Journalists from across the Balkan region attended a BIRN-organised investigative journalism training seminar at Lake Palic between August 21 -24.
The purpose of the training was both to introduce the journalists to theoretical aspects of investigative journalism and writing of analyses and to provide them with the practical tools needed for such work. The journalists, the staff members of BIRN, and the trainers had a chance to share their ideas, learn from each other and discuss potential future articles during the formal and informal parts of the training.
The Director of BIRN Serbia Dragana Nikolic Solomon presented the participants with BIRN’s house style, underlining both international journalistic standards of objectivity, balance and clarity.
Vlad Telibasa, an investigative reporter for the Romanian HotNews.ro online publication, said “I think the training regarding BIRN’s style of writing was very good. It really opened my eyes.”
BIRN’s regional director Gordana Igric highlighted the difference between analyses and investigative reports.
Gavin Mac Fadyen, Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism in London, explained the importance of libel law and outlined ways of acquiring conventional and unconventional evidence, using his own experiences to illustrate the points he made.
Following this presentation and a discussion with participants, he noted, “Particularly regarding investigations, I was impressed that people were able to do the work they do without the advantages we have in America.”
Paul Radu from the Romanian Centre for Investigative Research impressed the participants with a presentation on computer-assisted research, detailing a range of useful databases and other software useful for unearthing valuable and reliable information.
The second day of the training was devoted to workshops on a series of topics.
The first was devoted to business journalism in the Balkans and was led by Eric Jansson, a freelance journalist and former Belgrade correspondent for the Financial Times. The event featured a discussion with a panel of business leaders, including a business lawyer and a representative of an international company with an office in Belgrade.
They all underlined the importance for business journalists to understand their topics well, so as to avoid sensationalism and speculative assessments of markets.
Erol Mujanovic, an independent consultant for the International Republican Institute, said “This workshop allowed me to get to know what business people are expecting from journalists in terms of analysis.”
The second workshop focused on regional justice and was led by BIRN Bosnia’s Country Director Nerma Jelacic, along with court reporter Nidzara Ahmetasevic. They concentrated on war crimes trials in Bosnia and Herzegovina, explaining the various stages of trials.
The third, led by Gavin MacFadyen, invited the participants to investigate a hypothetical crime, with the aim of helping to develop their own investigative skills.
“The training was useful for me mainly because it was well balanced between the theoretical and practical aspects of how an investigation gets done, said Boryana Dzambazova, Mediapool.bg, Bulgaria
The training was concluded with a session in which participants and BIRN staff discussed ideas for future Balkan Insight articles.
A common thread running through participants’ impressions of the training was that it provided them with useful advice and skills and also enabled them to talk to other participants, trainers and BIRN staff.
“The workshop invigorated my passion for the region and my desire to report about it. It was great to see peers in the Balkans swarming with ideas and willing to produce good stories. There was a good array of speakers of different backgrounds.” Altin Raxhimi, freelance journalist, Albania
The program is supported by the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Balkan Trust for Democracy and the Rockefeller Brothers foundation.