6 journalistic highlights of 2018

Journalists are looking for a scoop every day. With these 6 scoops, De Persgroep news journalists definitely set the tone last year.

1. Volkskrant: Halbe Zijlstra’s fall

During the election campaign, VVD heavyweight Halbe Zijlstra talks about his visit to Vladimir Putin’s dacha and the fact that the Russian leader used aggressive language towards Russia’s neighbours. When he becomes Foreign Minister, the story serves as proof that he has quite some foreign experience. For several months, reporter Natalie Righton looks for the truth in that story, until Zijlstra is forced to admit to her that he was never in the dacha. A day later he resigns and leaves politics. Righton has been nominated as Journalist of the Year.

“Sometimes your journalistic instinct tells you that something is not right. Once in a while Putin invited Dutchmen, but Zijlstra was only a small entrepreneur at the time. That is why I kept on looking for the truth, even though his spokesmen kept me running in circles.”

Natalie Righton, journalist De Volkskrant

2. Berlingske unveils Danske Bank’s money laundering operation

For two years, three investigative journalists from Berlingske sank their teeth in one of the world’s largest money laundering scandals. Between 2007 and 2015 suspicious transactions worth billions of euros took place via the Estonian branch of Danske Bank. Those transactions would include criminal money from Russia. The top management was informed internally, but hardly reacted. When the story went public, the market value of Danske Bank halved. The CEO and the chairman of the bank saw no other option than to resign. The three journalists received different prizes for their work , including the Cavling Award: the most prestigious Danish journalistic prize.

“Crime money, a murdered Russian banker and bribed politicians. In our wildest dreams, we could not imagine how big this story was going to be when we decided to investigate the bank transactions of the Baltic branch of Denmark’s largest bank . “

Michael Lund, Simon Bendsten and Eva Jung, journalists Berlingske

3. The referee tapes: Het Laatste Nieuws brings the most talked about football story of 2018

Hundreds of phone calls between player broker Dejan Veljkovic and top referees Sébastien Delferière and Bart Vertenten provided the most talked about football story of 2018. For months, investigators tapped the Serbian player broker’s phone. According to the court, the broker rewarded the referees with gifts for their ‘services rendered’. Bribery and match fixing. Vertenten and Delferière were suspected of membership of a criminal organization and of corruption. This was the ultimate football story of 2018.

“Trainers, referees and brokers who are arrested. During my entire career I had never experienced it. What was settled between the top refs and the brokers completely surprised me and the whole country. On the basis of the sound recordings, we lifted a tip of the veil in various articles. “

Bjorn Maeckelbergh , journalist Het Laatste Nieuws

4. Unilever top reveals pressure on cabinet in ADR Nieuwsmedia

Unilever CEO Paul Polman revealed in an exclusive interview with ADR Nieuwsmedia that abolishing the dividend tax was a rock-hard condition for moving the Unilever headquarters from London to Rotterdam. Both the move and the abolition of the tax did not go through, but the damage for Mark Rutte’s cabinet was incalculable. The news item reached nearly four million readers via AD sites and apps and the regional titles. And many more in print.

“It was the first time that Paul Polman gave his view of the dividend debacle. Apparently he was still deeply frustrated about Unilever’s failed relocation operation. It provided a special glimpse into the head of a top businessman who had been adulated for years. ”

Annemieke van Dongen, journalist ADR Nieuwsmedia

5. VTM NIEUWS in North Korea: what the North Koreans themselves are not allowed to know

It takes two years for VTM NIEUWS journalist Robin Ramaekers to get a press visa to enter as a journalist in what is today the most closed country in the world: North Korea. Coincidence or not, the moment for Ramaekers to finally go to Pyongyang could not be better chosen. April 2018 turns out to be the turning point at which Kim Jong-un decides behind the scenes to reach out to arch-enemy America. It turns out that the North Koreans themselves know nothing about it. Ramaekers will report for a week for VTM NIEUWS and Het Laatste Nieuws from a country that is at a turning point in world history without the Great Leader informing its people about it.

“This is how I want to do journalism: reporting against the current, with strong stories from the other side of the world that also have an impact in Flanders.”

Robin Ramaekers, foreign correspondent VTM NIEUWS

6. De Morgen maps out the wages of hospital doctors

At the end of 2018, De Morgen published the Dossier Dokterslonen, unravelling the tangle of hospital financing. This was necessary because the wages of doctors-specialists turned out to be one of the best kept secrets in Belgium. The journalists from De Morgen gave a crystal clear image of those wages, and the big differences between disciplines and hospitals. They did not take things lightly. A fine example of investigative journalism that required a great deal of perseverance and sometimes some tug-of-war.

“This file had a very long and difficult start-up. Official bodies were very reluctant or did not want to cooperate at all. But we persisted. After three months we reached the heart of the matter.”

Sara Vandekerckhove , journalist De Morgen

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