Fresh start in Albania

BIRN Network is preparing to enlarge the group of current investigative
teams across the Balkans with journalists and trainees from Albania.

The selection of the journalists is going on for the first training session in Tirana in the beginning of October, which will be run by Gordana Igric, Regional Network Director.

Igric will introduce the selected journalists to BIRN’s house style, international standards of journalism, libel law and writing features and news analysis. As a result, Balkan Insight will publish a special issue by these Albanian journalists, highlighting political and economic developments in this under-reported country. For further information, contact Gordana Igric on [email protected]

BIRN BiH director at judicial summer school

BIRN BiH director, Nerma Jelacic, spoke at a regional summer school on Transitional Justice for the judiciary on August 27 in Igalo, Montenegro. The event was organised by UNDP’s regional Transitional Justice Programme and included two seven-day training sessions for parliamentarians and the judicial representatives of the region. Jelacic spoke on the complimentarity of truth commissions and criminal justice systems in the region.

Other speakers included Sinisa Vazic, president of the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade District Court and president of Belgrade District Court, Meddzida Kreso, president of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Dejan Anastasijevic, a journalist from Vreme magazine.

An abridged version of Jelacic’s talk is on BIRN’s website . To find out more about BIRN’s Justice Programme, contact Nerma Jelacic at [email protected]

Life in Kosovo Debates Security Threats

In the space of five days, four bombs went off in Kosovo, three targeting senior members of the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, the biggest political party here.

RTK, Pristina, September 22, 2006

“Life in Kosovo” interviewed key political figures from the LDK and other parties along with analysts about the security breakdown.

Were the bombings linked to LDK elections or negotiations on Kosovo’s final status? And who would benefit from the instability? These were some of the questions raised during the interviews.

The panelists in the debate were: Eqrem Kryeziu, vice chairman of the LDK; Adem Salihaj, member of LDK presidency; Fatmir Limaj, representative of the opposition party PDK; Naim Rashiti, International Crisis Group, ICG, analyst; Naim Maloku, head of the security commission in the Kosovo assembly; Naser Rugova, LDK member; and Lutfi Haziri, deputy prime minister.

Salihaj, a former deputy prime minister, said the international administration should take the blame for the deterioration, insisting there was a lack of “authority in the security field”.

Limaj said there was always work to be done on the security front, but “citizens of Kosovo shouldn’t worry that much, because overall security is not threatened at all”, despite periodic incidents.

Limaj also said that “we shouldn’t see the bombing event as a sign to alarm people that they are in danger”.

Haziri insisted that the government will do its best to address the security breakdown, pointing out that it has already done much in the law-and-order field. “The government of Kosovo in previous years has spent more money on jails than in the education system,” he said.

Kryeziu said that “the bombs phenomenon is a serious matter” and that the perpetrators’ aim was to threat Kosovo’s moves towards independence.

Rashiti expressed his concerns that increased LDK election activity in the next couple of months “may provoke new violent incidents”. He said LDK elections have long been a security headache for the internationals.

Twenty Regional Journalists Trained at Palic

Journalists from across the Balkan region attended a BIRN-organised investigative journalism training seminar at Lake Palic between August 21 -24.

The purpose of the training was both to introduce the journalists to theoretical aspects of investigative journalism and writing of analyses and to provide them with the practical tools needed for such work. The journalists, the staff members of BIRN, and the trainers had a chance to share their ideas, learn from each other and discuss potential future articles during the formal and informal parts of the training.

The Director of BIRN Serbia Dragana Nikolic Solomon presented the participants with BIRN’s house style, underlining both international journalistic standards of objectivity, balance and clarity.

Vlad Telibasa, an investigative reporter for the Romanian online publication, said “I think the training regarding BIRN’s style of writing was very good. It really opened my eyes.”

BIRN’s regional director Gordana Igric highlighted the difference between analyses and investigative reports.

Gavin Mac Fadyen, Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London, explained the importance of libel law and outlined ways of acquiring conventional and unconventional evidence, using his own experiences to illustrate the points he made.

Following this presentation and a discussion with participants, he noted, “Particularly regarding investigations, I was impressed that people were able to do the work they do without the advantages we have in America.”

Paul Radu from the Romanian Centre for Investigative Research impressed the participants with a presentation on computer-assisted research, detailing a range of useful databases and other software useful for unearthing valuable and reliable information.

The second day of the training was devoted to workshops on a series of topics.

The first was devoted to business journalism in the Balkans and was led by Eric Jansson, a freelance journalist and former Belgrade correspondent for the Financial Times. The event featured a discussion with a panel of business leaders, including a business lawyer and a representative of an international company with an office in Belgrade.

They all underlined the importance for business journalists to understand their topics well, so as to avoid sensationalism and speculative assessments of markets.

Erol Mujanovic, an independent consultant for the International Republican Institute, said “This workshop allowed me to get to know what business people are expecting from journalists in terms of analysis.”

The second workshop focused on regional justice and was led by BIRN Bosnia’s Country Director Nerma Jelacic, along with court reporter Nidzara Ahmetasevic. They concentrated on war crimes trials in Bosnia and Herzegovina, explaining the various stages of trials.

The third, led by Gavin MacFadyen, invited the participants to investigate a hypothetical crime, with the aim of helping to develop their own investigative skills.

“The training was useful for me mainly because it was well balanced between the theoretical and practical aspects of how an investigation gets done, said Boryana Dzambazova,, Bulgaria

The training was concluded with a session in which participants and BIRN staff discussed ideas for future Balkan Insight articles.

A common thread running through participants’ impressions of the training was that it provided them with useful advice and skills and also enabled them to talk to other participants, trainers and BIRN staff.

“The workshop invigorated my passion for the region and my desire to report about it. It was great to see peers in the Balkans swarming with ideas and willing to produce good stories. There was a good array of speakers of different backgrounds.” Altin Raxhimi, freelance journalist, Albania

The program is supported by the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Balkan Trust for Democracy and the Rockefeller Brothers foundation.

BIRN Bulgaria workshop on analytical journalism

Albena Shkodrova, Director of BIRN Bulgaria, will hold a workshop on
analytical journalism on September 20-21 in Sofia. It will be part of a
long-term course for Roma journalists-in-training organized by the
Access Foundation.

This project focuses on young members of the Roma community and prepares them for careers in journalism. It aims thereby to redress the negative representation of the Roma minority in the Bulgarian media by integrating Roma journalists in media outlets.

The training consists of four months of theoretical lectures, workshops and seminars followed by a six months of practical work in which trainees apply their new skills in a professional setting.

The theoretical part involves training in basic journalism skills, grammar, style, politics, law, economic, social, and judicial reporting, media management, human rights, interethnic relations, computer-assisted reporting and English.

In the workshop, Shkodrova will introduce trainees to the basic standards of writing a journalistic analysis, pointing out the difference in the way analyses are written in Bulgaria and in the international media, and between a commentary and an analysis.

BIRN Bulgaria’s director will familiarize them with the BIRN house style and give them an opportunity to come up with themes for their own pieces of analysis, based on techniques taught in the course. These may be published in Balkan Insight.

The first day of the workshop will cover the theoretical part of the session while the second will take the form of a brainstorming session aimed at producing potential themes.

Through this workshop, BIRN Bulgaria hopes to contribute to the future careers of the journalists involved.

Besides commissioning articles for Balkan Insight, BIRN Bulgaria will considers taking on one course participant as an intern, as part of his or her professional module.

Balkan Insight To Expand in Croatia

Balkan Insight is set to increase coverage of Croatia and the EU
integration process now that BIRN’s former regional network director,
Anna McTaggart, has began a new position in Zagreb, building a team of
contributors. “ Croatia’s development is key to the region, not least
because it is closest to EU membership,” said McTaggart. Croatian
journalists interested in participating in the project should contact
[email protected]

BIRN Romania Writers Awarded

Alina Constantinescu and Daniel Ganga, contributors to a BIRN Romania
local project, won honorary mentions in a journalism contest organized
by the Romanian Center for Resources for Roma Communities for fair
reporting on Roma issues. The two reporters are both regular
contributors to Divers (,
a weekly online publication covering ethnic minorities issues, edited
by BIRN Romania with financial support from the Ethnic Diversity
Resource Center in Cluj, Romania.

RBF to help capacity-building of BIRN Kosovo and BIRN Serbia

Rockfeller Brothers Foundations has awarded BIRN a two-year grant to build capacity in Serbia and Kosovo and aid BIRN’s regional development and visibility. The grant will boost BIRN Kosovo high-profile local TV debates project, “Life in Kosovo” and BIRN Serbia’s drive to train more journalists in areas with a significant ethnic minority population.

BIRN Bulgaria Opens Office

BIRN Bulgaria opened a new office at 45 Tsar Simeon Street in Sofia, near the Dundukov Blvd. and Rakovski St. crossing.

This marked an important step in capacity-building for BIRN Bulgaria, enabling the organization to serve as a workplace and information center for Balkan Insight contributors and offer more professional support for journalists seeking to raise their standards.

BIRN Bulgaria is collecting a specialized library of reference materials and manuals that will be useful to all journalists interested in working on investigations or analyses. BIRN Bulgaria will host an opening party for donors, journalists and friends of the organization once final details are complete.

Life in Kosovo: Kosovo’s Economical Potential

Another episode of the BIRN-organised “Life in Kosovo” programme was broadcast on Kosovo public television, RTK, on June 7, looking at economic life in the region.

RTK, Pristina, June 7, 2006.

The issues raised in the discussion ranged from Kosovo’s economic potential to the sectors of the economy that offered the best prospects.

The debating panel comprised Albin Kurti, leader of Levizja Vetevendosje (movement for self-determination); Mimoza Kusari, head of American Chamber of Commerce in Kosovo, Avni Zogiani from Cohu (rise); and Baton Haxhiu, director of Express, a daily Kosovan newspaper.

At the outset, the predominant view of the panellists was that economic situation in Kosovo is poor and there were problems associated with fiscal policy.

Albin Kurti, who is currently running a campaign for a boycott of all products that come into Kosovo from Serbia, said that poverty here was growing and would not be halted unless local products were promoted.

“Our fiscal policy is only good for Serbia,” said Kurti. “Only by boycotting Serbian products can our economy begin to develop.”

Kusari Serbian products were cheaper than local ones because they are not properly taxed when they are imported. She disagreed that a boycott was the solution.

“Very little, or nothing at all is being done for proper economic development,” added Kusari.

Haxhiu said that civil society should put more pressure on international authorities and the Kosovo government to change fiscal policy.

“The root of the problem is that Kosovo institutions and ministers are building a corrupt political system,” said Haxhiu.

The debate also examined how Kosovo could extricate itself from the current economic situation.

Kurti said it was all the fault of political leaders and that his movement aimed to overthrow the system by revolutionary means, then hold a referendum on independence.

He said after this, he and his followers would seek to develop agriculture and invest in energy resources.

Zogiani suggested that there was unlikely to be a revolution, and unless there were practical solutions the situation would only get worse.
“As we wait for this revolution,” he said,
“politicians will create an inferior economy.

“We need to exert pressure on these men and show that they are not working properly.”

Kusari said that “the only factor that can save our economy is direct investment from abroad”.