BIRN Conference on Media Sustainability

BIRN Macedonia conference aims to explore both the opportunities and challenges for the digital media in a hyper-competitive age, marked by the exponential rise of social media.

Between October 18 and 21, in Ohrid, BIRN Macedonia will bring together representatives of the media, journalism associations, advertising and social media experts, as well as start-ups, to exchange experiences of best practices, develop cooperation and provide insight into a question that has troubled the global media industry for the past decade: how to achieve sustainability.

The two-and-a-half-day event, which is supported by Kingdom of the Netherlands, and includes panels, case studies and workshops, aims to look at both the opportunities and challenges for the digital media in a hyper-competitive age.

Is there a one-size-fits-all model for the media? What business examples have succeeded and what models have failed? What can we learn from algorithms and news aggregation? How can media improve their content with different platforms and so engage wider audiences?

In the past years, the number of online media has exploded in the Balkans, with new sites emerging almost daily. At the same time, as social media take the lead, professional media are losing the battle to reach audiences.

As a result, most higher quality media content is lost in the noise created by tabloids, propaganda, so-called fake news and copy-paste items, which feed readers with poor content and lack critical thinking, accountability and transparency – in turn increasing distrust in the media.

Digital media in the Balkans have responded poorly to the new challenges of the “post-truth” era, and to the rise of echo chambers and misinformation, sticking to traditional tools instead of innovation.

Successful start-up entrepreneurs will share their personal stories and discuss how to open a start-up company, the likely impact of media start-ups, the potential for development of the media in the interactive digital space, and the potential for mergers of IT and media.

Speakers from the Balkans, but also from The Netherlands and other countries, will share tips and ideas on the strengths and weaknesses of different business models for media.

Among the questions they will address will be: what are the advantages of the subscription model versus membership, what advertisers want and how they identify their audiences – and what chances do “niche” media have in the region?

Click here to see the full agenda for the ‘Digital Media: Quest for Sustainability’ conference.

Dunja Hadzimurtezic-Tutic

Dunja joined BIRN Hub in September 2018. Based in Sarajevo, she works as an Administrative and Finance Assistant.

Her position includes managing all entries into financial databases, preparing financial documentation and annual tax reports, maintaining inventory, submitting documentation to local authorities, managing bookings and travel related services.

Before joining BIRN Hub, Dunja has worked in the NGO sector for almost 14 years as project coordinator, gaining strong professional skills in Office Administration, Finances and Operations and Logistics.

She studied at the University in Sarajevo in the Department of English Language and Literature.

She speaks Bosnian and English.

Ana Maria Luca

Working as BIRN’s Romanian correspondent based in Bucharest since 2016, she reports for the regional publication, Balkan Insight.

She has worked as a journalist since 2000, has extensive experience in covering politics as well conflict zones in the Middle East and the Balkans.

She was awarded second prize in the Austrian Press Agency’s “Writing for Central and Eastern Europe” in 2007 in Vienna, and won a special prize from the jury a for long social feature in Freedom House’s “Young Journalist of the year” competition in 2004, in Bucharest.

She has BA in Journalism from the University of Bucharest and a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from the Lebanese American University, Byblos, where she specialised in sectarian conflict and Islamic radicalisation.  Other than her native Romanian and English, she also speaks French, Spanish and Levantine Arabic.

Aleksandar Jovancic

Based in Belgrade, Aleksandar is responsible for the oversight of the Network’s activities related to capacity building and development.

He is also responsible for managing and administering several projects as well as the organisation and implementation of trainings and other events for the staff of the Network and outside audiences.

Aleksandar has vast experience working with international organisations and institutions. He previously worked as a consultant for EPTISA Southeast Europe d.o.o. and Particip GmbH. He also worked for Ecorys UK and Kontakta PR Agency on EU funded projects. During his studies, Aleksandar interned in European Movement in Serbia.

Aleksandar holds a BA in International Affairs and a MA in European Studies from the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Belgrade. He speaks Serbian and English.

BIRN Holds Investigative Journalism Training for Public Broadcasters

Thirteen journalists from public broadcasters in the Western Balkans met in Belgrade on Friday for the start of an investigative reporting workshop organised by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN.

A three-day regional investigative reporting workshop for journalists from public broadcasters in the Western Balkans, organised by BIRN Hub, started in Belgrade on Friday with a visit to Radio Television of Serbia, RTS.

The workshop is a part of the project “Technical Assistance to Public Service Media in the Western Balkans”, financed by the European Union, which aims to revitalise the region’s public broadcasting sector and bring new confidence to the key stakeholders involved.

EU ambassador to Serbia Sem Fabrizi, who delivered the opening address of the training, highlighted that media freedom is of fundamental importance to a democratic society.

He noted that public service broadcasters play a special role in responding to public interest for information in today’s challenging media environment.

“The media landscape is changing – we now have social networks, fake news; these elements call into question the freedom of the media,” Fabrizi said, adding that public service broadcasters are crucial in today’s media sector.

Dragan Bujosevic, General Director of RTS, stated during his address at the opening ceremony, that he disagrees with the term investigative journalism, but for a specific reason:

“Journalism is always investigative… there is no other type,” he said.

BIRN Macedonia’s Director, Ana Petruseva, who was among the trainers for the workshop, noted: “We are seeing many challenges to investigative reporting today, and the role of public broadcasters is vitally important. Especially since we have less people in news rooms prepared to fight and look out for the public interest.”

She added that over the next three days, “we hope to give journalists tips, tricks and skills they can use to improve their reporting.”

Lead trainer Nils Hanson from the Swedish public broadcaster SVT said: “The need for investigative journalists has never been bigger than it is today,” stressing that “the work of an investigative journalist is very dangerous.”

He added that in Sweden there has been a revival of investigative journalism, with all TV stations having noticed that viewers demand it and are willing to pay for it.

The project, intended to train public broadcasters to produce increasingly pluralistic, independent and accountable content, is being led by the International Federation of Journalists, IFJ, together with BIRN, the European Broadcasting Union, EBU, the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ, the Austrian Public Broadcaster, ORF, and the Eurovision News Exchange for South-East Europe, ERNO.

Journalists Trained for Data Journalism in Montenegro

BIRN, CIN Montenegro and Monitor magazine organised a training course on data journalism for Montenegrin journalists on October 10 and 11 in Podgorica.

The training was held as part of the project Media Investigations: Stop to READ (Regional Environmental Acts of Devastation) which aims to strengthen investigative reporting in Montenegro.

Training topics included national and international databases and registries, their importance in investigative journalism and practical instructions on how to gather data and how to use them for writing stories; freedom of information laws and how to obtain data using them; tips and tricks for browsing, and using social networks in data journalism.

The training was held by Milka Tadic-Mijovic (CIN Montenegro), Dusica Tomovic and Jelena Cosic (BIRN Hub), and Slobodan Georgiev (BIRN Serbia).

The project was funded by the EU Delegation in Podgorica.

BIRN Albania Opens Call for Organised Crime Investigations

BIRN Albania launched a call for investigative stories on organised crime themes on October 10.

BIRN is offering grants for three journalists to cover organised crime stories, as well as mentoring by experienced editors.

The call is part of the project ‘Strengthening Media’s Role in the Fight Against Corruption’, financed by the Open Society Foundation in Albania.

The project’s aim is to strengthen reporting on corruption in the country through cooperation with civil society, in order to contribute to a more informed citizenry that is engaged in the democratic process.

Three journalists will be awarded grants to cover their expenses while conducting investigations and writing their stories on organised crime.

The journalists will have around three months to dig deeper and research their ideas, and will also have the opportunity to work with experienced editors as mentors to guide them through the process of writing in accordance with BIRN standards.

The call only applies to journalists from Albania and closes on October 30.

Click here for more information (in Albanian) about the application procedure.

Click here  to download the application (in Albanian).

BIRN Kosovo Holds Prevention of Violent Extremism Training

BIRN Kosovo held a training course for law students in Ferizaj, Kosovo, on October 5 entitled ‘Forms of Violent Extremism and Reporting on Terrorism Cases’.

Key speakers were Drita Hajdari, prosecutor at the Kosovo Special Prosecution, and Kreshnik Gashi, editor of the TV programme, Justice in Kosovo. It was held at AAB College in Ferizaj.

The course aimed to give students the opportunity to discuss cases in which young people from Kosovo were involved in terrorism and terrorist groups, as well as to find out how to prevent radicalisation.

Hajdari and Gashi engaged in an in-depth conversation with the participants and addressed questions on terrorism in Kosovo and methods of reporting cases of terrorism.

Hajdari said that the prosecution, within the framework of the national strategy on the prevention of violent extremism and radicalisation that leads to terrorism, is doing a lot of work on countering terrorism.

She called for a greater cooperation from young people in reporting suspected cases of radicalisaton.

Gashi said that the media in Kosovo is doing its best in reporting cases through investigations. He also noted that the impact of media in combating terrorism is crucial, so outlets must take care not to publish unreliable or false news that misinforms the population.

This course was organised as part of the project ‘With Participatory Democracy for a Kosovo without Radicalization’, funded by the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, GCERF.

BIRN Kosovo is planning to organise similar events in Pristina, Mitrovica, Gjilan and Kacanik.


BIRN Kosovo’s Human Rights Awards Announced

On October 4, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Kosovo, in cooperation with The Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC), presented awards for three best journalistic pieces on TV, print or online media as part of its Human Rights Reporting Award Competition.

The initiative is intended to boost the coverage of human rights issues and help to set new standards for media reporting in the sphere.

Venera Cocaj and Matko Bulent won the first prize for a story that dealt with one of the least discussed topics in the country and concerned one of the most marginalised groups, the LGBT community, in a documentary “The Sky is Turning” produced by Kosovo 2.0.

Adriana Thaci-Mehmeti from KTV won second prize for a story about the rights of elderly people within the family and in retirement homes.

Besa Kalaja from PreportR and Kaltrina Rexhepi from RTK shared the third prize. Kalaja’s story dealt with the lack of institutional care for the elderly, while Rexhepi created a documentary that looks into the issue of early marriages.

BIRN Kosovo Holds Discussion on Ombudsperson’s Role

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Kosovo and the Centre for Advocacy Democracy and Culture, ACDC, organised a discussion in Peja/Pec on October 2 about the role of the Ombudsperson with regards to issues of public interest.

This discussion was held as a part of the OmbudsWatch project, which aims to educate the public about the role and responsibilities of the Ombudsperson, as well as about their right to contact the Ombudsperson’s office about matters of public importance.

The discussion, which took place at the Jusuf Gërvalla cinema in Peja/Pec, was attended by students, journalists and civil society activists.

The key speakers were Kreshnik Gashi, editor and moderator of the TV programme Justice in Kosovo, and Meral Tejeci, senior legal advisor at the Ombudsperson’s office.

Both Gashi and Tejeci, addressed the legal obligations of the Ombudsperson to respond to citizens’ requests, the functions of the Ombudsperson’s office, people’s legal rights to submit complaints, and access to public documents, among other issues.

The discussion was the last to take place in the framework of the OmbudsWatch project, and participants were given pamphlets as a guide to making enquiries at the Ombudsperson’s office.