Ion Ratiu Journalism Award

Ion Ratiu Journalism Award was launched in 2015 to promote investigative journalism and journalists.


The first privately-owned daily to be launched after the 1989 revolution, Cotidianul (The Daily) was founded in 1991 by Ion Ratiu. Formerly a journalist at the BBC, Ratiu, who later rose to become an eminent figure in Romanian politics, established Cotidanul as non-aligned, moderate and objective. Its design and writing style are reminiscent of The Guardian, where Cotidanul‘s journalists were initially trained.

After Ratiu’s death, the print version was designed as a French-style tabloid format. Unlike its fellow newspapers, the Cotidanul website is constantly updated. Faced with serious financial difficulties, the newspaper was printed for the last time on December 23, 2009. Its website remains active. 

Nominations are made by three professional organizations that promote media ethics: the Center for Independent Journalism, Active Watch and the Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism.

The Award is inspired by the example of Ion Ratiu who, upon his return to Romania after 50 years in exile, fought for freedom of the press, a necessary condition of any functional democracy. His struggle to start an independent newspaper and television station that would present news without the bias of former state propaganda were partially successful as the first issue of Cotidianul appeared on May 10th 1991, but the television station was never been approved.    



Victor Ilie 2021 

The Rațiu Family Charitable Foundation, the Rațiu Democracy Centre and the Rațiu Forum are pleased to announce the 2021 Recipient of the Ion Rațiu Journalism Award: journalist Victor Ilie, who currently reports for Recorder. 

In November 2020 Victor Ilie published the investigation that discovered and brought to the public's attention the "King of the pandemic", the main person responsible for purchasing vital medical equipment for the Romanian state and its citizens, a master of a "kingdom" dominated by corruption, defiance and incompetence. According to the members of the Jury Committee that evaluated this year's proposals, the article written by Victor Ilie is an example of quality journalism produced by an independent press project, an investigation carried out at a time when the access to information was often limited for journalists.

With the support of the Rațiu Family Charitable Foundation, the Awardee will attend the 2021 Reuters Journalist Fellowship Summer School, an international programme for professional journalists, organised by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

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“I congratulate Victor Ilie for his impeccably researched investigation, in which he revealed a (new) corrupt official feeding on public resources, who had gained huge decision-making powers at a time that was critical for everyone, and who is presently prosecuted by anti-corruption prosecutors for bribery and abuse of office. We continue to support investigative journalism in Romania and what gives us hope is the quality of the investigation articles that we read when evaluating nominations. They are all conducted thoroughly and with professionalism by honest and dedicated journalists - much needed by our society, especially in times of crisis”, states Nicolae Rațiu, Chairman of the Ratiu Family Charitable Foundation. 


Victor Ilie graduated from the Iași Faculty of Journalism (2012) and reported for Opinia Veche (former Opinia Studențească), Jurnalul Național, Casa Jurnalistului, RISE Project and Inclusive. He joined the Recorder team in September 2020. He will officially receive the Journalism Award during a ceremony included in the agenda of the 2021 Rațiu Dialogues for Democracy, an event organized by the Rațiu Forum and LSE IDEAS, scheduled this year for 13-14 September, in Turda, Romania.

Diana Oncioiu 2020

Nominated for: Dreptate strâmbă: 3 din 4 cazuri de acte sexuale cu victime copii sunt judecate în instanțele românești ca fapte consimțite.

Diana Oncioiu sheds a light on a painful reality in Romanian courts: the manner in which sexual abuses against minor victims are trialed and the tendency of judges to assume that sexual relations took place also with the acceptance of the child-victim. This is possible in a system that assigns blame to the victim, despite the condemnation of the Romanian State by the European Court for Human Rights, which concluded that the Romanian criminal-law system had failed to legally protect children against degrading treatment and to pursue the best interests of minors in the administration of justice. 

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Photo credit: Andrei Pungovschi

The Awardee writes for the alternative publication Dela0 and is also a member of the Să Fie Lumină collaborative project, initiated by and the Center for Media Investigations. She also has a background in broadcasting, having worked for five years for Realitatea TV and Digi24. She covers mainly social topics – domestic violence, education, social assistance, extreme poverty.  Diana Oncioiu will officially receive the Award at a ceremony during the 2020 Ratiu Dialogues on Democracy, an event that will occur online this year between September 15th-18th. More details about the event are available here. 

Alex Nedea 2019
Alex Nedea is the 2019 Ion Ratiu Journalism Awardee

Nominated for:
Dumnezeul Achizițiilor. Alex Nedea, together with David Muntean, have researched the information available in the field of public acquisitions and have found a gold nugget: a node of corruption relations which ties high ranking politicians with an apparently unimportant hierarchy. The information generated by the investigation became more powerful, the more the protagonist of this video investigation proved various qualities which gave him a Schadenfreude aura. Such combination turned this investigation into a star of these past months.”

Alex Nedea        

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Alex Nedea started his career in 2004 within the education department of Adevărul daily newspaper and Jurnalul Național feature department. In March 2008 he joined Realitatea TV as an investigative reporter and has since worked within the investigative departments of Jurnalul Național, Adevărul, as well as Antena 3’s “În premieră” where he handled current affairs documentaries.
He is the recipient of 2011 Investigative Journalism Award, offered by the Romanian Press Club and 2013 “European Reporter” Grand Prize, an European Commission Award, as well as of the 2014 Silver World Medal at the New York Festivals TV & Film Awards. More recently he is the 2016 & 2017 first prize awardee of Superscrieri Romania and the 2018 Bronze World Medal recipient of New York Festivals TV & Film Awards.

In January 2019 he joined Recorder.  Together with David Muntean (operator), he investigated the corruption that surrounds the biggest modernisation program of rural Romania in the previous 30 years.
His Latest Investigations

Paul Radu 2018
Director and co-founder, RISE Project

Nominated for:
“his ability to coordinate and ensure work efficiency of the journalistic teams on both sides of the ocean. The RISE Project investigative series into the underground businesses of Romanians suspected of breaking the law both in Romania and Brazil is a model investigation. The fact that those investigated are influential Romanian politicians adds courage to the proven professional probity of the journalists – a scarce trait among journalists nowadays.”

His Latest Investigation


Listen to his acceptance speech:

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Paul Radu (@IDashboard) is the director and co-founder of RISE Project a platform for investigative reporters and hackers in Romania.
He is a co-founder and the executive director of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and a co-creator of the Investigative Dashboard concept, of Visual investigative Scenarios visualization software.

He has held a number of fellowships, including the Alfred Friendly Press Fellowship in 2001, the Milena Jesenska Press Fellowship in 2002, the Rosalyn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism in 2007, the 2008 Knight International Journalism fellowship with the International Center for Journalists and the 2009-2010 Stanford Knight Journalism Fellowship.   

He is the recipient of numerous awards including in 2004, the Knight International Journalism Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, in 2007, the Global Shining Light Award, the Tom Renner Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, the 2011 the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting and a 2015 European Press Prize. Paul was a member of the ICIJ led investigative team that won the Pulitzer prize in 2017 for Panama Papers.

He is a board member with the Global Investigative Journalism Network, ICFJ, Bellingcat and other organizations.
Paul’s recent work includes the Panama and the Paradise Papers, the Russian and the Azerbaijani Laundromat as well as a number of exposés focused on powerful Romanian politicians and oligarchs.

Ovidiu Vanghele 2017
Ovidiu Vanghele is the 2017 Ion Rațiu Journalism Awardee

Nominated for:

“his investigative piece All the General’s Men that looked into the fortune of former Vice Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea and  his investigative series Death Map – a detailed radiography of the disaster within the Romanian social assistance system on the nearly 5000 mentally ill patients who have died over a five year span in institutionalized centers. Ovidiu’s merit lies not in only in the quality of his investigations, but also in his passion and stubbornness to reach such results without the support of a team or newsroom.”                   

Ovidiu Vanghele                    

Editor, Factual


His Latest Investigations


Ovidiu Vanghele started his career in 2002 when, at the end of his first university year, was hired by MEDIAFAX Agency. During his ten years in the press agency he gradually became interested in more detailed subjects, closer to investigative journalism. He then joined the Pro TV news team, but also contributed to the nertwork’s premium show România, te iubesc!


Less than a year later, he chose to leave mainstream media, founding the Center for Media Investigations he heads ever since.

In the past years, Ovidiu Vanghele published several press investigations tracing millions of euro spent pointlessly, illegally or simply stolen. His best known investigations focused on the abuses from mental health centers, the Romanian Academy monetary frauds, the National Railway Company’s contracts or the acquisitions made by the bosses of what is known as “Republica Constanța”. Most of these also became judiciary investigations.

He has spent almost the entire 2016 documenting the series “Toți oamenii generalului” (Rise Project), on the personal and financial development of Gabriel Oprea, one of the biggest paradoxes of Romanian politics, in collaboration with Ana Poenariu.     Aside from investigative journalism, the past years he formed and headed the editorial team of EurActiv Romania. At present Ovidiu Vanghele is editor of Romania’s biggest fact-checking platform,, a Funky Citizens’ project.

Emilia Șercan 2016
Emilia Șercan is the 2016 Ion Ratiu Journalism Awardee


“for her 2015 investigation on the doctoral plagiarism of Vice Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea, Emilia Șercan is distinguished with the second Ion Rațiu Journalism Award.”    

Emilia Șercan                     

Her Latest Investigations


Emilia Șercan started her apprenticeship in 1996 in her hometown Vatra Dornei where she did pretty much everything, from newspapers to radio and television. In 2000 she joined the event and investigation section of Curierul Național and in 2003 became part of the investigation department of Evenimentul Zilei.  

Since 2009 she works as independent journalist and since 2010 she is senior editor of Emilia Șercan is lecturer of the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Science, University of Bucharest.      

She coordinated hundreds of investigative stories, among them Mătuşa Tamara, Afacerile din energie ale „băieţilor deştepţi” şi ale lui Bogdan Buzăianu, Afacerile de după FNI ale lui SOV, Averea lui Dan Ioan Popescu, Dosarul Bancorex, Ziarişti – foşti informatori ai Securităţii, Afacerile lui Puiu Popoviciu. In 2008 she joined Realitatea-Cațavencu as head of investigation department, that provided materials for Cotidianul  and Realitatea TV.                 

Nominations were made by Cătălin Tolontan, Center for Independent Journalism, Active Watch and the Journalism Department of the Faculty of Political, Administrative and Communication Sciences. The awardee has been selected by the members of CRD’s Board.

Cătălin Tolontan 2015
Cătălin Tolontan is the first Ion Ratiu Journalism Awardee


“for carrying out and publishing in a sports profile publication the most impactful media investigations in the last years; because he proved that one can produce quality journalism also when employed by a mogul media owner and that journalists can interfere with the media owner’s interests, avoiding any compromise; because he was able to defend this independence through his professionalism and his management style that did bring profit to media owners (…)”.    


Cătălin Tolontan                     
Redactor-șef, Gazeta Sporturilor

His Latest Investigations


One of the most renowned Romanian sports and investigation journalists, editor in chief and general manager of Gazeta Sporturilor, author of a multi-awarded blog    


Awardee of ten “journalist of the year” distinctions in the past 12 years, Cătălin Tolontan joined in 1990 the student newspaper of the Academy of Economic Studies, thus marking his media debut. In the past decade he was the author along his colleagues of several high profile journalistic investigations, exposing corruption either in Romanian football clubs or high officials in key governmental institutions.              

His 2009 investigative piece that lead to the stepping down and later prosecution of the Minister of Youth and Sport, Monica Iacob – Ridzi was mentioned in the 2009 European Commission’s Report on Romania and the USA’s State Department Report on Romania.               

The  investigation started in 2013 with colleague Mirela Neag regarding the illegal financing of the Bute Gala, lead to the formal prosecution, early 2015, of several people, including the former Minister of Tourism, Elena Udrea. It  won the prestigious 2014 International News Media Association Awards for Best Use of An Event to Build a News Brand.                 

Cătălin Tolontan Made an Impressive Speech when Receiving the Ion Rațiu Journalism Award
The first receiver of the Journalism Ion Rațiu Award, Cătălin Tolontan, editor-in-chief of Gazeta Sporturilor, admitted on Saturday, June 6th2015, in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, that he responded to the invitation made by Rațiu Democracy Center although he avoided public and TV appearances in the last years.



Cătălin Tolontan Made an Impressive Speech when Receiving the Ion Rațiu Journalism Award

The first receiver of the Journalism Ion Rațiu Award, Cătălin Tolontan, editor-in-chief of Gazeta Sporturilor, confessed on Saturday that he responded to the invitation made by Rațiu Democracy Center although he avoided public and TV appearances in the last years.

He wore red pants at the award ceremony, as a ”fancy homage to the most tonic figure” he had ever seen on the public stage. “Any journalist is questioning how long his work will resist. I believe that one of the answers came from the most tonic figure I have ever met on the Romanian public stage. As long as there are people like Ion Rațiu to keep their sustainable impact and to shape a space for dialogue – not with arrogance or with complacency, but with a little courage and a lot of compassion (the way he did in 1991 in the Parliament, when outraged miners forcefully entered the institution during a Parliament sitting –our note) – the public will know that the media stands for them. I thank you and Romanian journalists”, said Mr. Tolontan. At the end of his speech, he also announced that he wants to offer the financial part of the award to a local journalist, to be named by the same organizations that nominated him for the Ion Rațiu Journalism Award.

For the first edition of the award, nominations were made by the Independent Journalism Center, Active Watch and the Romanian Investigation Journalism Center. The winner was selected by the CRD Board members. Mr. Tolontan was nominated “for carrying out and publishing in a sports profile publication the most impactful media investigations in the last years; because he proved that one can produce quality journalism also when employed by amogul media owner and that journalists can interfere with the media owner’s interests, avoiding any compromise; because he was able to defend this independence through his professionalism and his management style that did bring profit to media owners (…)”.
The journalist received the award from the younger son of Ion Rațiu, Nicolae, who had a special gift for the winner: a collection of articles written by his father in the most popular newspapers in the world.