BIRN Holds Meeting on Regional War Crimes Cooperation

After previous meetings in Zagreb and Sarajevo, BIRN organised a meeting of transitional justice stakeholders in Belgrade on September 11 to develop recommendations for improving regional cooperation in prosecuting crimes committed during the 1990s wars.

The meetings are being held as a part of BIRN’s Balkan Transitional Justice programme, bringing together representatives of war victims’ associations and the courts, as well as NGO members, humanitarian law experts and representatives of international organisations.

At the meeting in Belgrade, the participants raised various issues concerning regional cooperation in prosecuting war crimes committed during the 1990s conflicts, such as trials of defendants in their absence, the lack of cooperation between countries’ prosecutor’s offices and the lack of political will for states to fully cooperate.

As well as raising their concerns about such problems, the participants suggested possible solutions.

This input, along with input from the meetings in Zagreb and Sarajevo and the upcoming one in Pristina in September, will be formulated into recommendations.

After all four meetings with stakeholders, one final conference will be held at the regional level in Sarajevo on October 3-4.

The recommendations from the stakeholders’ meetings and the conference will be used to create a policy paper for improving regional cooperation between states in prosecuting war crimes.

BIRN Kosovo Announces Human Rights Reporting Award Competition

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Kosovo, in cooperation with The Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture, ACDC, is calling for entries for a competition to win awards for the three best journalistic pieces on TV, in print or online media in Kosovo that highlight abuses of the rights of minority communities, women’s rights and LGBT rights.

*The stories submitted for the competition must have been published, aired or broadcast in Kosovo media during the period from November 1, 2017 to August 30, 2018.

Through this initiative, BIRN and ACDC, as part of the project ‘OmbudsWatch – Promoting the Ombudsperson’s Role in Kosovo’, supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kosovo, believes that journalists rewarded for their successful coverage of the topics will improve further engagement with these issues in the future. The initiative is intended to boost the coverage of human rights issues and the work of the Ombudsperson, and help to set new standards for media reporting.

Stories will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Style of writing and writing skills;
  • The value of the story and the impact it has on the audience/readership;
  • Addressing the rights of minority communities, women’s rights and LGBT rights in a unique manner;
  • Degree of logistical challenges;
  • Inclusiveness of the story;
  • Available sources used in information collection;
  • In-depth reflection of the current circumstances in Kosovo with regard to the specific marginalised communities;
  • The impact the report has had after publication.

In addition to the basic criteria, the following will be taken into account for TV submissions:

  • The quality of picture and sound;
  • The quality of video and sound;
  • Technical realissation of the story.

All applications for the Human Rights Award must be received by September 23, 2018 by 00:00, via the following e-mail address: [email protected]

*Incomplete applications or applications received after the deadline will not be taken into consideration.

Any questions related to the Human Rights Award can be directed to the email address above.

Applications from qualified female and male candidates from all religious, ethnic and social backgrounds are strongly encouraged. Gender balance will be taken into account during the selection process.

The journalistic prize will be accompanied by a monetary stimulation (1st prize 800 euros, 2nd prize 600 euros and 3rd prize 400 euros) for each of the three winning stories.

The prizes will be awarded in the first week of October 2018.

The applications received will be evaluated by a professional jury composed of three members – one journalist/editor, one human rights activist and one representative of the Ombudsperson.


BIRN Kosova shpall garën për raportim në çështje të të drejtave të njeriut

Rrjeti Ballkanik i Gazetarisë Hulumtuese, BIRN Kosovë, në bashkëpunim me Qendrën e Avokimit për Kulturën Demokratike, ACDC, ka kënaqësinë të shpallë konkursin për tri storiet më të mira gazetareske të botuara në televizion, shtyp dhe online, që theksojnë abuzimet me të drejtat e komuniteteve pakicë, të drejtat e grave dhe të drejtat e LGBT.

* Storiet e paraqitura duhet të jenë të publikuar ose të transmetuar në mediat kosovare gjatë periudhës prej 1 nëntor 2017 deri më 30 gusht 2018.

Përmes kësaj iniciative, BIRN dhe ACDC, nën projektin “Ombudspersoni – Promovimi i rolit të Ombudspersonit në Kosovë”, mbështetur nga Ambasada e Holandës në Kosovë, beson se gazetarët që shpërblehen për mbulimin e suksesshëm të temave me interes do të përmirësojnë mobilizimin dhe angazhimin e mëtejshëm me këto çështje në të ardhmen. Kjo nismë shërben si mjet për të shtuar rëndësinë e mbulimit të çështjeve të të drejtave të njeriut dhe rolin e Ombudspersonit duke vendosur një standard të ri për raportimin në media.

Storiet do të vlerësohen në bazë të kritereve të mëposhtme:

  • Stili i aftësive të shkrimit;
  • Vlera e stories dhe ndikimi që ka te audienca;
  • Adresimi i të drejtave të komuniteteve pakicë, të drejtat e grave dhe të drejtat e LGBT në mënyrë unike;
  • Shkalla e sfidave logjistike;
  • Gjithëpërfshirja e tregimit;

Burimet e disponueshme që përdoren në grumbullimin e informacionit;

  • Pasqyrim i thellë i rrethanave aktuale në Kosovë në lidhje me komunitetet e margjinalizuara;
  • Ndikimi që ka pasur pas botimit.

Përveç kritereve themelore, për aplikimet televizive do të merren parasysh:

  • Cilësia e figurës dhe zërit;
  • Cilësia e videos dhe zërit;
  • Realizimi teknik i stories.

Të gjitha aplikacionet për Çmimin e të Drejtave të Njeriut, në kuadër të projektit “Projekti i Ombudspersonit për Promovimin e Ombudspersonit në Kosovë”, do të pranohen deri më 23 Shtator 2018, deri në 00:00, në e-mail adresën: [email protected]

* Aplikimet e jo të plota ose aplikimet e pranuara pas afatit kohor nuk do të merren në konsideratë.

Çdo pyetje që ka të bëjë me Çmimin për të Drejtat e Njeriut mund të drejtohet në e-mail adresën e përmendur më lart.

Aplikacionet nga kandidatët e kualifikuar nga të gjitha përkatësitë fetare, etnike dhe sociale inkurajohen fuqishëm. Balanca gjinore do të merret parasysh gjatë procesit të përzgjedhjes.

Çmimi gazetaresk do të shoqërohet me stimulim monetar (Çmimi i parë 800 euro; Çmimi i dytë 600 euro dhe Çmimi i tretë 400 euro) për secilën nga tri storiet fituese.

Çmimet do të jepen në javën e parë të tetorit 2018.

Aplikacionet e pranuara do të vlerësohen nga një juri profesionale e përbërë nga 3 anëtarë, nga të cilët do të ketë një gazetar/redaktor, një aktivist për të drejtat e njeriut si dhe një përfaqësues nga Ombudspersoni.


BIRN Kosovo otvorio je nagradni konkurs za izveštavanje o ljudskim pravima

Balkanska istraživačka mreža, BIRN Kosovo, u saradnji sa Centrom za zastupanje demokratske kulture, ACDC, objavljuje Konkurs za tri najbolja novinarska rada objavljena na  televiziji, u štampanim i online medijima, kojima se naglašavaju zloupotrebe prava manjinskih zajednica, prava žena i prava LGBT osoba.

* Prijavljeni radovi treba da su objavljeni ili emitovani u kosovskim medijima u periodu od 1. novembra 2017. do 30. avgusta 2018.

Ovom inicijativom BIRN i ACDC, u okviru projekta “OmbudsNadzor – Promovisanje uloge Zaštitnika građana na Kosovu”, uz podršku Ambasade Holandije na Kosovu, žele da doprinesu daljem novinarskom angažovanju  na ovim pitanjima. Ova inicijativa ima za cilj da unapredi izveštavanje o pitanjima ljudskih prava i rad Zaštitnika građana.

Priče će se ocenjivati na osnovu sledećih kriterijuma:

  • Stil pisanja i veštine pisanja;
  • Vrednost priče i njen uticaj na publiku;
  • Obrada prava manjinskih zajednica, prava žena i prava LGBT na jedinstven način;
  • Stepen logističkih izazova;
  • Inkluzivnost priče;
  • Raspoloživi izvori koji su korišćeni pri prikupljanju informacija;
  • Detaljno odražavanje trenutnih okolnosti na Kosovu u odnosu na date marginalizovane zajednice;
  • Uticaj koji je zabeležen na kraju nakon objavljivanja.

Pored osnovnih kriterijuma, za podnete TV priloge će se uzimati u obzir i:

  • Kvalitet slike i zvuka;
  • Kvalitet videa i zvuka;
  • Tehnička realizacija priče.

Sve prijave za Nagradu za ljudska prava moraju biti primljene do 23. septembra 2018. do ponoći na e-mail adresi: [email protected]

Nepotpune prijave ili prijave primljene nakon roka neće biti uzete u obzir.

Sva pitanja o Nagradi mogu se uputiti na gore navedenu e-mail adresu.

Snažno se ohrabruju prijave kvalifikovanih kandidata žena i muškaraca iz svih verskih, etničkih i socijalnih sredina. Rodni balans će biti uzet u obzir tokom izbornog procesa.

Novinarska nagrada će imati i novčani deo (1. nagrada 800 evra, 2. nagrada 600 evra i 3. nagrada 400 evra) za svaku od tri pobedničke priče.

Nagrade će biti uručene prve nedelje oktobra 2018.

Primljene prijave će ocenjivati stručni žiri sastavljen od tri člana: novinar/ka ili urednik/ca, aktivista ili aktivistkinja za ljudska prava, kao i jedan predstavnik ili predstavnica kancelarije Zaštitnika građana.

BIRN Journalists Trained in Data-Driven Reporting

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held a three-day training course on data-driven journalism for the network’s journalists across the region from September 6-9 in Tirana.

Seventeen reporters and editors from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia participated in the training, led by Lawrence Marzouk and Crina Boros. Marzouk and Boros are authors of the recently-published BIRN Albania guide, ‘Getting Started in Data Journalism’, which aims to introduce journalists to data-driven reporting techniques that are essential fror contemporary investigative journalism.

As an editor for BIRN, Marzouk leads a cross-border team of journalists, sending huge volumes of freedom of information requests, scraping data and using traditional reporting methods to delve into high-level corruption in the Balkans and beyond.

Boros is an intrepid investigative journalist who reports on conflicts of interest, vulnerable groups, problematic policies and the use of public funds.

The three-day training course gave the journalists an intensive introduction to data journalism, which ranged from its definition to the location of credible sources of data, the mining of data, open data, wall gardens and the databases that hold information that is most valuable to investigative reporters.

Boros also held a crash course in Excel sheets and descriptive statistics as a powerful tool for data reporters, with added real-world exercises using trade and airline industry data.

A special session was held by Boros on Pivot Tables and how they can analyse big data sources.

BIRN Participates in Media and Terrorism Conference in Bosnia

Providing accurate and unbiased information is essential when reporting about terrorism and violent extremism, heard a conference organised by the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Mount Jahorina from August 31 to September 2, at which BIRN’s regional director was a speaker.

The conference brought together over hundred journalists and media professionals to discuss professional standards related to reporting on terrorism and violent extremism.

As Bruce G. Berton the head of the OSCE mission in the country noted, while news about these topics draws a lot of attention and outlets are expected to publish or air it as quickly as possible, it is up to media to avoid sensationalism in the process.

The age of social media had put even greater importance on reporting professionally and responsibly on violent extremism and terrorism.

Unnamed and non-credible sources are one of the dangers for spreading propaganda.

Adhering to ethical standards such as truthfulness, independence, objectivity, empathy and responsibility are key principles in reliable reporting about terrorism and terrorist attacks, said Aidan White, president of the Ethical Journalism Network.

Marija Ristic, BIRN’s Regional Director, who spoke about reporting on violent extremism in Serbia, stressed that media often respond to the dominant narrative in society.

Reporting on the topic in Serbia is overly tabloid with sensationalistic content, almost no sources, and often alarmist in tone, emphasising Islamic radicalization, Ristic said.

But Serbian media takes a completely different tone when reporting on Serb fighters serving with pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, when its dominant narrative is one of “support for our Russian brothers” and a “justified struggle”, she added.

BIRN Journalists Trained in Mobile Video Journalism

BIRN journalists from Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and BIRN Hub attended a training course on mobile video production from August 19 to 21 in Skopje.

The three-day training course was conducted by a Voice of America (VOA) Broadcasting Board of Governors trainer.

A group of around ten journalists and editors from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia were introduced to new mobile apps for filming and editing video content on mobile platforms.

They were also taught new approaches and developed skills in video reporting using new technologies that will be in use in everyday reporting and delivering content, especially for social media.

The training was intended to improve focused video content relevant to web and social media audiences and enhance journalists’ ability to tell stories that engage users through text, pictures, videos and livestreaming.

The training continued the cooperation between BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina and VOA, which started at the beginning of 2017.

BIRN Summer School Puts Focus on ‘Art of Interviews’

On the third day of the BIRN Summer School in Romania, journalists learned about interviewing techniques, how to use the Paradise Papers in investigations, verifying videos and uses of podcasts.

As BIRN’s summer school continued on Wednesday, lead trainer and Reuters investigative projects editor Blake Morrison held a session on the “art of interviewing” and on how to convince difficult sources to talk, describing interviews as a crucial component of the journalistic job.

“Think of any story as a blind date,” he told participants.

Morrison stressed the need for preparation and gave insight into why some people agree to give an interview – vanity, the need to be understood, self-interest, desperation, guilt and curiosity.

Susanne Reber, co-founder of Reveal podcast and Podcasting Executive Producer for E.W. Scripps National, introduced participants to the art of podcasting and of making stories heard.

BIRN investigations editor Lawrence Marzouk spoke of how to research the arms trade, using open source data.

The financial investigations workshop continued with OCCRP’s Miranda Patrucic explaining the Paradise Papers and how investigative journalists can find leads and data in the leaks.

The geolocation and digital investigations workshop also continued on Wednesday, with Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert’s lecturing on how to verify if a photo or a video was taken in a certain location at a given time.

Lead trainer Morrison held a second practical individual session with journalists.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States. For the first time, the Summer School has welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

BIRN Summer School Day 2: Fact-Checking, Financial Reports and Metadata analysis

BIRN’s Summer School continued on Tuesday in Poiana Brasov, Romania, with sessions exploring fact-checking strategies, how to mine financial reports and using metadata for investigative stories.

Blake Morrison, investigative projects editor at Reuters, introduced participants at the BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting to fact-checking strategies and conducted a hands-on exercise exploring the differences between supposition and proof.

Miranda Patrucic, editor with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, explained how to interpret and get the most from financial reports and documents.

In the afternoon, New York Times senior video editor Christoph Koettl looked at how to analyse content and metadata in photos and videos.

Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert introduced participants to open-source investigation and verification looking at how the organisation investigated the downing of the passenger plane MH17 over Ukraine and the 2016 failed coup in Turkey.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States.

For the first time, the Summer School has welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

Ninth BIRN Summer School Begins in Romania

This year’s Summer School started on Monday in Poiana Brasov, Romania, with lectures and interactive sessions on using satellite imagery and digital research in investigative reporting and on how to push for accountability.

Reporters from the Balkan region and across the world gathered on Monday in the mountain resort of Poiana Brasov, Romania, for the ninth BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting.

After greeting participants, Blake Morrison, the school’s lead trainer and investigative projects editor at Reuters, held a lecture and discussion about how to imagine a complex investigative story, as well as how to push for accountability.

Christoph Koettl, senior video journalist at The New York Times, specializing in geospatial and open-source research, also held an introductory session on using digital research and verification in investigative research.

He continued with a lecture on geospatial and satellite imagery used in investigative journalism, followed by an interactive exercise.

In the afternoon, the participants discussed story ideas and were divided up into smaller groups for in-depth sessions with Reuters’ editor Morrison.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States.

For the first time, the Summer School welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organized in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

BIRN Bosnia Story Presented at Sarajevo Film Festival

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday presented a story to film directors and producers about a boy who was abandoned after his mother survived the Srebrenica genocide as part of the Dealing with the Past programme at the 24th Sarajevo Film Festival.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s director Mirna Buljugic briefed the directors and producers on the story about the boy, Amir Secic, whose mother abandoned him four months after the Srebrenica genocide in July 1995.

“His mother was five months pregnant and his father was killed. He was born in November and his mother left him three days later. He stayed at the Home for Children without Parental Care. He was three years old when he saw his mother for the first time,” Buljugic said.

When he was 23, Secic wrote a book called ‘I Was Hardly a Child’ in which he described his life. He dedicated the book to his father Ibrahim Secic, one of more than 7,000 people from Srebrenica who were killed.

Buljugic reflected on some parts of the book in which Secic spoke about how he was given a red bag at the children’s home, which he used to carry with him all the time.

In his book, Secic described the red colour of his bag as “the colour of love, as well as blood, loss and genocide”.

A short video about Secic, who was also present at the event and greeted the participants, was presented to the directors and producers who attended.

The BIRN story is one of the five selected for presentation at this year’s Dealing with the Past programme at the Sarajevo Film Festival, which is supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The five stories are reviewed by interested directors, who then decide which one will be picked up for development as a documentary.

The programme is aimed at connecting filmmakers with organisations dealing with events that happened in the former Yugoslavia.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina has been the festival’s partner in the Dealing with the Past programme since it began.

This year’s festival is taking place from August 10 to 17.

BIRN Albania Documentary Screened in Sarajevo

BIRN Albania’s documentary ‘Free Flow’, which follows the resistance of villagers, activists and civil society to the construction of hydropower plants in Albania, was screened on August 12 in Sarajevo.

The screening, which was hosted by Civil Rights Defenders, aimed to highlight the decade-long struggle of local activists for water, property and environmental rights which were being threatened by energy companies and politicians.

Directed by film-maker Elton Baxhaku, the documentary follows 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 eco-tourism industry.

After its premiere in Tirana on June 11, BIRN Albania has held several screenings of the documentary in affected areas like the villages of Polis and Valbona, and for a more diverse audience at Dokufest, the international short film and documentary festival in Prizren, Kosovo.

Sunday’s screening in Sarajevo was the sixth screening of the documentary held by BIRN Albania and partners. It was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ena Bavcic and Vasilika Laci, programme officers of Civil Rights Defenders in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, with the participation of film-maker Elton Baxhaku.

Further screenings will follow in Albania in the autumn.