Fellowship Selection Committee Appointed

A committee has been appointed to judge applications for the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence and select up to ten journalists to participate in the 2007 programme. Later this year, based on the results of fellows’ research and reporting activities, it will make one journalist a special award to allow further professional development.

The committee’s permanent members, representing media in the Balkans and the European Union, are Alexandra Föderl-Schmid, editor-in-chief of the Austrian daily , Der Standard, Drago Hedl, editor of the Croatian weekly, Feral Tribune, Gordana Igric, director and editor-in-chief of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, Remzi Lani, executive director of the Albanian Media Institute, Christiane Schlötzer, deputy editor, foreign desk, of the German daily , Süddeutsche Zeitung and Wolfgang Wähner-Schmidt, editor-in-chief of Reuters Germany. This year’s expert member is Gerald Knaus, president of the European Stability Initiative.

For more information, visit the Fellowship’s website http://fellowship.birn.eu.com/selection-committee/.

The results of the selection shall be made public on May 14.

The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence is an initiative of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the ERSTE Foundation, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

BIRN BiH at Court Presidents Conference

Nidzara Ahmetasevic, Justice Report editor, spoke at the Court Presidents Conference organised by the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council of BiH in Sarajevo on 27 and 28 April.

Ahmetasevic spoke of the importance of transparency in the trials, as well as of her experiences in monitoring the court proceedings, and recommendations for best practise.

In her speech, she appraised the conference participants of the work of Justice Report agency and the Association of Reporters of the Court of BiH, and spoke of the experience of many of its members in reporting the work of the court.

Ahmetasevic highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of the existing system and expressed hope that journalists, in cooperation with members of judicial institutions in BiH, will find ways to informing the public of court proceedings with as few problems as possible. This, she noted, was a vital part of trials against war crimes indictees.

Apart from Ahmetasevic, representatives of Ombudsman Office of Republika Srpska, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in BiH, OSCE and Lawyers’ Chamber spoke about their experiences in working with judicial authorities.

The conference has gathered representatives of all courts from Bosnia and Herzegovina, attorneys and prosecutors.

Justice Report and Association of Reporters of the Court of BiH are products of the Balkans Investigative Network in Sarajevo. For additional information please visit www.bim.ba or write to [email protected]

Fellowship Selection Committee to Judge Applications

Following the close on April 27 of the 2007 call for applications to the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, its selection committee is set to choose up to ten journalists to participate in this year’s programme.

The selection committee consists of six permanent members from the media community in the Balkans, Austria and Germany, as well as one annual member, who is an expert on this year’s Fellowship theme – MOBILITY. For more information on the committee, click here.

The results of the selection shall be announced on May 14 at fellowship.birn.eu.com. Click here to view the criteria for selection.
For more information, contact the Fellowship’s programme manager-editor, Anna McTaggart, on [email protected].

The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence is an initiative of the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the ERSTE Foundation, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

Life in Kosovo Debates Parties

BIRN’s televised debate Life in Kosovo will for the first time on Kosovo television discuss the orientation and ideologies of local political parties.

The programme will examine how the various political parties differ from each other; Kosovan voting habits; and whether political discourse in Kosovo will change after final status is defined.

Panelists will be:

Melihate Tërrmkolli, minister of public affairs from the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK;
Hajredin Kuqi – deputy of the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK;
Kaqusha Jashari – president of the Social-Democratic Party of Kosovo, PSDK;
Kushtrim Shaipi – political analyst; and
Nita Luci – anthropologist

Life in Kosovo is broadcast on RTK, every Friday at 20:15.

Xharra Attends New York Kosovo Event


Jeta Xharra, BIRN Kosovo Director participated in a conference entitled “Ready to Govern: Developing a Strategy for Kosovo’s First 120 Days” .


The conference was organised by Rockefeller Brothers Fund, East West Management Institute, Justice in Transition and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.


Kosovo leaders, negotiating Kosovo’s political status, and members of civil society discussed a road map for the most urgent issues that need to be addressed in the first 120 days when UN Security Council approves a new resolution for Kosovo, which will give Kosovo supervised independence.

US diplomats such as former US president Bill Clinton, US Under-Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, former secretary of state Madeline Allbright and Richard Holbrooke addressed the conference. US Envoy for Kosovo Frank Wisner and ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch chaired the event.

BIRN Bulgaria Starts Building Minorities Reporting Network

BIRN Bulgaria will conduct a three-month-long minorities reporting project from April 20, 2007. The aim of the project is to address and counter cases of systematic campaigning against minorities and bad journalistic practices, of which Bulgarian media are often crticised. BIRN intends to develop a network of Bulgarian journalists to report on minority issues.

The core training will be conducted during a three-day session at the beginning of May. Five BIRN Bulgaria journalists and contributors will take part in workshops, after which, with the assistance of BIRN’s editorial team, the journalists will work on analysis pieces and features dealing with issues faced by the Bulgarian Muslim community. All of the texts produced will be included in a Balkan Insight special package and translated into English and all the region’s local languages.

This project is part of BIRN Bulgaria’s long-term programme to foster tolerance and mutual understanding in the country, through the dissemination of reliable and in-depth analyses on crucial topics and the improvement of Bulgarian media professionalism. It will also strengthen BIRN’s capacity and positively affect media in the Balkans, which widely republishes the organisation’s articles.

The project is supported by the US Department of State.

“Life in Kosovo” debates VAT

This next Life in Kosovo show will discuss the controversial imposition of Value Added Tax, VAT, on NGOs.

Since January 1, 2007, many humanitarian organisations have been complaining that they are not able to bring humanitarian aid into Kosovo because of the high taxes.

To explore the subject, the following will take part in a panel discussion.

Zef Shala – director of the humanitarian group Mother Tereza/ Nëna;
John Chesnut – Chief of the humanitarian group Team Kosova;
Gjyljeta Mushkolaj – law expert; Fatime Islami – deputy director of the department of fiscal politics;
Bujar Shatri – Kosovo customs official;
Sakip Imeri – Kosovo tax administration official;

“Life in Kosovo” will be broadcast on RTK at 20:15 this Friday.

Investigative Journalism Training in Belgrade

An investigative journalism training workshop for 13 journalists was held in Belgrade from April 13-14, as a part of BIRN’s ongoing training courses and annual regional meeting.

The group comprised BIRN correspondents from Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania and Bulgaria.

The training led by BIRN editor-in-chief, Gordan Igric, and the editor of BIRN Serbia, Aleksandar Vasovic, focused on shaping stories, editorial and article commissioning procedures.

The participants also reviewed different techniques aimed at improving ongoing investigative projects, ranging from interviewing eyewitnesses to collecting evidence.

A small group of journalists also received some training aimed at adopting new BIRN standards for short news stories.

One training session dealt with procedures for obtaining documentary material from US agencies. A presentation by Milorad Ivanovic, BLIC daily deputy editor and SCOOP coordinator for Serbia, introduced participants to techniques for investigating archives in other countries and looked at the interesting material that can be found that way.

The workshop was organised with the help of The Netherlands government and the British Embassy in Belgrade.

BIRN Discusses Foreign Policy in Transition

BIRN held a panel discussion on Thursday, April 12 in Belgrade on the developing role of Southeast European countries as members of the international community.

The event, held at the Belgrade Media Centre and attended by journalists, experts and diplomats, addressed regional cooperation as a means to helping Balkan countries define and achieve their foreign policy goals. It followed publication of a special edition of Balkan Insight, BIRN’s online publication, on this topic, available at www.birn.eu.com/en/78/10/.

Speakers at the event included:
Dusko Lopandic, assistant minister in the Serbian ministry for international economic relations;
Jadranka Sturm-Kocjan, deputy ambassador of the republic of Slovenia;
Hans Hageman, counsellor of the Royal netherlands Embassy;
Ivan Vejvoda, Director of the Balkan Trust for Democracy;
Emil Kirjas, former State Secretary at the Macedonian foreign ministry; and
Milica Djilas, Assistant professor at the Belgrade Faculty of Political Sciences.

The image of the region as engulfed in its own problems is deeply ingrained, both here and abroad, with “the Balkans” still conjuring up a negative image. For this reason, BIRN felt it was time to look ahead, and ask what the Balkan countries can do to improve their international standing, especially with talk of enlargement fatigue, and the possibility of national referenda on future candidates for EU membership.

General conclusions of the debate were that countries should strive to form a better, stronger engagement in international affairs, but that their presence was dependent on national consensus on values and direction. Also, they agreed that regional cooperation is imperative in most aspects to create a stronger position for the small countries and economies of the Wetern Balkans.

Panellists agreed that one of the greatest challenges now facing the region is to take a more pro-active approach to Kosovo, focussing not just on the matter of its status, but also taking responsibility as neighbours to build there a functioning administration.

Also, they agreed that regional cooperation needs to be dealt with much more seriously, to root out inconsistencies and barriers. States, for example, should do much more to facilitate movement and exchange, by way of visa facilitation and creation of better transport links.

The event coincided with a BIRN regional network meeting, which gathered its contributors from throughout the Balkans for investigative journalism training and editorial planning.

Belgrade Journalist Survives Hand Grenade Attack

A hand grenade exploded early on Saturday 14 April, outside the home of Dejan Anastasijevic, a prominent journalist with the Belgrade-based Vreme weekly, causing damage but no injuries, according to a police statement.

Anastasijevic is an outspoken critic of the regime of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic, testifying against him in 2002 at his trial before the Netherlands-based UN war crimes tribunal. He also reported extensively about war crimes committed by Serb troops in the 1990’s, during the bloody breakup of former Yugoslavia.

Police said they were looking for suspects in the attack that destroyed the window of Anastasijevic’s apartment in downtown Belgrade, and damaged several cars parked outside. No arrests have so far been reported. Anastasijevic was not immediately available for comment.

In 2002, Anastasijevic and his colleague, Jovan Dulovic, also with the Vreme weekly, received death threats after appearing as prosecution witnesses in the Milosevic trial. In a controversial move, both revealed the sources for some of their articles in order to establish that Milosevic had exercised command responsibility during the 1991 siege of the Croatian city of Vukovar. More than 200 people were killed after Vukovar fell to the Yugoslav People‘s Army, with three of its former officers currently standing trial for related war crimes.