BBC and Al Jazeera English release BIRN-backed documentaries

The BBC and Al Jazeera English have produced investigative documentaries in recent months working alongside BIRN’s in-house investigative team.

BIRN has collaborated with the BBC and Al Jazeera English in recent months to investigate the far-right in the Balkans and a secretive arms pipeline to Syria.

The Al Jazeera English probe built on BIRN and OCCRP’s award-winning series of investigations, Making a Killing http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/page/balkan-arms-trade, which delved into how Balkan weapons were flooding the Syrian battlefields.

The “America’s Guns: Secret Pipeline to Syria” documentary was first broadcast in March on Al Jazeera’s People and Power show and involved filming in Croatia, Bulgaria and the US.

The report brought BIRN’s findings to a wider audience, revealed the human cost of the scramble to train and equip US-backed Syrian militia.  BIRN published two articles on the back of the research:  Death in Bulgaria: Pentagon Contractor’s Widow Fights For Truth and US Splurges More Cash on Balkans Arms for Syria.

On May 1, the BBC and BIRN published the fruits of its collaboration into the British nationalists operating in the Balkans. The BBC produced television and radio documentaries focussing on “the invisible man of Britain’s far right” – Jim Dowson – and his activities in Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia and Kosovo: Is this Britain’s most influential far-right activist?

BIRN released its own investigation, focussing on how Jim Dowson and an organisation he is closely linked to are increasingly active in Serbia: British Nationalist Trains Serb Far-Right for ‘Online War.

As part of the research, BIRN also employed a cyber forensic expert Andrej Petrovski of the Share Foundation, who is helping journalists improve their investigations by using cutting edge technologies.

These collaborations are part of BIRN’s Paper Trail to Better Governance programme, funded by the Austrian Development Agency.

BIRN Reports Nominated for Investigative Awards in Serbia

Two BIRN reports have been nominated for this year’s Investigative awards from the Independent Journalistic Association of Serbia in the categories for on-line media.

The first is The Coyote’s Trail – A Machine Gun’s Path from Serbia to Syria, produced within BIRN Hub’s project Paper Trail for Better Governance and in cooperation with OCCRP, and written by Ivan Angelovski, Jelena Cosic, Lawrence Marzouk and Maria Cheresheva.

It explores how heavy machine guns travelled from a Serbian state-owned factory to Syrian rebels, via a Bulgarian arms tycoon and a Saudi training camp.

The second is BIRN Serbia’s investigative story (part one and two) about illegal construction at the Kopaonik National Park, written by Slobodan Georgiev.

The report shows that a building under construction did not fall into line with the directions of the Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia.

The report initiated a rapid-response inspection by the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure of Serbia, which ordered the investor to knock down the building and clean up the area, which lies at the highest point of Kopaonik mountain. A restaurant was built at the site despite the order, but the case is still ongoing.

Journalists Trained for Environmental Investigations in Montenegro

BIRN, CIN Montenegro and Monitor magazine held a training course in Podgorica from April 26-28 for journalists, teaching the investigative skills needed to produce stories covering environmental issues.

Topics covered by the course included investigative journalism techniques, online storytelling, multimedia training, video and photo editing, as well as information on domestic and EU politics in the sphere of environmental protection.

A call for investigative stories with an environmental angle was launched in March as part of a project to strengthen investigative reporting in Montenegro, founded by the EU Delegation in Podgorica.

Three journalists have been awarded grants to cover their expenses while carrying out investigations and writing stories on the environment and related to Chapter 27 within the EU accession process.

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

BIRN BiH Contributes to Report on EU Application

The Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of BiH presented ‘Alternative Analytical Report on the Application of BiH for EU Membership: Political Criteria 2018’ at a press conference in front of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Parliamentary Assembly on April 24.

BIRN BiH actively participated in producing the report, providing a set of answers covering transitional justice and domestic judiciary topics.

Mirna Buljugic, BIRN BiH’s country director, spoke on behalf of the Initiative about dealing with the past, stressing the key problems of non-existent cooperation between the countries of the former Yugoslavia in processing war crimes, the non-transparent judicial institutions in the country, attacks on the media, and the growing problem of rising extremism and foreign influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After the presentation, representatives of the Initiative sent the report to all the members of the Parliamentary Assembly and to members of Council of Ministers.

More information about the report is available here https://bit.ly/2KfdOmF.

Between Pressures and Praises – BIRN Network Annual Report 2017

The report shows what the organisation did to offer high quality journalistic work and to provide citizens with reliable, timely and in-depth reporting as well as BIRN’s contribution to improving media freedom and openness of public institutions.

It also highlights the instances in which BIRN’s work had a strong political and social impact, showing that—despite difficulties—professional journalistic reporting can conclude in tangible results.

The whole report is available here [link].

Between Pressures and Praises – BIRN Network Annual Report 2017

In 2017, BIRN Network operated in an environment of declining media freedoms and unregulated media markets, where authorities and pro-governmental media outlets pressured members of the Network and its journalists; nevertheless, BIRN received national and international prizes as well as different kinds of informal praise.

An unfavourable media situation and the lack of proper cooperation with institutions—sometimes even hostile attitude towards BIRN—occasionally hinders the work of the organisation. However, through this report, we also underscore the best results of BIRN’s work, including the praise it has received.

The report shows what the organisation did to offer high quality journalistic work and to provide citizens with reliable, timely and in-depth reporting as well as BIRN’s contribution to improving media freedom and openness of public institutions. It also highlights the instances in which BIRN’s work had a strong political and social impact, showing that—despite difficulties—professional journalistic reporting can conclude in tangible results.

The whole report is available here [link].

Balkan Insight Cited in Books and International Studies

BIRN’s regional publication Balkan Insight has been quoted in a number of books and international studies on transitional justice, geopolitics, social and minority issues during 2017 and 2018.

Balkan Insight was quoted in ‘Some Kind of Justice: the ICTY’s Impact in Bosnia and Serbia’, published in 2018 by the prestigious Oxford University Press.

The author is Diane Orentlicher, professor of international law at Washington College of Law, American University.

The book focuses on the UN war crime court’s impact on victims’ experience of justice, on accountability processes, and on official, elite, and community discourses about the wars.

Another book focusing on transitional justice issues that cited Balkan Insight was ‘Replicating Atonement: Foreign Models in the Commemoration of Atrocities’, published in 2017.

In the book, regional and country studies cover post-conflict experiences of Argentina, Canada, Japan, Lebanon, Rwanda, Russia, Turkey, the United States and the former Yugoslavia.

Balkan Insight was also cited in ‘Tourism and Geopolitics – Issues and Concepts from Central and Eastern Europe’, edited by Derek Hall and published in 2017.

The book explores relationships between tourism and geopolitics in the Central and Eastern Europe.

Other publications from 2017 and 2018  that cited Balkan Insight texts include ‘Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Genocide and Memory’, edited by Jutta Lindert and Armen T. Marsoobian and published by Springer International Publishing, and ‘Liquid Nationalism and State Partitions in Europe’ by Stefano Bianchini, published by Edward Elgar Publishing.

Regional Reporting on Transitional Justice Issues

BIRN Hub

The programme focuses on building the capacities of local media and civil society in order to promote reconciliation and intercultural dialogue.

Summary

The programme aims to promote best practice among local media outlets in reporting on often sensitive post-conflict transitional justice issues.

It works to improve the state of reporting in this field by creating a regional network of journalists who are trained to competently cover all aspects of the process and by allowing local media to republish high-quality contributions.

The programme aims to increase and strengthen the capacities of local journalists, civil society activists and victims’ groups to monitor, effectively engage and shape ongoing transitional justice processes, including the implementation of the EU policy framework on transitional justice.

From 2018 to the end of 2020, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s Balkan Transitional Justice Initiative will work to promote and strengthen transitional justice mechanisms and processes through regular, in-depth, high-quality reporting from Albania (for the first time), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The Regional Reporting on Transitional Justice Issues programme is aimed at victims’ groups in the region and in the diaspora, as well as victims of war and former camp inmates.

In the scope of the programme’s investigations across the region, televised debates in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina will be produced. A focus page about the newly-established Kosovo Specialist Chambers in The Hague will also be created.

In 2018, BIRN partnered with the Netherlands-based organisation Impunity Watch, which will hold workshops and produce policy papers about victims’ participation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

The programme is supported by the European Commission, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Robert Bosch Foundation, the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Information Sheet

Main Objective:

  • To establish a network of journalists in the Balkans (Transitional Justice Regional Journalistic Team) who will be trained to report on transitional justice issues in the region, raising awareness and assisting in the reconciliation process.

Specific Objectives:

  • To contribute to the reconciliation process by raising awareness of transitional justice issues among the citizens of former Yugoslav republics.
  • To improve the state of the media in this specific field while creating a regional network of journalists who are capable of covering all the aspects of the ongoing process and by allowing local media to republish high-quality articles.
  • To promote best practice in terms of reporting on often sensitive post-conflict transitional justice processes among local media outlets.

Main Activities:

  • Training for a specialised Transitional Justice Regional Journalistic Team.
  • Editorial production.
  • Online production and dissemination.
  • Regional Justice TV production and dissemination.
  • Regional conferences and workshops.

Target Groups:

  • Victims’ groups in the region, as well as the diaspora.
  • Female victims of war and women searching for their families.
  • Male former camp inmates from throughout the region and abroad.
  • International NGOs, watchdogs, justice sector development institutions (eg. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, etc).
  • Journalists, local and worldwide, who report on transitional justice issues.

Highlights:

  • The War Crimes Verdicts Map – the continued updating of an interactive tool designed by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network to provide an overview of court rulings on the crimes that were committed during the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
  • Production of an online database on mass graves from the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
  • Production of policy papers giving recommendations to strengthen transitional justice processes and mechanisms.

Milan Radonjic

Milan Radonjic is a journalist and author from Belgrade, currently serving as BIRN’s correspondent for north Kosovo.

Radonjic has written for independent Serbian and international dailies covering topics ranging from corruption and organised crime to politics, producing news analyses and feature stories.

In 2000, he was appointed correspondent for Belgrade weekly magazines Reporter and Nedeljnik from Prague, Czech Republic, and in 2016 as correspondent from Paris, France for the same titles.

Since 1997, he has reported on Kosovo-Serbia relations as for Serbian and international news outlets, on the basis of which he published a novel, ‘The Loss of the Orient’, in 2015.

He worked as a researcher for the Serbia and Montenegro Parliamentary Committee for Kosovo in 2003, and led the OSCE project to enhance the communication capabilities of the Serbian parliament in 2004.

Radonjic holds an MA in Political Sociology from the Belgrade Faculty of Political Sciences, and has organised several international round table discussions on the topic of collective action and social change.