Aleksandra Bogdani and Flamur Vezaj: Story on radicalisation in Abania

Aleksandra Bogdani and Flamur Vezaj: Story on radicalisation in Abania

First EU Investigative Journalism Award 2015, Albania

EU Investigative Journalism Award in Albania was given to Aleksandra Bogdani and Flamur Vezaj, for their series of three articles shedding light on the Albanians involved in fighting in Syria, addressing one of the most relevant topics at the moment: the radicalization of part of the society and the threat of terrorism. Even though this is still considered an isolated phenomenon in Albania, its presence raises important questions on security and on the future of religious co-existence in the country.

The three investigative stories focused on the reasons that led Albanian Muslims to join terrorist organizations in Syria, on their recruitment network and their social and cultural background. The articles have combined insights from official investigations and interviews, exploring the presence of extremist groups and their potential to attract Albanian youth and radicalize them. In addition, the articles address the role of state institutions and their apathy when faced with this phenomenon, underlining the absence of a long-term strategy for de-radicalization of this particular group of people.

The topic of Albanians fighting in Syria had been covered in the media, but these articles brought new facts and a different angle on the story. An extensive interview with a fighter returning from Syria discovers the process of radicalization and his clashes with Albanian reality. The series of articles were published first on, the online publication of BIRN Albania, and then republished by other Albanian media.

These articles were only the beginning

During the award ceremony both authors of the articles expressed their satisfaction on the appreciation showed for their work. “Today I’m very happy that my work was appreciated. We have done a series of articles on recruitment of Albanians to the war in Syria, which is one of the hottest topics of our time. We tried to provide a face, an identity to people that are fleeing. We also tried to find important information on what are the reasons that make these people leave for Syria. How are they recruited? What is the road they take? Which are the potential risks for our Balkan countries? These articles were only the beginning of the cycle and this is the work that we continue to follow up to this moment. Investigative journalism certainly is not an easy job, but it is the job where you see most effects and reap the greatest satisfaction, as well as one of the biggest challenges for each journalist. I’m very happy my work was rewarded and this prize is a great encouragement for my future journalism career“ said Aleksandra Bogdani.

Flamur Vezaj also agreed, highlighting the importance of such an award for journalism: “We have done our best so that the rest of the people can see what the deal with these indoctrinated persons is and how people can be manipulated and exploited in this respect. I thank the Albanian Media Institute and the European Union for the appreciation of our work. This is a great assistance to journalists in Albania and the region.”

leksandra Bogdani is journalist of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. She has a long experience in Albanian media, working for 15 years as reporter, editor, and deputy editor in daily newspapers “Shekulli”, “Korrieri” and “Mapo”. She has also won the third prize of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence.  
Flamur Vezaj is journalist at news channel “ABC News” since 2013, specializing in coverage of the judiciary in Albania. He has worked as a journalist for more than a decade, with experience in daily newspapers “Korrieri” and “Shekulli.”