The award ceremony for winners of FLEG II contest for journalists and environmental activists took place at the World Bank Office in Kyiv on June 8.
It was fourth in a series of civil engagement events organized in partnership with Telekritika, an independent media development think-tank.
The contest ran between February and May of this year and attracted nearly 90 submissions – articles and video reports produced, published, and broadcast during the period July 2014 - May 2015. Out of 90 submissions, 27 received awards from the jury and were selected for publication on Telekritika’s website.
The 6-member jury, which comprised of journalists, professors and ecologists, awarded the three main winners.
Oleksandr Chornovalov, a Radio Liberty reporter, won the contest’s first place trophy. His investigation exposed illegal privatization of forested lands on a total of 890 hectares in Bucha, near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The story goes back to 2002, when the Bucha local council deliberately changed the status of forested lands to “public and residential area”, which led to a number of unlawful dealings.
The second prize went to Iryna Fedoriv, a journalist and editor-in-chief of “Pry-Irpin Community”, for a series of articles on protecting the Bilychi forest park. For her leadership in protecting the forest near Kotsiubynske, about 20km from Kyiv, Ms. Fedoriv received a special prize in the 2014 contest, while in 2011 she earned first place.
Third place was awarded to Eugenia Motorevska, an ICTV Channel reporter, for her exclusive investigation titled “Corrupt millions earned in illegal logging”. Her TV program exposed kickbacks in forest sales.
A contest with an impact
Overall this year, contest participants were keen to write about re-distribution of forest ownership, a moratorium on exports of round wood and the ensuing debate, corruption in the forest sector, and forest management reforms.
Ostap Yednak, a member of the Ukrainian parliament who also serves on the FLEG II national advisory committee, says that the contest is an important annual activity within the program. "It shows that the Ukrainian forest sector still remains a rather opaque business, which takes very seriously guarding its sometimes rather unattractive secrets."
The contest’s participants are shedding light on how the forest industry works, so it is worth running the contest in the future, say the organizers. The good news is that FLEG II management has planned for this contest in its 2015-16 Action Plan.