ACF Announces Winners of 2023 Red Line Journalism Against Corruption Awards

The Anti-Corruption Fund Foundation (ACF) has announced the winners of its 2023 Red Line Journalism Against Corruption Award.

Five journalists, selected from a record number of 56 nominations, were celebrated at an awards ceremony at Sofia’s Odeon Cinema.

Абонирайте се за бюлетина на АКФ, за да научавате за най-новите ни разследвания и анализи:

С натискане на бутона потвърждавате, че сте запознати с Политиката ни за поверителност

Genka Shikerova, an investigative journalist with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, received a special award for bravery and determination. Just this year, Shikerova has authored twelve investigations on highly topical issues such as vote buying. Shikerova was nominated for a series of reports about the questionable tactics employed by Russia to assume control over expensive properties and acres of land in Bulgaria. Another investigation focuses on the attempts of a politically connected businessman to acquire the publicly owned International Fair Plovdiv, the largest exhibition space of this kind in Southeastern Europe.

Genka Shikerova, Svobodna Evropa

Veronika Dimitrova, Nova Broadcasting Group, received the award in the category Investigative Journalism for a report shedding light on an extortion scheme at a municipal cemetery in Sofia. Besides presenting extremely concerning cases of the bereaved relatives of deceased people being pressured to offer bribes, the report raises questions about undue influence by one of the largest funeral undertaking services in the Bulgarian capital.


Veronika Dimitrova, Nova Broadcasting Group

Bogdana Lazarova, Bulgarian National Television, received the award in the category Rule of Law. Her investigation titled “Why More Than 200,000 Bulgarians Lack Identification Documents” shows the predicaments of people without identity documents who cannot work or vote and lack access to healthcare and education services. Their children are also affected as they cannot be issued birth certificates and personal identity documents. While the issue hampers access to social services and contributes to more poverty and inequality, it is also a threat to national security. It means that more than three per cent of Bulgaria’s population cannot be identified and traced by law enforcement authorities.

Bogdana Lazarova, Bulgarian National Television

Emilia Dimitrova-Dankova from Sevlievo Online, part of the independent regional journalism network Za Istinata, received the award in the Regional Journalism category. In the period from March to October 2023, Dankova published several articles about the public psychiatric hospital in Sevlievo where several issues were uncovered: the director was chosen without a competitive procedure, the appointment was suspected to be politically motivated, and staff were subjected to systemic pressure.

Emilia Dimitrova-Dankova, Sevlievo Online

Elitsa Simeonova from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty was the winner in the category Young Journalist. Her report told the story of the town of Gulubovo where there is a longstanding problem with air pollution, caused by thermal power plant Brikel which public institutions appear to be unable to sanction.


Elitsa Simeonova from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

The winners were selected by a jury which included: Dr. Svetoslav Terziev, a journalist with the newspaper Sega and faculty member of Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski; Venelin Petkov, Member of the Board of ACF; Tatiana Vaksberg, Editor-in-Chief of the Sofia bureau of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (she refrained from voting in categories that featured her colleagues among the nominees); Sofia Razboinikova, Member of the Board of the Bulgarian Lawyers for Human Rights Foundation; and Vesela Todorova, Public Outreach Coordinator, ACF.

The ceremony, which took place a day before the International Anti-Corruption Day, was attended by Elizabeth Chapman, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy Sofia, who presented Elitsa Simeonova with an additional award.


The damaging influence of corruption cannot be stopped overnight,” said Elizabeth Chapman. “A sustained, shared effort however, will help to build a fairer, safer society. we must recognise the relationship between anti-corruption efforts and a free, vigilant media. A society that values transparency, accountability, and the rule of law is a society that thrives.”

According to Boyko Stankushev, director of ACF, this year – like the previous ones – many of the nominated journalists had been subjected to pressure because of their investigations.

“Unfortunately, Bulgarian investigative journalists continue to work in a difficult – and sometimes even dangerous – environment,” he said. “Public institutions, our society, is obliged to defend journalists in their work because by doing so they are also defending the right of each citizen to be informed and to participate constructively in all aspects of public life.”

The Red Line Journalism Against Corruption Awards are organized with the support of the America for Bulgarian Foundation.

A recording of the awards ceremony can be watched here.