On Friday evening, the awards for the best investigative journalism of the Netherlands and Flanders were presented in Antwerp: De Loep. There were three winners and an incentive prize.

De Loep for ‘detecting investigative journalism’ goes to the articles on discrimination by grant awarding body DUO. The Higher Education Press Agency (HOP) initiated the investigation. The government has since apologised.

The jury describes the publications as ‘disconcerting and infuriating’ and the conclusions as ‘well-founded and rock-solid’. What’s more, the jury praised the journalistic collaboration ‘with which all relevant target groups were reached and those responsible in politics and administration were put on the defence’.

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DUO fraud investigators mostly catch students with migration background. ‘That neighbourhood investigation was bullshit’

In de strijd tegen misbruik van de basisbeurs bellen controleurs bij studenten aan. Die…

The scandal

The basic student grant is around two thousand euros per year higher if students leave home and no longer live with their parents. But the Education Executive Agency (DUO) is afraid that students commit fraud and uses home visits to check if they’re really ‘living away from home’. In that process, a lot went wrong.

Due to a dubious algorithm and a blind spot for cultural differences, DUO targeted students with a non-western migration background at a remarkable frequency. In court cases on the subject, 98 percent had a migration background. DUO lost 1 in 4 cases.

Belia Heilbron and Anouk Kootstra (Investico), Bas Belleman (HOP), Sumeyye Ersoy and Salwa van der Gaag (NOSop3) and Merijn van Nuland (Trouw) were previously nominated for another important journalist award: De Tegel, in the investigation category.


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Government apologises for discrimination by DUO in fraud detection

Checks for fraud with the basic student grant did involve indirect discrimination, says a…

Other nominations

In the same Loep category, current events programme Zembla was nominated for an investigation into the Dutch branch of Dupont/Chemours in Dordrecht. The factory had been aware of a large PFAS leak for thirty years and kept it under wraps.

Flemish daily paper De Standaard was also nominated. In the Belgian supermarkets, there are foodstuffs containing soy that is said to be ‘deforestation- and conflict-free’. De Standaard, however, demonstrated there’s a link with land grabbing and deforestation in Brazil.

De Loep has two more categories: ‘signalling’ and ‘controlling’ investigative journalism. These categories were won by De Groene Amsterdammer and Flemish daily paper De Tijd. The incentive prize went to a journalist of daily paper Trouw.

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Discrimination by DUO even worse than thought

'Could we have a quick look to see if a student actually lives here?' Even in case of low…

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