CIN Celebrates its Fifth Anniversary

In October of 2004, when the doors of The Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN) opened, founding director Drew Sullivan wondered if the center would survive. Its first story on Bosnia-Herzegovina health care required some arm twisting to get into local papers.

This month, after publishing over 1,000 stories with 238 news organization around the world, the award-winning organization celebrates its fifth anniversary as a voice for independent journalism in BiH.

CIN has devoted itself to independent investigative reporting that results in fact-based stories backed up by documented evidence and supported by multiple sources. CIN also tries to write stories for the people of BiH rather than the political elite. Its stories are published in many BiH newspapers, and used by television and radio stations and by many web portals. It has its own website, on which it publishes its stories after newspapers have had a chance to break them first. That website is www.cin.ba.

Sullivan said he came up with the idea for the Center in 2002, while working in BiH, when he realized the need for independent journalism. The model for the new organization, he said, was the Philippine Center for Investigative Reporting.

‘I am really happy we are celebrating this anniversary. Many predicted we’d be long gone but CIN has filled an important need here’ said Sullivan, who now serves as an adviser and a member of its Board of Directors.

CIN is financed by commercial revenues and international donors who have recognized the importance of independent media. Among CIN’s donors this year are the Open Society Fund, British Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Sullivan said the way CIN does journalism makes it different from other media in BiH.

‘We think the reader of BiH is smart and deserves the most in-depth and accurate information. We avoid the colorful but unproven hearsay that some others seem to rely on. It’s a different approach. I’m not saying we are better. We’re just different’ he said.

Svjetlana Ćelić, who has been a reporter from the beginning and who has served as both an editor and reporter said, ‘We are lucky to be able to afford to work on a single story for several months and investigate it thoroughly.’

CIN’s gives its stories free to local media and includes photographs and graphics. This practice gives CIN a wide and diverse audience. Aside from work that has been published in local media, CIN has worked with foreign media like the US television show Frontline, Der Spiegel, ZDF television in Germany and Time magazine and its work has been used by many foreign news services and online productions and by the Associated Press in Sarajevo.

During the past few years CIN has been recognized internationally for its work. In 2007, it received the international Global Shining Light award for a series of investigative stories on the energy sector. For the project ‘Danger on the Plate’, it received an award from the Online News Association (ONA). For its contribution in the fight against corruption, CIN received an award for journalistic integrity from the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International BiH. For its work with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) CIN received US Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Tom Renner award and the Overseas Press Club award. In 2008, CIN received awards from Germany for the story on small and medium companies from two international German NGOs ‘Hope for Eastern Europe’ and ‘Renovabis’, as well as the media seal from the Večernji list from Mostar.

CIN reporter Eldina Pleho said, ‘Everyone loves awards, but the true awards are the ones you are never officially rewarded. Like casual comments you hear from complete strangers…when your story propels officials to action.’

CIN stories have had a marked impact. As a consequence of its stories, two judges and a prime minister have lost their positions and some police officers ended up in jail. CIN’s management expects its influence to keep growing, partly because it is a founding member of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which does investigative work on a regional basis. Its website is www.reportingproject.net.

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