, administrate the grants and make sure that the experience from the projects is gathered.

A jury of “5-7 independent, reputed experts in journalism, investigative journalism and/or edition in those fields” will decide the awarding of the grants, following predefined rules.

The first round of applications has to be sent to the Commission, while the Assistance body is selected in a call for public tender. However the envelopes with the applications will not be opened by the Commission itself but handed over to the jury via the Assistance body once it is established.

The 1,1 million Euro were granted by the European Parliament as a pilot project, which is now scheduled to run until late 2011.  Among the involved MEPs behind the initiative were German green Helga Trüpel, Danish liberal Anne E. Jensen and since his election last year Danish liberal Morten Løkkegaard.


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Latvian brides

Fraud, rape and sexual exploitation as a result of EU rules combined with national, legal loopholes? An obvious question for journalists to look into. This weekend and today Jamie Smyth from the Irish Times publishes a series of articles about sham marriages in Ireland – and how Latvian women systematically are lured into them.

At the same time at the other end of the EU in Latvia his colleague Aleksandra Jolkina is finishing her book about the Latvian part of the story. Both journalists had been working on the story from each their country. Thanks to a research grant from they could cover travel costs and cooperate.

“Working together enabled both of us to identify contacts in each other countries that would have been difficult or impossible to source while working on our own,” says Jamie Smyth about the cooperation.

By cooperating they could overcome language difficulties and penetrate subjects and environments, they could not have accessed without the other. Read more about the common research efforts here – including Aleksandra’s report about how she set up a job seeking profile.

The story still goes on: Hundreds of women come to Ireland each year to marry non-Europeans – with the sole aim of securing visas for their new husbands. Most of them are from poor Eastern European states such as Latvia and Lithuania, where the offer of a few thousand euros is enough to lure women into a “sham marriage”. These women are entering not only a fake marriage but also, often, an underworld of crime and abuse.

All links to articles in the Irish Times and in Latvia here.

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Sandcastle Europe

A writer and a photographer from Belgium have spent several years to document the migrants on their way to the EU and inside the EU. There is no fortress Europe, they conclude – it is rather a sandcastle. Because “you cannot secure a continent against newcomers”.

Right now the EU is paying Libya millions of euro to keep refugees from the promised European coasts of the Mediterranean. How can journalists cover the question appropriately?

For a year and a day this subject has occupied the minds of writer Michael De Cock and photographer Stephan Vanfleteren. Frequently together, sometimes on their own, they visited the furthest outposts of Europe – Malta, Slovakia… They talked to people on the coasts of Africa who were all ready to emigrate, and they followed the fortunes of those venturing from Ostend to London.

Stephan Vanfleteren, an award winning Belgian photographer, and Michael De Cock, a writer and theatre director from Mechelen north of Brussels, did yearlong work to trace the immigrants and follow their arrival and their moves in illegality.

A photographer and a theatre director unite to do a job that traditionally would have been done by journalists. They observe people on the move in n search of a better life. “Europe is bursting at the seams with new citizens,” it says in one of their statements. “The old continent is struggling with the immigration phenomenon; and handling it with amazing ineptitude. The question is not: who is welcome and who is not? The question has to be: how are we to accommodate all these newcomers?”

The two have produced a book Aller/Retour, which has been published in Dutch and is currently translated to English. The team decided to get the work done not via traditional media but with the help of research grant by the Belgian Pascal Decroos Fund and in the format of a book.

Following up on the provoking thought by Ides Debruyne  about the emancipated journalist, the project of Vanfleteren and De Cock appears to be an obvious example: They consider the subject essential, they decide to cover it, and they find the means to do so in a thorough way.

In the meantime the entire question sandcastle vs fortress is pressing itself upon us. If essentiality still is one of the journalistic criteria, this certainly is a story, we, European journalists, should cover intensely.

Danish researchers (to take some examples from my own country) have been looking into the outsourcing of border control. Or about the sovereignity blame-game in the Mediterraanean. Or about the growing number of unaccompanied children fleeing from war-zones.

Enough to do for journalists.

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