Press review Southeastern beacon

Europe’s Scrooges: electoral riggers, corrupt priests, greedy authorities

Each month, in partnership with Display Europe, we take a close look at media coverage in Southeast Europe. In the last weeks of this year, the press exposed controversies of Serbia’s SNS ballot victory, a corrupt network linking the Romanian church with politicians, and many more cases of power abuse.

Published on 23 December 2023 at 09:52

Although some of us see the approach of Christmas as an opportunity to be kinder and nicer to everyone around us, many of the people in power act as real-life impersonations of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol’s character Ebenezer Scrooge, an eponym for greed. Yet, journalists all over Southeast Europe play the role of the three ghosts, revealing the past, present, and future repercussions of these Scrooges’ selfish actions on society.

In Serbia, where Aleksandar Vučić’s ruling party SNS won the snap parliamentary elections held on 17th of December, the daily Danas reported multiple election day rigging attempts, like buses with electors coming from Bosnia, votes counted in a pub, and, as Serbia Against Violence coalition announced, “double lists, lists of safe votes at the polling station, theft of ballots, deceased persons in the voter lists, inserting two ballots, group voting…”

Moving on to neighbouring Romania, a priest whistleblower helped investigative journalist Alex Nedea from Recorder surface a bribe and authority abuse network involving tens of millions of euros and linking governmental institutions to the Romanian Orthodox Church. The investigation, which attracted over 1 million views on YouTube alone, is based on flagrant discussions with politicians and highly ranked priests caught on hidden camera by the whistleblower. On the 5th of December, following the journalistic investigation, the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) announced the Archbishop of Tomis was put under criminal investigation for buying influence.

Meanwhile, in an opinion piece published by the daily Times of Malta, hospital chairman and former politician Josie Muscat accused governmental authorities of abandoning citizens and transforming Malta “from a wonder to a monster” by permitting “overdevelopment” and many “high-rise buildings” because of their greed for money.

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Another type of abuse of power happened in Greece, where the Municipality of Alexandroupolis refused to screen a film by a Palestinian director. As reported by the Greek daily Efimerida ton Syntakton, the Alexandroupolis Peace Committee stated that “the municipal authority is identified with the line of the government, which wants to impose silence on every voice and every organization that dares to defend the just struggle of the Palestinian people and opposes the involvement of Greece in plans and wars that have nothing to do with the real interests of our people, while at the same time putting the lives of all of us at risk."

Besides corruption and greediness, governments can hurt society with their incompetence. For example, Moldovan journalist Victoria Borodin from Ziarul de Garda’s (RO) investigative newsroom uncovered a private company on the edge of bankruptcy that exploits gas reserves without having a license or an agreement with the state. In Moldova, the company serves about 700 consumers.

Another proof of top-level incompetence comes from the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, whose journalist Murat Agirel concluded that “even if you defraud hundreds of people of 900 million lira and it is proven, you cannot stay in prison.” This remark followed the journalist’s analysis of the fraudulent Castle Hawk company, which stole the money of many investors after promising them a 10% monthly ROI. Murat Şahin, one of the main men behind the company, was arrested because he defrauded thousands of people with promises of high profits and interest. However, after being sent to Muratlı Prison, he was later released.

On the same topic

“We took a historic step.” A church from Chisinau joined the Metropolis of Bessarabia

Ziarul de Gardă | 5 December | RO

Before the European Parliament decided to start accession talks with Moldova, Ukraine, and Bosnia, Moldova made another step away from Russia, confirms Ziarul de Gardă. The "Saint Hierarch Nicholas" Church in Chisinau recently disaffiliated from the Metropolitanate of Moldova, which was under the Russian Patriarchate, and has joined the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia. The decision to switch back to the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia was made due to historical reasons and the improper placement of the church under the Metropolitanate of Moldova. The move follows concerns raised by Metropolitan Vladimir about the financial state and perceived pro-Russian stance of the Moscow-subordinate Metropolitanate of Moldova. As a result, numerous priests have left the Metropolitanate of Moldova to join the Metropolitanate of Bessarabia.

No, Croats are not of Iranian origin! Scientists: Along with Serbs, they have the most of these genes in the Balkans...

Tanja Rudež | Jutarnji List | 7 December | HR

Croatian daily Jutarnji List talked with researcher Dr. Mario Novak, co-author of a new study that delved into the genetic history of the Balkans. The study, which analyzed the genomes of 146 ancient individuals, found that Croats and Serbs have the strongest Slavic genetic imprint. The research also uncovered evidence of mobility in the Balkans during Roman rule, with individuals from distant regions, including Africa, settling in the area.

Dead refugees in the Balkans: bribes to find missing relatives

Solomon | 1 December | EN

This investigation coordinated by Lighthouse Reports, sheds light on a harsh reality faced by migrants seeking to reach Europe through the Balkan route. Despite the increase in border controls and surveillance, the number of migrants attempting the journey has risen significantly. This has led to a surge in deaths, with many bodies being buried unidentified in mass graves. The investigation found that families of the deceased are often forced to bribe officials to obtain information or access to the bodies of their loved ones. “They only know money. They are not interested in human life,” a 29-year-old asylum seeker said. 

In partnership with Display Europe, cofunded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the Directorate‑General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

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