BIRN Launches Call for Montenegrin Probes on Environment

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, partnered with the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Montenegro, is launching a call for investigative stories on the environment.

The call for investigatorive stories with an environmental angle was launched on March 16 as part of the project to strengthen investigative reporting in Montenegro, founded by the EU Delegation in Podgorica.

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

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.

The call applies only to journalists from Montenegro. It closes on April 6.

Click for more information about the application procedure, with details in Montenegrin.

A Family Affair – The myth of media pluralism in Albania

Media Ownership Monitor presented by RSF and BIRN Albania.

Audience and market concentration distorts the Albanian media market. The resulting lack of plurality can be detected in television and radio but also with the printed press. This is one of the results of the three-months-long investigative research that the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania (BIRN Albania) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have jointly carried out. The results of the “Media Ownership Monitor Albania” are presented in Tirana today. They shed light on the Albanian media market by disclosing who owns and ultimately controls mass media.

The results of the project are accessible in Albanian and English on The site offers comprehensive information about the media landscape in the country, including a database of major media outlets, companies and their owners, as well as their economic and political interests, to the general public.

Kristina Voko, Executive Director of BIRN Albania states that finally “the myth that, despite its shortcomings, the Albanian media represents a plurality of views has been shattered. A handful of families reach more than half of audience share and 90% of the revenues in our media market.”

“After decades of transition and numerous attempts from civil society activists inside Albania, as well as substantial contributions from the international community, the media landscape seems to slide further away from a path towards independence, plurality and sustainability”, added Olaf Steenfadt, RSF’s global Project Director of the Media Ownership Monitor. “We call on political elites here to understand the value of a truly healthy media sector and act accordingly, also with a view on the country’s attempts to access the European Union. Our project could serve as a respective monitoring tool.”

The presentation in Tirana today comes less than a week after the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers had adopted guidelines and recommendations to its 47 Member States, including Albania, on media pluralism and ownership. Urška Umek, Administrator at the Information Society Department of the Council of Europe, quoted the call on national governments to promote transparency of media ownership and added: “We encourage States to develop a regulatory framework where needed.”


Supported by a vast dataset, the Media Ownership Monitor proves exceptionally high concentration levels of the Albanian media market. For example, the top four owners in the Television segment reach half of the total audience (between 48.93% to 58,60% – based on reports of the two existing media research agencies, whose data conflict). Three families hold the five digital broadcasting licenses, out of which one alone has received three. Thus, the media regulatory authority has practically endorsed a monopoly. In Radio, the audience concentration is even higher, with four owners controlling almost two thirds (63.69%) of the audience. A medium level of concentration can be observed only in printed press, where the top four owners have a combined readership of 43.29%.

MOM also measured ownership across media sectors, TV, print, radio and online which revealed that top eight owners reach an audience of 72,1% to 80.1%.

All-in all, these figures illustrate a worryingly high risk to media pluralism in Albania.


The Albanian media market is small and oversaturated, resulting in harsh economic pressure. There is no official list of print media in the country but reports have put the number at more than 200 titles. MOM investigated 12 daily national newspapers and identified a single owner with a market share of 54%. The top four newspaper publishers control 86.5% of the print market combined.

Despite the many outlets, suggesting a quantitative variety of offer, financial records show that the lion share of revenues, defining market share, is concentrated in a handful of powerful family-owned media groups.

Concentration within the commercial free-to-air TV market for the fourth biggest owners stands at 89.6% – where the two biggest alone control more than two thirds of the market (71.7% of the market share) – and jumps to even 94% if the digital network providers and the public broadcaster are included.


Although the audio-visual market is regulated by law, most media experts perceive its regulatory body, the Audio-visual Media Authority, as being under the direct or indirect influence of political and corporate actors.

Some specific regulation exists in the audio-visual media law, that limits the amount of shares and voting rights in any additional TV company, as well as the amount of advertising, but these restrictions seem opaque and no clear definition of media monopolization exists in the law, let alone it being enforced. The MOM research provides a number of cases, where, by means of ownership across families and diverse corporate structures, the original intent of the law is easily circumvented.

One key article of the law, 62/3, which limited the stakes a person or entity could acquire in a national TV station to 40%, was nullified by the Constitutional Court in May 2016.


According to the MOM’s research methodology, political control over media outlets in Albania was rated as high. The audience reach of the politically affiliated media owners ranges from 65,18% (Abacus data) to 75,86% (Telemetrix data).

Due to the pressure coming from media owners with political and economic interests, many Albanian journalists resort to self-censorship. Apart from the intricate web that is created around media owners affiliated interests, the media climate in Albania is under pressure also from a series of other factors, including the big corporate advertisers and government institutions. However, none of these outside factors play as big an influence on pushing journalists toward self-censorship as the economic and political interests of owners. In a survey, roughly 80% of journalists in Albania considered their job security as negative, clearly linking their working conditions to the wide-spread phenomenon of self-censorship as a means of protection.


As the MOM website illustrates in detail, the Albanian media market is controlled by a small number of powerful owners with strong political ties. At the same time, the few independent outlets and journalists often face intimidation and verbal abuse from politicians. During an impromptu press conference in October 2017, when faced with questions over the alleged ties of his Minister of Interior to a drug trafficking gang, Prime Minister Edi Rama lashed out at journalists, calling them “ignorant”, “poison”, “garbage bin”, “scandalmongers”, “charlatans”, and “public enemies”. Rama’s rhetoric often features the denigration of the media. Over the last few years, he has increasingly preferred communication through social media to avoid scrutiny from journalists. Some commentators have opined that a ‘strategy of abuse’ stands behind the colorful language used by Albanian politicians against the media, aiming to derail public attention from scandals by providing a readymade TV spectacle. Others see it as an attempt to delegitimize the ever shrinking pool of independent and critical journalists and outlets, not being controlled by oligarchs, politicians and their cronies. 


Initiated by the German section of the international human rights NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Media Ownership Monitor project is a global research and advocacy effort to promote transparency and media pluralism at an international level. In Albania, it was conducted together with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania (BIRN Albania) from December2017 to March 2018. The sample of media investigated included 44 national outlets: 11 television channels, 10 radio stations, 12 print titles and 11 online sites. 

RSF’s partner BIRN, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania, is a member of a network of local non-governmental organisations promoting freedom of speech, human rights and democratic values. Through high quality reporting and creating a pool of skilled journalists BIRN examines and scrutinises key processes, steers debates and provides the public with impartial and reliable information. BIRN Network also monitors and advocates for the transparency and accountability of public institutions and enables CSOs and citizens to influence decision-makers. 

The project is financed by the Federal German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Country studies were so far published in Colombia, Cambodia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Peru, the Philippines and Mongolia, Ghana, Serbia, Brazil and Morocco. In addition to Albania, this year, MOM will investigate media markets in Mexico, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Lebanon, Tanzania and Egypt. For more information visit the MOM website:

BIRN Participates in Media Policy Forum in Moldova

The Media Policy Forum was organised in Chisinau by Freedom House, the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation and Internews, and co-sponsored by USAID, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and BIRN.

“In the last few years in Moldova, we cannot talk about progress, but more about regression,”  Nadine Gogu, executive director of the Independent Journalism Centre in Chisinau, told the Media Policy Forum in the Moldovan capital on Tuesday.

The biggest problems identified by the speakers at the forum related to the increasing politicisation of the country’s media and the alleged concentration of ownership in the hands of proxies for the ruling party, which was described as a threat to the country’s democracy.

The president of the Moldovan parliament, Andrian Candu, told the forum however that “it is important that the media should be allowed to raise its economic capacity”.

Candu argued that the media should have more access to public information and that the debates at the forum should help politicians to improve mass media legislation in Moldova.

But Moldovan media NGOs complained about the unwillingness of the authorities to offer more rights to journalists.

Freedom House described Moldova as a country with a ‘partly free’ press in its 2017 Freedom of the Press index.

Participants at a panel moderated by Tim Judah, a special correspondent for The Economist, stressed the need to increase the level of media literacy in the country as a tool to combat propaganda and so-called ‘fake news’.

The director of Romanian Centre for Independent Journalism, Ioana Avadanei, described a successful media literacy programme that was implemented in some schools in Romania with young pupils.

“It is not so much fake news that causes trouble, it is disinformation that comes in many shapes and form and it’s not only about banning content from social media, it is about how to educate people today,” Avadanei said.

Credit: Freedom House in Moldova
Photo: Freedom House in Moldova

BIRN’s Macedonia Country director Ana Petruseva noted how investigative journalism had played a very significant role in the fight against the concentration of media power and the disinformation spread by government-controlled media in Macedonia over the past few years.

“We had a situation when on three to four private TV stations, we could see the same exact report… the only different thing was the voiceover,” Petruseva recalled.

The Media Policy Forum was organised in Chisinau by Freedom House, the Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation and Internews, and co-sponsored by USAID, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and BIRN.

BIRN Appoints Correspondent in Mitrovica, Kosovo

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN Hub) has appointed Milan Radonjic as its correspondent in the northern Kosovo town of Mitrovica to strengthen its reporting from the country.

Radonjic will file reports and features on the situation in northern Kosovo, where political and ethnic tensions have remained high since the war, for BIRN’s flagship English-language website Balkan Insight.

The move is also intended to assist independent media in northern Kosovo, such as the Kossev news website.

Balkan Insight already has a dedicated correspondent in the capital Pristina as well as its editorial collaboration with, BIRN Kosovo’s Albanian-language website.

BIRN Albania Holds Training on Media Advocacy

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held a training session on March 10 in Tirana about media advocacy with young activists from grassroots and civil society organisations working to promote issues concerning minority rights, criminal justice reform and equal access to higher education.

The training session, which was attended by 17 civil society activists, was held with the support of the Balkan Trust for Democracy, BTD.

The training was led by BIRN Albania editor Gjergj Erebara and centred on the the diversity of interests that draw the media’s attention to various issues, how different types of media function and techniques through which successful public mass communication campaigns can be built.

The participants were informed about the ethical dilemmas that stories written by journalists and information distributed by press offices might present.

The same dilemmas are central also to activism campaigns and a focus was added on how to avoid propaganda techniques.

BIRN photojournalist Ivana Dervishi shared photographic techniques with the activists and NGO representatives, speaking about how to photograph in difficult situations and explaining photojournalists’ rights.

During this session, the group also learned how to give exposure to social issues using photography and how to pitch such photo stories to media outlets in the country.

BIRN Holds Project Management Training in Romania

BIRN Hub, the organisational entity that manages the network’s regional projects and coordinates its work, organized project management training for its members in Bucharest, Romania, on March 2-4.

Project management staff, administrative and financial personnel and some journalists met together to boost their knowledge about project management cycles.

During the training, participants had a chance to improve their knowledge of project management cycles and, through interactive workshops, deepen their knowledge of project management and to learn how to contribute to it.

The training session was also a chance to strengthen relations with BIRN Romania, especially for the newcomers to BIRN.

The training was organized by Dusica Stilic, regional operations manager at BIRN Hub.

Hub Meeting Plots BIRN’s Future in Belgrade

BIRN Hub, the organisational entity that manages the network’s regional projects and coordinates work, met in Belgrade, Serbia, on February 24-25, to discuss achieved results, and plan future activities with its newly appointed Regional Director Marija Ristic.

Editorial, project management, administrative, financial, social media, and IT staff from Croatia, the UK, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia gathered at the event.

Over the course of 12 years, BIRN has expanded its work across the whole region and achieved striking results in terms of both editorial production and training journalists.

Its acclaimed Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence programme has opened a call for the 12th edition. The program has built up a strong alumni network and regional perspective both in the coverage of topics and in the work on selecting journalists.

BIRN’s investigative journalism programmes include the Summer School of Investigative Journalism, which has so far trained 250 journalists and gathered over 50 trainers and panelists, with an award-winning series of investigations, “Paper Trail.”

BIRN’s Transitional Justice programme recently entered a new phase and over the next three years will focus on building the capacities of local media and civil society in order to promote reconciliation and intercultural dialogue. This will be done through regular, in-depth, high-quality reporting from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Projects on strengthening public broadcasters in the region, covering online extremism, and strengthening media capacities in Moldova were also presented, and plans for new topics and in new regions discussed.

BIRN Albania Opens Call for Data Driven Investigations

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania is opening a call for hard-hitting, data-driven investigative stories.

The call is part of the project called “Exposing Corruption in Albania”, which is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, NED.

Three journalists will be awarded grants to cover their expenses while doing investigations and writing stories, which draw on analysis of data sets to expose corruption, abuse of power and other forms of abuse.

The journalists will have about three months to dig deeper and research their ideas, and will also have the opportunity to work with experienced editors as mentors to guide them through the process of data-gathering, data analysis and writing to BIRN’s standards.

The call only applies to journalists from Albania and closes on March 11, 2018.

Click here for more information (in Albanian) about the application procedure.

Click here (in Albanian) to download application.

BIRN Holds ‘Let’s Hear Women’ Workshop in Banja Luka

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH) held the last of four ‘Let’s Hear Women’ workshops on media communication for women’s rights activists on February 15 in Banja Luka.

Fifteen activists from 11 non-governmental organisations from Banja Luka, Bihac and Buzim were given training to raise the profile of their cause in mainstream media.

After theoretical advice about the importance of taking an active part in public debate and the usage of social networks in NGOs’ work, BIRN BiH staged a practical workshop. The participants gave interviews on camera, watched the results, and were given feedback and recommendations about their on-screen presence and speaking style.

In order to improve interaction with their audiences on social networks, they were introduced to the targeted boosting of Facebook posts. A set of guidelines on writing and distributing public statements was offered, as well one about sending official emails.

BIRN BiH held the four ‘Let’s Hear Women’ workshops in Sarajevo, Tuzla, Mostar and Banja Luka, supported by the US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A total of 46 women from 32 organisations were given training in public speaking and media communication.

Soldier Praising Mladic Faces Discipline After BIRN Report

Defence Ministry is mulling measures against Bosnian army soldier whose activities on social networks were reported by BIRN.

The Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina has launched disciplinary proceedings against a soldier named Djordje Tojcic, whose Instagram profile praised the former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic.

The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in The Hague, found Mladic guilty of genocide in the town of Srebrenica and of other war crimes.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BIH, reported that police were investigating allegation about Tojcic’s activities on social networks.

It said police had reviewed the allegations about Tojcic, who on his Instagram profile published a picture of Mladic’s military cap from the 1992-5 war in Bosnia with the description: “Europe knows, but will not admit, the general fought against terrorism.”

Following the description of the image, Tojcic added the message: “Thank you for everything!!”

Bosnia’s Defence Ministry stated that measures would be imposed on Tojcic if a disciplinary proceeding confirms the allegations.