Radovan Karadzic Trial E-Book

BIRN published an e-book entitled ‘Radovan Karadzic: Wartime Leader’s Years on Trial’, ahead of the former Bosnian Serb wartime president’s final trial verdict on March 20, 2019.

The e-book, which is downloadable free of charge, contains all BIRN’s reports on the case, from the period when Karadzic was on the run to when he was caught and extradited, and throughout the whole of the trial that followed.

Published in English and in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, it includes over 570 articles and runs to more than 1,100 pages.

This is the third e-book published by BIRN. The first was an in-depth e-book containing reports and analyses about the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, while the second one was a compilation of reports on Ratko Mladic’s trial.

To download the e-book, click here.

BIRN Publishes Radovan Karadzic Trial E-Book

Ahead of the former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic’s war crimes verdict this week, BIRN has compiled all its reports on the landmark case into a free, downloadable e-book.

BIRN published a new e-book on Tuesday entitled ‘Radovan Karadzic: Wartime Leader’s Years on Trial’, ahead of the former Bosnian Serb wartime president’s final trial verdict on March 20.

The e-book, which is downloadable free of charge, contains all BIRN’s reports on the case, from the period when Karadzic was on the run to when he was caught and extradited, and throughout the whole of the trial that followed.

Published in English and in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, it includes over 570 articles and runs to more than 1,100 pages.

This is the third e-book published by BIRN. The first was an in-depth e-book containing reports and analyses about the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, while the second one was a compilation of reports on Ratko Mladic’s trial.

Karadzic’s trial began in 2009, lasted for 499 days and heard 586 witnesses.

He was initially indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in 1995. He then spent 12 years on the run, and was finally arrested in Belgrade in 2008 and extradited to the UN tribunal.

The first-instance verdict in 2016 found him guilty of the Srebrenica genocide, the persecution and extermination of Croats and Bosniaks from 20 municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and being a part of a joint criminal enterprise to terrorise the civilian population of Sarajevo during the siege of the city. He was also found guilty of taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

To download the e-book, click here.

Source: Balkan Insight

Media Ownership Monitor (MOM) – database update

BIRN Serbia
BIRN Serbia is conducting media ownership monitoring for the second time in order to reveal relevant trends in ownership concentration, enabling the public to make more educated choices as media consumers.

Summary

BIRN Serbia is conducting media ownership monitoring for the second time in Serbia in order to reveal relevant trends in ownership concentration, enabling the public to make more educated choices as media consumers. Ideally, greater awareness will result in regulatory countermeasures in the medium term.

Donor: Reporters Without Borders Germany

Information Sheet

Main Objective

The overall objective is to foster freedom of information and media pluralism while defending the diversity of opinions through differentiated media ownership.

Specific Objectives

The Media Ownership Monitor (MOM) is a standardised instrument for research and publication, creating and enhancing transparency of national mass media ownership. Ownership shares of media outlets and the respective market shares of their products can be used as indicators of media pluralism in each target country.

Collecting data and updating and classifying them is critical for raising political awareness of this problem, initiating debate and eventually establishing a legal framework to enhance control of media concentration.

The results of MOM can help strengthen the media literacy of all citizens; their user behaviour is changed when they know – or at least can know – who is behind a TV or radio station, a newspaper or internet portal.

Main Activities

Conducting media ownership monitoring in Serbia

Target Groups

  • Legislature (media and anti-trust law, concentration control);
  • Professional public (media journalists, media studies and research, trade and professional associations, civil society actors);
  • Media owners;
  • Any media user, general public

Highlights

Web site will be updated with monitoring results

Fact-Checking for Accountable Media

BIRN Kosovo

Through this project, BIRN Kosovo wants to contribute to educating local media on the standards of fact-checking in order to develop their capacities to use the standards in their daily work.

Summary

Through this project, BIRN Kosovo wants to raise awareness among local media on International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) standards, improve skills of journalists and students of journalism on the verification of facts and contribute to increasing the accountability of politicians, state officials and local media, through the measurement of truth using our fact-checking tool, Krypometer.

Information Sheet

Donor:

KCSF – Kosovo Civil Society Foundation

Main Objective:

To contribute to educating local media on the standards of fact-checking in order to develop their capacities to use the standards in their daily work.

Specific Objective:

Specific Objective 1: Contribute to identifying inaccurate media reporting and public statements;

Specific Objective 2: Raising capacities of local media, journalists, and students of journalism on IFCN standards;

Specific Objective 3: Promotion of standards for fact-verification in televised reports.

Main Activities:

  • Activity 1: Publication of Verification of Facts
  • Activity 2: Training for local media on Verification of Facts
  • Activity 3: Training with journalists from mainstream media
  • Activity 4: One 2-day training course for students of journalism on Verification of Facts
  • Activity 5: Televised documentary on false statements by public officials

Target Groups:

Local media, including TV and radio in municipalities across Kosovo. Through this project, BIRN Kosovo aspires to particularly benefit students of journalism. In addition, through  reporting on BIRN Kosovo’s media platforms, the project strives to educate the public on the importance of accurate news, and specifically, the accuracy and accountability of public officials and political representatives.

Main implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE)

PARTNER
Since its inception in 2003, BFPE has contributed to democratic transformation and European integration of the region of Southeast Europe.

  • Continuously conceiving and organising the political education of interested and engaged citizens and decision-makers at different levels,
  • Promoting and connecting prominent individuals and engaged groups of citizens who advocate modernisation, democratization and European integration of Serbia,
  • By advocating for the rule of law, human and minority rights,
  • Seeking solutions to existing and future challenges to sustainable development,
  • By initiating dialogue among the relevant actors,
  • Striving to improve the knowledge and professional capacity of relevant actors for their responsible participation in political and social life.

Web: https://en.bfpe.org/

Belgrade Open School (BOS)

PARTNER
Belgrade Open School is a nonprofit, educational, civil society organisation founded in 1993.

BOS develops human resources, improves public policies and strengthens the capacities of the civil, public and business sectors in order to develop a better society based on freedom, knowledge, and innovation.

BOS vision is a better society based on freedom, knowledge, and innovation.

Belgrade Open School Values:

  • Openness
  • Innovativeness
  • Freedom
  • European Values
  • Public Interest
  • Quality
  • Accountability

Web: http://www.bos.rs/en/

Royal Norwegian Embassy

DONOR
The objective of the Norwegian support to the Western Balkans is to promote development stability and democracy.

Norway supports many initiatives in Kosovo as well as the region to encourage regional cooperation, good governance through the development of rule of law, civil society, and the media, socio-economic development as well as reconciliation and implementation of transitional justice.

Web: www.norway.no/en/kosovo

BIRN and D+ Publish Report on Kosovo Tax Administration

BIRN Kosovo and Democracy Plus, D+, with the support of the British Embassy, organised a roundtable discussion on March 11 to talk about their newly-published Monitoring Report on the Integrity of Kosovo’s Tax Administration, TAK.

At the discussion, findings from work carried out between September 2018 to February 2019 were published – a seven-month period of direct monitoring. This is among the first reports of its kind to be produced and published by local NGOs.

Download report in PDF

The monitoring was launched as a result of the reported low level of confidence that citizens have in TAK, and their perceptions about the level of corruption in the institution.

The aim of the report was to identify the ‘black holes’ in the process and raise red flags about the need for improvements in the standards, procedures and legal bases which enable and improve integrity within TAK.

Kreshnik Gashi, managing editor at BIRN’s Kallxo.com site, and Visar Rushiti, Policy Analyst at Democracy Plus, presented the findings of the monitoring report.

“This is one of the first reports produced by civil society on this topic and which looks into what is happening in TAK in depth,” said Gashi.

Thomas Adams, the deputy head of the British Embassy in Kosovo, said that the United Kingdom would support the findings and the recommendations of the report published by BIRN and D+.

The report concluded that TAK must seriously engage in improving the overall situation at the institution. Among the 15 recommendations made, BIRN and D+ suggested improvements to the Disciplinary Commission of TAK, the efficiency of its staff and resources, and for tax inspectors to be included among the public officials required to declare their assets.

The director of the Kosovo Tax Administration, Ilir Murtezaj, said that the institution will try to make changes according to the issues raised in the monitoring report.

“We will try to address the findings and recommendations of the report and implement them to the fullest possible level. We have implemented some of the findings that are in the report, such as the creation of a Disciplinary Commission,” said Murtezaj.

The discussion was attended by Kosovo Finance Minister Bedri Hamza and  Afrim Atashi, the director of the Corruption Prevention Department at the Anti-Corruption Agency, as well as representatives of NGOs and relevant institutions.

Download report in PDF

Egypt to Probe Fake ‘Cleopatras’ After BIRN/ARIJ Revelations

After BIRN/ARIJ reports lifted the lid on the way millions of fake ‘Cleopatra’ cigarettes were being smuggled into North Africa from the Balkans, Egypt’s parliament has demanded an official probe.

The Egyptian parliament’s Industry Committee has urged the country’s state prosecutor to start a criminal investigation into cigarette smuggling – after a series of in-depth investigative reports published by BIRN/ARIJ revealed that the country’s most popular brand was being mass-produced and smuggled in from the Balkans.

The committee said prosecutors needed to look into whether Eastern Company managers had neglected to stop the flow of counterfeit cigarettes from Montenegro and Albania into the country.

“The defaulters [must be held] accountable for what they did due to inaction and not guarding public money, and so the subject should be referred to the General Prosecutor to investigate it and find out the truth,” the committee said in the official report obtained by BIRN, issued in February.

A series of BIRN/ARIJ reports in December 2018 detailed how both state-owned and private factories in Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Greece were involved in a contraband business that has netted vast profits and cost a number of countries significant losses in tax revenues.

Egypt’s No 1 brand cigarette, Cleopatra, was born in 1961 when then ruler Gamal Abdel Nasser asked for a local version of the smuggled American Kent brand that he liked to smoke. Created by the Eastern Company, Cleopatra is now one of the most widely smoked cigarettes in North Africa and a top seller globally.

The BIRN/ARIJ investigations noted that Egypt, the UK and the EU’s anti-fraud office, OLAF, had considered the flow of cigarettes coming out of Montenegro’s Duvanski Kombinat Podgorica, DKP, “counterfeit”, suspecting they were being channeled to Libyan smugglers who distributed them illegally across North Africa.

Egypt asked repeatedly through diplomatic channels for Montenegro to shut the operation down.

Production did stop finally in 2016, but only after the factory was privatised and came under new ownership.

But the offshore firm that contracted the factory to produce the cigarettes has not given up, according to the BIRN/ARIJ investigations; it set up new production lines in Kosovo and invested 1 million euros in a new operation in Montenegro.

Muhammad Faud, a member of the Egyptian parliament, told the hearing that Eastern’s management had not protected the local Cleopatra brand, which had led its products being counterfeited in Albania and Montenegro.

This had “led to a waste the public money” he said, and to “falsified Cleopatra products that were not manufactured by the Eastern Company taking about 30 per cent of the market”.

Eastern’s parent company, Chemical Industries Holding, has insisted it has done its best to protect the brand. It said registering as many as 548 special trademarks around the world would have cost billions.

It also said that it had a complete dossier of exchanged communications between it and the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and the Egyptian embassy concerning measures taken to stop violations of its trademark and the manufacture of fake Cleopatra cigarettes.

“As a result of the efforts made, the factory producing forged products in Albania was stopped in 2015 for one year, but later started functioning again,” the company said.

The BIRN/ARIJ reports said the counterfeit cigarettes would have been virtually indistinguishable from the originals produced by Eastern Company in Cairo.

The labels bear the words “Made in Egypt”, as well as Egyptian health warnings and a claim to be produced by “Eastern Company”.

The BIRN ARIJ reports said increased taxes on cigarettes in Egypt from the 2010s onward had created a booming black market for the product.

Meanwhile, lawlessness in neighbouring Libya since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi has turned the country into a smuggler’s paradise.

Source: Balkan Insight

BIRN Albania Documentary Screened at European Parliament

A feature-length documentary produced by BIRN Albania, ‘Free Flow’, was screened on March 7 at the European Parliament in Brussels as part of a conference entitled ‘Save the Balkan Rivers: Resisting the Hydroelectric Power Plants (HPPs) in the Balkans and Albania’.

The conference was organised by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) parliamentary group to highlight the threat posed to biodiversity in the Balkans by thousands of planned hydropower plant projects.

Directed by film-maker Elton Baxhaku, the documentary ‘Free Flow’ follows Albania villagers, activists, scientists and artists as they try to draw attention – in court and on the streets – to the threat posed to the environment and the local ecotourism industry by power plant projects.

Present in a panel in the conference in Brussels, along with MEPs Stelios Kouloglou, GUE/NGL and Thomas Waitz, The Greens, BIRN Albania editor Besar Likmeta, highlighted the motivation that pushed BIRN to produce the documentary, underlining that the fight against power plant developers in the region was not only important for safeguarding the environment but was also about the struggle for democracy and the right of local communities to have a voice in the usage and the future of their resources.

The conference included also video spots from MEPs Knut Fleckenstein and Eduard Kukan, and was attended by activist and civil society representatives from Albania, the wider Balkans and EU countries.