BIRN Articles Quoted in International Reports

Articles and reports published by BIRN in recent months have been quoted and referenced in various European publications about media, minorities, democratisation, foreign fighters and radicalisation.

BIRN is quoted in the ‘Reporting Crisis in South East Europe: Case Studies in Six SEE Countries’ report series by the South East European Network for Professionalisation of Media, published in August 2017, for its media monitoring on issues like censorship and self-censorship, and also mentioned for its investigative reporting achievements.

BIRN is also quoted in ‘Building Democracy in the Yugoslav Successor States:  Accomplishments, Setbacks, and Challenges since 1990’, edited by Sabrina P. Ramet, Christine M. Hassenstab, and Ola Listhaug from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim and published by Cambridge University Press in May 2017.

Around 20 different articles published by BIRN’s regional publication Balkan Insight over the last five years are quoted in the book.

The report ‘Radicalization and Foreign Fighters in the Kosovo Context – An analysis of international media coverage of the phenomena’, published in June 2017, quotes Balkan Insight and Prishtina Insight articles about the role of online propaganda in Balkan jihadi environments and recruitment, and court cases against Kosovo terror suspects.

“Since 2014, the high proportion of foreign fighters from Kosovo and challenges related to radicalisation have been extensively covered by international English-language print and online media,” the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs says in the publication.

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), established by the Council of Europe, an independent human rights monitoring body specialised in questions relating to racism and intolerance, published a report about minority rights in Serbia in May, which quoted a number of Balkan Insight articles from recent years.

BIRN and Kosovo Women’s Network to Monitor Gender-Based Violence

July 2017 marks the beginning of a new initiative to monitor gender-based violence cases in Kosovo. BIRN and Kosovo Women’s Network officially joined forces on July 21st, when representatives from KWN offered a training for BIRN monitors on the best practices for monitoring how gender-based violence is treated in Kosovo. Special focus will be given to domestic and sexual violence against women and girls.

The overall objective of the project is to ensure justice, protection, and rehabilitation for the victims of gender-based violence. Bearing in mind that in Kosovo, women and girls are significantly more affected by different forms of violence just because of their gender, BIRN and KWN will work on mitigating gender-based violence and make up for the poor performance of institutions that are accountable for them.

This project was inspired by the latest findings on the status of gender-based violence in Kosovo conducted by KWN. The latest investigations conducted by BIRN reveal that local institutions have failed to properly offer their services in sensitive cases such as gender-based violence, resulting in women who are victims of such acts receiving little or no support at all from responsible actors. Hence, in order to support victims, BIRN and KWN will begin regularly monitoring these cases to prevent the relevant institutions from manipulating and mistreating them.. The institutions that will be monitored as part of this project include courts, prosecutions, the Kosovo Police, social work centres, and other relevant institutions that exist to properly treat cases of gender-based violence.

The aim of the project is to increase accountability of these institutions while treating cases that include gender-based violence, as well as to increase the awareness of citizens and institutional representatives on the importance of reporting and offering support to victims. Parallel to the implementation of the project, both networks openly invite all citizens to report institutional breaches they run into, or have previously witnessed, if an institution has disregarded or mistreated cases related to gender-based violence. The project is supported by the Austrian Development Agency.

“There won’t be European integration without free press”

Dragana Zarkovic Obradovic, director of BIRN Serbia, about media freedom in the region.

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) – a think tank focused on South-East Europe, Turkey and the Caucasus – considers media freedom a strategic topic in the region.

After attending the Civil Society Forum of the Western Balkans Series in Trieste from July 10 to 12, 2017 as part of the “Media Freedom: a very European issue” panel, the organisation gathered opinions from media practitioners in the Balkans on the issue.

Among them was Dragana Zarkovic Obradovic, director of BIRN Serbia, who said that media freedom should not be underestimated. “There won’t be European integration without free press,” she pointed out.

Dubrovnik to Host BIRN’s Investigative Journalism School

Dubrovnik and its stunning coastline will be the setting for the BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting in 2017.

The school brings together some of the world’s best journalists and trainers for six-days in Mlini, a fishing village on the outskirts of the UNESCO-recognised city.

Between August 20 and 26, reporters will have the opportunities to learn cutting-edge investigation skills while enjoying the delights of Adriatic Sea.

Reuters’ editor Blake Morrison, three times finalist for Pulitzer investigative award, has been appointed lead trainer, and will be joined by multiple-award-winning reporter/editor Miranda Patrucic from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Henk van Ess, an expert in Open Source Investigative Journalism, among others.

As part of the school, you will learn how to dig for data, convince difficult sources to talk, transform your research into sparking prose and harness the power of videos.

Tutorial Summer School:

The training will provide a wealth of knowledge for both inexperienced and experienced investigative journalist. After training in the morning for all participants, break-out sessions in the afternoon will give you the choice to focus on certain, niche subjects. BIRN is also introducing working lunches, during which experienced investigative journalists will be on hand to impart their tricks and advise younger colleagues.

Investigative Story Fund:

The 30 reporters selected to take part, of which 20 will hail from the Balkans, will work together in groups throughout the week to develop an idea for a hard-hitting investigation, which will be presented to a panel of judges on the final day.

The three best story ideas will be awarded with funds ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 euros. Journalists will be guided by the lead trainer and BIRN’s investigative editor.

Croatian coast

Mlini is a pretty fishing village located 10 kilometres south of Dubrovnik, the so-called Pearl of the Adriatic.

It offers a quiet setting with stunning beaches and excellent seafood, while its bigger neighbour is internationally renowned for its fascinating history and breathtaking architecture.

Participants will have the chance to enjoy the idyllic surroundings while honing their investigative journalism skills.

Enroll now

Prosecutor Launches Probe after Watching BIRN TV Report

Following a report in an episode of BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ‘TV Justice’ programme, the Bosnian state prosecution opened an investigation into the rape of a 15-year-old during the war.

A state prosecutor opened an investigation into the rape of the 15-year old after watching a ‘TV Justice’ episode in which the injured party told BIRN BiH about what she had gone through in Bratunac in 1992.

In the November 2014 episode of ‘TV Justice’, the victim, who identified herself by the initials K.E., said she was taken from Srebrenica to Bratunac, as a 15-year-old, and raped several times in abandoned houses. You can watch the full story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPvPA8_UK9Y

Her emotional testimony caused the prosecutor to seek her out, initiate an investigation and, ultimately, file an indictment against Sasa Cvetkovic, whose trial at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina began on July 11.

The indictment alleges that at the beginning of June 1992, Cvetkovic hit and brutally raped K.E. in an abandoned house in Bratunac.

It further alleges that K.E. was brought, along with two other girls, to the house earlier that day from the Sase Zinc and Lead Mine, where Bosniak civilians were being held in detention.

BIRN Investigation Shortlisted for International Prize

An investigation by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has been shortlisted for the prestigious Global Shining Light Award.

The story “Making a Killing” was jointly produced with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and uncovered how billions of euros of arms from the Balkans and Eastern Europe are illegally ending up with Syrian rebels, including the Islamic State.

The award is sponsored by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, GIJN, an association of 155 non-profit organisations in 68 countries.

An international panel of judges selected the finalists from 211 projects, submitted by journalists in 67 countries.

The winners will be announced at the 2017 Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Johannesburg in November.

In an announcement, the GIJN described the 12 shorted listed stories as “extraordinary investigative projects from around the world”.

The story was produced as part of “A Paper Trail to Better Governance” project supported by the Austrian Development Agency to promote rule of law, accountability and transparency in six South-Eastern Europe countries.

Pressure Rises on Journalists in the Balkans

Weakening EU and US influence in the Balkans and increased Russian influence, as well as growing political and economic pressures on journalists, have created a harsher environment for Balkan media, BIRN’s biennial meeting heard.

At the biennial meeting of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network on Saturday, Ana Petruseva, director of BIRN Macedonia, said the situation facing the media in the Balkans “seems to be going from bad to worse”.

In addition to the usual political and financial pressures, she said, the media is seeing new types of pressure – the labelling of reporters and media outlets as spies and foreign mercenaries, as well as the opening of a large number of fake news websites.

Petruseva said the flood of fake news was “creating a media noise” in which it is becoming difficult for the public to distinguish between real and fake information, as a result of which confidence in the media in general is declining.

“People are losing trust in the media, and start to see everything as propaganda and promotion,” Petruseva said at the BIRN meeting on Saturday in Kopaonik, Serbia, referring to the new challenges facing the Balkan media.

Wolfgang Petritsch, a BIRN Board member and the president of the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation, warned the Balkan countries not to always count on EU support, as many in Brussels saw “stability as the priority” over reforms.

“The EU position has weakened owing to its internal problems. As long as it does not finish the process of internal reforms, there will be no strong EU role in the region,” he said, noting that while the promise of EU enlargement is fading, authoritarian regimes in the region are strengthening.

“Since no system has been established of how to handle enlargement, the situation will remain in the ‘twilight zone’,” Petritsch said.

Political analyst for The Economist and Balkan expert Tim Judah said the policy of “stabilitocracy”, whereby the EU and the US appear to tolerate authoritarian Balkan leaders who deliver stability, is essentially a pragmatic response.

“It means dealing with the leaders that we have, and dealing with the Balkans in the way that they are,” he said.

Judah said that while Western influence had decreased, Russian influence had grown, but that Moscow saw setbacks in recent months – giving the example of Macedonia, where Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has been ousted, and Montenegro, which joined NATO on June 5 despite Russian opposition.

“What is Russia’s interest? It is simple, they want to create within the region pro-Russian or neutral territories,” Judah said.

BIRN Board member and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe Stefan Lehne said the Balkan countries could move closer towards EU membership in different ways.

“Parallel to the very, very slow and very boring and complicated enlargement process there could be some process of horizontal enlargement. The Balkans countries should not join only country by country, but policy by policy,” Lehne said, listing Balkan countries’ participation in the Energy Community as an example of this.

BIRN board member and media expert Robert Bierman spoke of the recent experience of the media in the United States, where the administration of President Donald Trump has been targeting the press.

“Any weakness in the media will be pointed at. It doesn’t matter if two things are wrong and 98 are right, those two things become the most important in the world. It doesn’t matter that the administration is doing 98 things wrong and two things right,” Bierman said.

However, he added more optimistically that Americans appear more ready now to pay for editorial content, adding that the media are also continuing to do their job.

Before the panel, BIRN Regional Director Gordana Igric presented the results of the BIRN network’s projects in the last year, noting that the network had directly reached over five million people.

“In the past year, this number increased by over half a million people,” Igric said, adding that milestone stories had tackled such major issues as corruption, problems with public procurements and concessions. As a result of these investigations, officials have been removed and criminal charges filed.

Igric said that BIRN currently operates 16 websites in various languages, and has produced over 100 TV reports and films and held 50 training courses during the past year.

According to Igric, BIRN’s articles have been republished or cited in many respected foreign media, including The Guardian, the BBC, and Bloomberg. BIRN has also been very active in advocating the prosecution of war crimes and in participative budgeting activities.

The biennial BIRN network meeting continues until June 10 on Mount Kopaonik in Serbia.

Albania Court Hears Judge’s Lawsuit Against BIRN

Hearing started in Tirana in a case brought by Gjin Gjoni, an Appeals Court Judge, and his wife, Elona Caushi, who claim they have suffered ‘moral anguish’ from BIRN reports and are seeking compensation.

The case of Judge Gjin Gjoni and his wife against BIRN Albania and its journalists, Aleksandra Bogdani and Besar Likmeta, started in the First Instance Court of Tirana on Wednesday and in the presence of several observers from local and international organisations.

Gjoni, an Appeals Court judge and member of the High Court of Justice, and his wife, Elona Caushi, a businesswoman, claims three BIRN articles published in Reporter.al, BIRN Albania online publication, caused them anguish and are demanding 52,000 euros in compensation from both BIRN Albania as an organisation and from the journalists.

One of the articles reported on the closure of an investigation against the judge, accused by the High Inspectorate for Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflicts of Interest, of concealing wealth, falsifying official documents and money laundering.

The second one stated that the case against him has been reopened while the last showed the ten richest judges in the country based on their wealth statements – including Gjoni.

BIRN Albania stated in the court that it stands by the stories and considers the lawsuit baseless. The next hearing is scheduled for September 12.

Gjoni and his wife filed a separate lawsuit against the Tirana newspaper Shqiptarja.com and its journalists, Elton Qyno and Adriatik Doci. In this, the plaintiff seeks about 14,800 euros damages from the newspaper and 7,400 euros from each of the journalists.

The lawsuits have drawn criticism from both Albanian and international rights organisations as an attempt to intimidate journalists and to push them into self-censorship, so they drop further reporting on issues of public interest.

The European Federation of Journalists, a body representing about 320,000 journalists, called the lawsuits a “malicious use of the law”, in a press release on June 16.

EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregard said: “The European Federation of Journalists believes the malicious use of the law in this case is a mean of pressure and harassment against journalists. It seems clear that the real aim of the lawsuit is to intimidate and to silence journalists reporting on matters of public interest.”

The Union of Albanian Journalists, based in Tirana, condemned the lawsuits in an earlier press statement as “doomed to fail”.

“The Union of Albania Journalists has been informed of the judicial assault launched by the member of the High Council of Justice, Gjin Gjoni, against several journalists and respective media, under the legal claim that his image has been tainted,” the Union said in a statement.

“The Union considers this process from a controversial name as an attempt doomed to fail from the start,” it added.

Sarajevo Panel: Transitional Justice is a Global Challenge

The implementation of transitional justice mechanisms represents the only way to secure stability and respect for human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in other places around the world, concluded participants in a panel discussion held as part of the WARM Festival in Sarajevo on June 29.

The discussion on ‘Conventional and unconventional approaches to transitional justice’ dealt with lessons from the Balkan region and their implementation in areas throughout the world where attempts are being made to deal with the consequences of conflicts.

Denis Dzidic, editor at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovivna, said Bosnia’s biggest failure was in the field of compensation for victims, adding that there was also still no law governing the rights of torture victims.

“We, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region, have never gone through an institutional reform,” Dzidic said, adding that the country’s Transitional Justice Strategy was an excellent document, but it had not been implemented.

Tanya Domi of Columbia University in New York said the key issue was how to involve victims in reconciliation processes, how to give them a voice and ensure that they are satisfied with the process of justice.

Myles Wallingford of the Post-Conflict Research Center said his organisation focused on making sure that victims have access to justice and that it uses multimedia projects for memoralisation processes.

Samantha Owens of the Art Works Projects Chicago said her project attempted to expand the lessons learned in Bosnia, Congo and Columbia to the United States, where the racial gap was getting more pronounced.

Speaking on behalf of the Sarajevo Film Festival, Masa Markovic said that last year’s festival presented a programme on ‘Coming to terms with the past’.

She said she wanted films from the region that cover conflict-related topics to reach a broader audience.

BIRN – Regional Network Director

Outstanding individual sought for this exciting post, heading up the work of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Regional Network, BIRN Hub, the unique media development and human rights organisation in the Balkans. BIRN’s hard-hitting reporting and analysis has gained an unparalleled reputation in the 12 years since it was founded.

This post gives an opportunity to develop the network’s work at a time of key challenges in the Balkan region. The successful candidate will play a defining role in driving BIRN’s work over the coming years, develop and implement new strategies and extend and build partnerships across the region and internationally.

1.     WHO WE ARE?

The BIRN Network is a close-knit family of non-governmental, non-profit organisations, promoting freedom of speech, human rights and democratic values with a presence across the Balkans. Tacking key issues of the region BIRN implements a range of programmes and projects. They focus on journalist training, publishing, broadcasting, media-monitoring, advocacy and debate, working with civil society organisations and creating public archives and databases.

We have country-based organisations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia, while BIRN Hub acts as our umbrella organisation. It is a non-governmental, non-profit independent organisation registered in Bosnia and Herzegovina whose job is to act as the secretariat of BIRN’s individual country-based organisations.

Additionally, BIRN Hub manages the majority of the network’s regional programmes which are implemented in cooperation with our country-based or other organisations, journalists and consultants. The work of BIRN Hub includes capacity-building of the network, the quality control of editorial output and the management of websites at the regional level. It also includes journalist training and editorial production, implemented through several programmes.

Our network of journalists and editors also includes Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, and beyond. We have a wide media presence; online, on social media, in print, television, radio. Balkan Insight is our flagship website.

 2.     WHAT DO WE SEEK?

A BIRN Regional Director (BIRN Hub), will have the following responsibilities:

  • Ensuring fiscal and legal compliance in the work of BIRN Hub, under the respective laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Ensuring the smooth operation of all projects and programmes implemented by the network
  • Ensuring compliance with donor requirements for projects and programmes implemented by BIRN Hub as the lead partner
  • Ensuring proper and timely staffing of the organisation
  • Leading and motivating employees and effectively managing the human resources of  BIRN Hub
  • Ensuring the effective administration of BIRN Hub operations including the efficient completion of all BIRN Hub’s duties as the network’s secretariat
  • Ensuring an exchange of information and decision-making processes within and between BIRN Hub, the BIRN network, the Steering Committee and Assembly, in compliance with Network Rules and Regulations, the BIRN Network Cooperation Agreement, BIRN Hub’s Statute and all legal provisions
  • Ensure Network Rules and Regulations are implemented and the values of the network are respected and maintained throughout across the BIRN family
  • Ensuring maintenance, smooth operations and regional cooperation within the BIRN network, in compliance with the Network Rules and Regulations
  • Ensuring the BIRN network’s compliance with international standards of journalism, libel laws, professionalism and objectivity
  • Leading the BIRN network’s fundraising activities with a specific focus on regional programmes and deepening cooperation within the network, including the design of programmes and projects, representation of BIRN Network in public and donor relations
  • Represent BIRN Hub and BIRN network in public, (including events, public appearances and donor conferences,) with the aim of furthering the network’s mission

3.     WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR?

  • An excellent understanding of Balkan politics, society, and interethnic relations, plus a strong editorial background
  • Strong media development experience and knowledge of international journalistic standards
  • Commitment, drive and passion for human rights and media freedom
  • At least five years of executive experience in the non-profit sector
  • A proven track record in fundraising and an understanding donor relations unique to the non-profit sector
  • A solid understanding of financial cycles, including budget preparation, analysis, financially-informed decision-making and reporting
  • Strong organisational skills, including planning, delegating, programme development and task facilitation
  • Strong leadership and interpersonal skills and a demonstrated ability to oversee and collaborate with staff of different backgrounds
  • Public appearance, diplomacy and speaking skills and excellence in conveying messages, including the vision of BIRN’s strategic future to staff, the Board, donors and public
  • Excellent English speaking and writing skills and knowledge of at least one language of the Balkans

4.     WHAT ARE WE OFFERING?

  • An opportunity to work with a motivated, diverse team of professionals and to pursue the BIRN’s mission
  • A 4-year contract (renewable) and a competitive salary package, after a 3-month probation period
  • Working from one of our offices in the Balkans with the opportunity of frequent travel around the region

Eligible candidates are invited to send an application including a CV, motivation letter and supplementary documentation to support their candidacy to dusica@birn.eu.com, no later than August 1, 2017.

The short-listed candidates will be invited to an interview by the 15th of August 2017. The successful candidate is expected to start with the 1st of October 2017.