BIRN Bosnia Probes Weak Points in Country’s Judiciary

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, held a closing press conference for “Rule of Law – disclosed”, a project supported over the past two years by the Netherlands’ MATRA program.

The conference, organized in Sarajevo on November 27, presented analyses of work on the judiciary with a special focus on the processing of organized crime, corruption and terrorism cases over the past year.

BIRN BiH director Mirna Buljugić said the lack of transparency in Bosnia’s judicial institutions, and low level of trust that citizens have in them, are one of the main reasons why BIRN BiH needs to act as a social correctively tool.

Journalist Elameri Skrgic-Mikulic presented analysis on the prosecution of corruption cases before the country’s state-level court, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some of the main problems it detected are the lack of indictments, discrepancy between reported and prosecuted crimes and a shortage of experienced prosecutors.

One of the good practices institutions have started to use, however, is tracking the flow of money, which can present important evidence, and has an important role in preventing new crimes from taking place.

Denis Dzidic, BIRN BiH editor, speaking about cases related to terrorism, noting a trend towards plea agreements resulting in similar penalties.

Dzidic also detected a lack of an effective mechanism of confiscation of illegally acquired property in cases of organized crime.

All analyses are available at following links:

State Judiciary Failing to Seize Illegally-Acquired Assets

Prosecution’s Internal Struggles Undermine Fight Against Corruption

Terrorism Focus Shifts from Trials to Deradicalisation

BIRN Albania Training Enhances Crime Reporting Skills

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held a three-day training session on November 17-19 in the port city of Durres, designed to sharpen the skills of local reporters in advanced techniques on court and crime reporting as well the use of multimedia tools.

The training was made possible with support from the USAID funded Justice for all project, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA, and the Rockefellers Brothers Fund.

Some 18 journalists from all across Albania participated in the days of training, where BIRN Albania presented its new online manual on court and crime reporting.

This provides an easily understood description of the judicial system, tips sheets on court and crime reporting, as well as advice about protection of sources and whistleblowers.

The training aimed to strengthen the skills of mid-career journalists to report from the courts, the prosecutor’s office and other law-enforcement institutions, as well as their use of multimedia tools in their stories.

A special session on video reporting was held during the training session by Michael Alexander, Investigative Media Adviser for the Justice for All project, who shared his experiences of working for the BBC with local reporters.

The three-day workshop strengthened the on-the-job training and mentoring for the journalists already provided by BIRN Albania, which is regularly commissioning and publishing reports about the judiciary as the country gears up to implement a major reform of the justice system.

BIRN BiH Comprehensivlely Covers Ratko Mladic Verdict

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH) journalists reported from The Hague, Srebrenica, Prijedor, Banja Luka and Sarajevo on the day of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic’s verdict, delivering exclusive reports and reactions.

BIRN BiH’s executive editor Erna Mackic and journalist Admir Muslimovic followed the sentencing of Ratko Mladic in The Hague. They filed reports from the courtroom, in real time, before and after the judgment, along with reactions from those who were most affected by the trial.

BIRN BiH also had a live blog dedicated to the Ratko Mladic verdict, publishing minute-by-minute reactions and news from The Hague, Srebrenica, Prijedor, Banja Luka and Sarajevo. For ten hours, while the blog was live, it had about 1,200 unique visits.

In the week of the Mladic verdict, over 107,000 people visited the Facebook page of detektor.ba. Its Twitter account had 33,500 impressions and the web site www.detektor.ba had more than 4,700 unique visitors.

In cooperation with Radio Free Europe, a TV debate was produced about the first count of Mladic indictment – genocide in 1992 in six Bosnian municipalities.

Journalists and editors from BIRN BiH, as media experts on the subject of war crimes and war crimes prosecutions, commented on Mladic’s verdict for Unsko-Sanska TV, N1 Bosnia and Herzegovina, BHRT public service, BH Radio 1, Federal radio, Radio BIR Zenica, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera Balkans, Radio Free Europe, RTV Slon, Canton TV Sarajevo, Bihac TV, Hayat, Bljesak  and Kosovo TV Kohavision.

BIRN BiH will this week publish special reports on the Herzeg-Bosnia verdict at the Hague Tribunal.

Maja Zivanovic

Maja joined BIRN as a reporter covering Serbia in June 2016.

She has an MA in Communicology/Media Studies from the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad.

Prior to joining BIRN, she worked for regional public broadcaster RTV, Blic newspaper, e-Novine and local weekly List Zrenjanin.

She was awarded the best young investigative journalist in Vojvodina by the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina in 2015.

Global Shining Light Award Judges Honour BIRN

The judges of the prestigious Global Shining Light Award have honoured an investigation by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network with citations of excellence.

BIRN’s investigation “Making a Killing” received special recognition – certificate of excellence – at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2017 in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Making a Killing”, which was jointly produced with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, uncovered how billions of euros of arms from the Balkans and Eastern Europe are illegally ending up with Syrian rebels, including Islamic State, ISIS.

In July this year, the story was shortlisted for the Global Shining Light Award, an award sponsored by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, GIJN, an association of 155 non-profit organisations in 68 countries.

The story was produced as part of “A Paper Trail to Better Governance” project supported by the Austrian Development Agency to promote rule of law, accountability and transparency in six South-Eastern Europe countries.

Global Shining Light Award Judges Honour BIRN from BIRN on Vimeo.

UNDP

DONOR
UNDP works in some 170 countries and territories, helping to achieve the eradication of poverty, and the reduction of inequalities and exclusion.

The organisation helps countries to develop policies, leadership skills, partnering abilities, institutional capabilities and build resilience in order to sustain development results.

UNDP provides technical advice and assistance for sustainable human development and supports Serbia in joining the European Union. UNDP operates in Serbia since 1952 through the Country Office in Belgrade.

UNDP objectives are outlined in the Country Programme Document (CPD 2016-2020), rooted in the overarching goals of the United Nations Development Partnership Framework, which centers the work of the entire UN Country Team in Serbia on supporting Serbia to achieve goals in the areas of:

  • Governance and Rule of Law
  • Social and Human Resources Development
  • Economic Development
  • Growth
  • Employment
  • Environment
  • Climate Change and
  • Resilient Communities and Culture and Development

Web: http://www.rs.undp.org/content/serbia/en/home/

The Office for Cooperation with Civil Society

DONOR
The Office for Cooperation with Civil Society was established in 2011 by the Government of the Republic of Serbia. After years of advocacy by civil society, the Office has been established as an institutional mechanism to support the development of a dialogue between the Serbian Government and CSO’s.

The importance and role of the Office for Cooperation with Civil Society is reflected in the coordination of Government and CSO’s mutual cooperation, regarding the process of creating and establishing accurate standards and procedures for including the CSO’s at all levels of decision making process.

According to its mandate, Office should provide the support to the CSO’s in the process of the defining and implementing legislative procedures altogether with public policies, and thereby contributing to a positive pressure on the governmental institutions.

Office for Cooperation with Civil Society should play an active role in creating and establishing a cooperation platform in the Western Balkans regarding overall linking in the successful implementation of political, social and economic reforms in the region.

Web: http://www.civilnodrustvo.gov.rs/home/home.1.html

Freedom House

DONOR
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. Founded in 1941, Freedom House was the first American organization to champion the advancement of freedom globally.

The organisation analyzes the challenges to freedom, advocates for greater political rights and civil liberties, and supports frontline activists to defend human rights and promote democratic change.

Freedom House acts as a catalyst for greater political rights and civil liberties through a combination of analysis, advocacy, and action.

In addition, Freedom House empowers frontline human rights defenders and civic activists to uphold fundamental rights and to advance democratic change.

Web: https://freedomhouse.org/

Open Society Foundation Serbia

DONOR
The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.
‘maatschappelijke transformatie’.

The organisation seeks to strengthen:

  • the rule of law;
  • respect for human rights, minorities, and a diversity of opinions;
  • democratically elected governments and
  • a civil society that helps keep government power in check

In addition, Open Society helps to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights, and implements initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media.

The Open Society Foundation Serbia supports a broad range of activities that contribute to the development of a functioning democratic state in Serbia. The foundation supports associations of lawyers and judges to protect the independence of the judiciary.  The organisation also protects important public agencies from government interference by supporting efforts to strengthen the independence and integrity of the freedom of information commissioner, the ombudsman, and the anticorruption agency.

Web: https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/