BIRN Launches New Cross-Border Reporting Platform

BIRN’s new Reporting Democracy platform seeks to unleash investigative journalism to examine the state of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network launched a cross-border journalism platform on Monday aimed at shining a light on issues affecting the health of democracy across a swathe of Europe vulnerable to rising populism and authoritarianism.

Reporting Democracy extends BIRN’s coverage from the Balkans to the so-called Visegrad Group of countries in Central and Eastern Europe: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

The new platform comes as Europeans prepare to vote in EU elections that polls suggest could bring big gains for far-right nationalists, eurosceptics and supporters of the kind of “illiberal democracy” championed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

“Democracy is at a crossroads in Europe as authoritarian alternatives enter the mainstream and threaten to undo fundamentals like media freedom, judicial independence, minority rights and respect for the rule of law,” Reporting Democracy Editor Timothy Large said.

“The goal here is to put rigorous, fact-based journalism to work in exposing the trends and developments that will shape democracy, for better or for worse, and to look at things from a cross-border perspective.”

In addition to offering in-depth analysis by BIRN correspondents in 14 countries, Reporting Democracy will support independent media across the region by commissioning stories from local journalists and offering grants for cross-border investigations.

The project is supported by ERSTE Foundation, the main shareholder of Austrian bank Erste Group, which also funds BIRN’s flagship Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence programme, now in its 13th year.

Robert Anderson

Robert is a correspondent for Reporting Democracy, and is living in the Czech Republic.

He has been a journalist for more than 30 years, starting out in his native Wales at the Western Mail, before joining the Financial Times in London. During his 24 years at the FT he was the paper’s correspondent in Prague and Stockholm, as well as Deputy European News Editor and European Company News Editor.  During the past four years he managed intellinews.com, a CEE business news site aimed at financial investors.

Robert has a master’s degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Queen’s College, Oxford University, and in international relations from the London School of Economics. He speaks French and has a passive understanding of Czech.

Miroslava Germanova

Based in Bratislava, Slovakia, Miroslava covers a variety of topics concerning politics, rule of law, freedom and democracy in original features or interviews.

She has worked as a freelance journalist since 2010, covering topics such as politics, minorities, extremism, gender equality or economy. She has worked for global media outlets, as well as local newspapers, magazines and a news agency.

She has completed a Master’s degree in Journalism from Comenius University in Bratislava.

Miroslava speaks Slovak/Czech and English, and a little German.

Edit Inotai

Based in Budapest, Edit is reporting about Hungary for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

She was formerly the Foreign Editor and Berlin Correspondent of the leading daily, Nepszabadsag, and the foreign policy analyst for the business weekly, Figyelo.

Edit holds a PhD from Corvinus University Budapest and has MA from ELTE University Budapest in English and Spanish philology.

She speaks Hungarian, English, German, Spanish.

Claudia Ciobanu

Based in Warsaw, Claudia is reporting on political and social developments in Poland. Originally from Romania, she’s been based in Warsaw since 2012.

Claudia has been a journalist for a decade, starting out at the Romanian national daily, Cotidianul, before moving to cover Central and Eastern Europe as a freelancer for various international outlets. Her articles have appeared in The Guardian, Reuters and Al Jazeera. She is particularly interested in social movements, frontline communities and illiberal regimes.

Claudia won the first prize in the 2018 Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic excellence. She was a finalist in the Reporting Europe and One World Media awards.

She has MA in Political Science from the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

Blerta Begisholli

Blerta is a correspondent for Balkan Insight from Kosovo. She covers politics, economy and culture, and has a special focus on Transitional Justice and reporting about the turbulent past of Kosovo in 1998-99.

Previously she did legal research for ICODA European Affairs, a Brussels based lobbying company that specialised in financial and insurance advises. Blerta has also worked as Project Coordinator at the European Integration Organisation in Pristina and did a mentorship at the Kosovar Embassy in Vienna, Austria.

She has received a double Master Degree in International Relations at LUISS Guido Carli, Rome, Italy, and in European Union Studies at the University of Salzburg, Austria. Before that she received a Bachelor degree in European Integration Studies in ISPE University in Pristina and English Language and Literature at the University of Pristina.

Blerta speaks Albanian, English, Italian, German and Spanish.

BIRN North Macedonia Journalist Awarded for Cultural Heritage Report

BIRN journalist Goce Trpkovski was given an award by the Macedonian National Council of the International Council of Museums for raising awareness about the poor condition of cultural heritage in the country.

The award was presented at the celebration for the International Museum Day on May 18, at the ASNOM Memorial Centre, a national landmark in the village of Pelince commemorating the establishment of the independent Macedonian state in 1944.

After the devastating fire at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris in April this year, BIRN published an in-depth article documenting the risks to numerous cultural heritage sites in North Macedonia. The country has more than 1,200 sites – houses, public buildings, ancient ruins, churches, mosques, fortsas towers – listed as being under protection.

The article revealed that some unique historical sites like the Skopje Aquaduct are crumbling, despite politicians’ promises to restore them, while many listed sites owned by non-state entities (religious buildings, private houses and others) lack appropriate equipment in case of fire or other disasters, which they should have under the law.

Yllka Hoxha

Yllka has been the Finance and Human Resources Manager at BIRN Kosovo since February 2019.

She previously worked for eight years in the development department, in human resources, administration and finances at BIRN Kosovo and Internews Kosova.

She finished her studies at the University of Pristina and holds a master’s degree in marketing. She is a member and student at the Society of Certified Accountants and Auditors of Kosovo and is attending its certification programme for accountants.

Institutional Support

BIRN Kosovo

Enhancing public participation in decision making processes by improving accountability and transparency of public institutions in Kosovo.

Information Sheet

Summary:

BIRN Kosovo aims to provide momentum to the consolidation of democracy in Kosovo, by fostering an environment of transparency and accountability as the cornerstones of sustainability. In this regard, we seek to utilize professional, balanced, and objective information through media channels, thus helping reduce barriers to internal stability and keeping the powerful accountable. BIRN Kosovo also utilizes an established arm of monitoring public institutions, and regularly reporting on their work. This includes encouraging public debate, in which transparency is sought from public officials who are held to account for their performance. BIRN team produces regular news stories, investigations, analysis and debate shows for TV broadcast. The team also publishes online news and analysis, feature stories and investigations. In this regard, we also publish and broadcast reports that result from the monitoring of the courts, judicial system, public procurement and public services

Donor:

MOTT Foundation

Main Objective:

Enhancing public participation in decision making processes by improving accountability and transparency of public institutions in Kosovo.

Specific Objective:

Combining hard-hitting journalism and civil activism to encourage people to be informed and engaged in this critical period of Kosovo’s history

Main Activities:

Investigative Reporting

  • Production of the televised programme, Life in Kosovo; on current affairs;
  • Production of the weekly televized programme, Justice in Kosovo;
  • Publication of Prishtina Insight and Balkan Insight
  • Gazeta Jeta në Kosovë newspaper
  • Training and on-the-job training;
  • Monitoring of public services, public administration and public procurement;
  • Publications and Roundtables;
  • Media element: Publications and Broadcasting;
  • Cooperation with other organizations and local NGOs to follow all  significant cases and send complaints for the ill practices in the public services to all relevant institutions.

Target Groups:

The groups that BIRN targets through its activities are mainly political representatives and public service institutions with a focus on courts, health and education structures, under-represented communities, local and regional civil society organizations and media institutions.

Specifically, the beneficiaries include: the audience of about 350,000 who watch the TV programs produced by BIRN Kosovo (Life in Kosovo and Justice in Kosovo); judges and prosecutors who will be getting detailed reporting on the monitoring of their trials, analyzing their work and recommending areas for improvement; journalists, monitors, researchers and civil society activists who participate in BIRN workshops envisaged to take place within two years time; over 26 Kosovo municipalities which will have their court, education and healthcare services monitored; approximately 1,000 speakers, interviewees and panellists from businesses, the political sphere, culture, health, etc., communities who will participate in BIRN Kosovo programs yearly, namely policy makers, political representatives, civil society activists and marginalized social and ethnic groups including women, youth, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, religious minorities, and disabled persons; about 70 speakers and panellists representing more than 30 local civil society organizations; local politicians and the local population that participate and watch BIRN Kosovo local governance and election TV debates; the international community living in Kosovo and the region, who read Prishtina Insight and Balkan Insight content produced by BIRN Kosovo in cooperation with BIRN regional office.

Highlights:

2,100 written articles covering issues of public administration, public procurement, and public services related to municipal debates organized during the electoral campaign, covering different promises and public statements delivered by public officials, also covering issues of public services and management of public funds 364 articles with fast facts published on a general overview of the situation in the municipalities and local governance of Kosovo

79 long articles published related to the Brussels-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.

Main implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Partners:

Local partnerships:

  1. Radio Television of Kosova;
  2. Internews Kosova;
  3. Crossing Bridges Productions;
  4. Institute for Advanced Studies, GAP;
  5. Advocacy Training and Recourse Centre;
  6. Kosova Democratic Institute, KDI;
  7. Fol 08 Civic Initiative;
  8. Media Center in Gracanica;
  9. TV Opinioni (Prizren);
  10. TV Syri (Gjakova);
  11. TV Vali (Gjilan);
  12. TV Dukagjini (Peja);
  13. Radio FushëKosova;
  14. Radio Gorazhdevac;
  15. Nansen Dialogue Mitrovica;
  16. Initiative for Progress, NGO (Ferizaj);
  17. Caritas (Mitrovica);
  18. Syri i Vizionit (Peja);
  19. Community Building Mitrovica, CBM;
  20. Forum for Civic Initiative;
  21. Kosovar Institute for Journalism and Communication;
  22. Institute for Advanced Studies – GAP;
  23. Group for Legal and Political Studies, GLPS;
  24. Dokufest;
  25. Institute for Development Policy – INDEP;
  26. Iniciativa Ambientale për Zhvillim Lokal – IAZHL;

Regional partnerships

  1. Youth Initiative for Human Rights;
  2. B92 Television;
  3. BIRN Albania;
  4. BIRN Serbia;
  5. BIRN Macedonia;
  6. BIRN Bosnia and Hercegovina;
  7. TV Aldi, Presheve.

International cooperation and partnerships

  1. National Institute for Democracy, NDI;
  2. Global Radio News;
  3. Jane’s Defence Weekly;
  4. Investigative Journalism School;
  5. International Debate Association;
  6. Columbia School of Journalism;
  7. Safer World;
  8. Dart Foundation;
  9. Frontline Club;
  10. Youth Project of the World Bank;
  11. Balkan Sunflowers;
  12. BBC Training Centre.

Monitoring and Reporting on Kosovo’s Public Services and Public Spending

BIRN Kosovo

Monitoring and reporting on Kosovo’s public services, public spending and public Administration, civic oversight of the Kosovo-Serbia Agreement implementation.

Information Sheet
Main Objective:

Monitoring and reporting on Kosovo’s public services, public spending and public Administration, civic oversight of the Kosovo-Serbia Agreement implementation.

Specific Objective:

  • Supporting transparency, accountability, and functionality of the system for public services in Kosovo with specific focus on courts;
  • Increasing accessibility of media and the civil society to decision-making processes regarding courts, public services, public administration, and public procurement;
  • Improving transparency and accountability of public procurement and tender awarding processes at the local and central level, namely municipalities and the ministerial level;
  • Encouraging transparency, accountability, and meritocracy in the public administration process with the special aim of fighting nepotism and party clientism within the public administration;
  • Providing valuable qualitative and quantitative data and reports to all stakeholders regarding the rule of law institutions, public services, public administration and public spending;
  • Reduce Kosovo’s barriers towards EU integration by disseminating data and reporting on the results from the monitoring process;
  • Increasing transparency and accountability of the Kosovo-Serbia Agreement implementation through establishing an effective mechanism for civil oversight over the process.

Main Activities:

  • Publishing written articles of issues on public administration, public procurement, and public services from the municipal debates during elections;
  • Publishing articles with fast facts on the general situation in Kosovo’s municipalities and local governance;
  • Publishing long articles regarding the Brussels dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia;

Target Groups:

  • Public institutions;
  • Media Outlets;
  • Civil Society.

Main implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Highlights

2,100 written articles covering issues of public administration, public procurement, and public services related to municipal debates organized during the electoral campaign, covering different promises and public statements delivered by public officials, also covering issues of public services and management of public funds 364 articles with fast facts published on a general overview of the situation in the municipalities and local governance of Kosovo

79 long articles published related to the Brussels-facilitated dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia.