BIRN film shows in New York and Washington

Gordana Igric , BIRN Regional Network Director, Jeta Xharra BIRN Kosovo Director and Nerma Jelacic, BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina Director will attend the screening of “Does Anyone Have a Plan?”, BIRN’s documentary on Kosovo status issues in New York and Washington.

Produced by BIRN and directed by the award-winning filmmaker Lode Desmet, this documentary focuses on the dilemmas facing 17 ordinary people from Kosovo, Serbia and neighboring countries in the run-up to final status negotiations.

The screening at Harriman Institute at Columbia University in New York is scheduled for October 23, at 6.30 pm and will be followed by a debate.

The showing at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington is to take place on October 27 at 12.30 pm, and will be followed by a panel discussion.

BIRN Romania workshop on ethic issues

Marian Chiriac, BIRN Romania Director, held a workshop on Reporting
Ethnic Diversity on October 21-22 in Miercurea Ciuc (central Romania).

In the workshop, Chiriac introduced trainees to news, news analysis and feature writing, and how to avoid ethnic stereotypes.

He presented them with the a Guide for Fair Reporting on Ethnic Issues. The workshop was part of a three-month programme organised by BIRN Romania and Freedom House, designed to redress the negative representation of the Roma minority in the Romanian mainstream media.

The programme is funded by Romanian National Agency for Roma People, ANR.

Twenty Regional Journalists Trained at Palic

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 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,, 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.

BIRN BiH director at judicial summer school

BIRN BiH director, Nerma Jelacic, spoke at a regional summer school on Transitional Justice for the judiciary on August 27 in Igalo, Montenegro. The event was organised by UNDP’s regional Transitional Justice Programme and included two seven-day training sessions for parliamentarians and the judicial representatives of the region. Jelacic spoke on the complimentarity of truth commissions and criminal justice systems in the region.

Other speakers included Sinisa Vazic, president of the War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade District Court and president of Belgrade District Court, Meddzida Kreso, president of the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Dejan Anastasijevic, a journalist from Vreme magazine.

An abridged version of Jelacic’s talk is on BIRN’s website . To find out more about BIRN’s Justice Programme, contact Nerma Jelacic at [email protected]

New BIRN web sites set for launch this autumn

BIRN is preparing to launch a new network of web sites in September. It will include a new regional portal, a BIRN Kosovo web site, which will host its TV debates amongst other topics, and BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina Justice’s Report.

The programming and designing of the network is the work of Media on Web, MOW, a project established by the Development Loan Fund and the Swedish Helsinki Committee with a view to supporting media development in the western Balkans. After the launch, MOW will work on other BIRN web sites that will host BIRN’s online publication, Balkan Insight, and newsletters that BIRN plans to launch on a partly commercial basis.

BIRN condemns killing of investigative journalist

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, wishes to add its own expression of shock and deep regret to the widespread expressions of outrage that have greeted the news of the killing of Anna Politkovskaya, one of Russia’s most outstanding investigative journalists.

As an organisation founded to promote investigative journalism and – above all – to uphold the wider principle of journalistic freedom – we saw Anna Politkovskaya as an outstanding model. Her extraordinary integrity and bravery were an inspiration to the whole profession.

Her assassination can accordingly be seen only as an attack on
investigative journalism and on freedom of information in general.

Some members of this organisation were privileged to meet
Politkovskaya in person, most recently at Summer school of investigatove Journalism organised by the Center for Investigative Jorunalism in London.

BIRN strongly condemns this murder and adds its voice to all those calling on the Russian authorities to carry out an urgent and intensive investigation of the matter.

Fresh start in Albania

BIRN Network is preparing to enlarge the group of current investigative
teams across the Balkans with journalists and trainees from Albania.

The selection of the journalists is going on for the first training session in Tirana in the beginning of October, which will be run by Gordana Igric, Regional Network Director.

Igric will introduce the selected journalists to BIRN’s house style, international standards of journalism, libel law and writing features and news analysis. As a result, Balkan Insight will publish a special issue by these Albanian journalists, highlighting political and economic developments in this under-reported country. For further information, contact Gordana Igric on [email protected]

Balkan Insight To Expand in Croatia

Balkan Insight is set to increase coverage of Croatia and the EU
integration process now that BIRN’s former regional network director,
Anna McTaggart, has began a new position in Zagreb, building a team of
contributors. “ Croatia’s development is key to the region, not least
because it is closest to EU membership,” said McTaggart. Croatian
journalists interested in participating in the project should contact
[email protected]

Belgrade Training Workshop for Kosovo Journalists

BIRN Serbia organised two-day editorial workshop for Serb and Bosniak journalists living in Kosovo on August 27 and 28.

The workshop, part of Minority Training and Reporting Project funded by British Embassy in Belgrade, will be followed by a special issue of Balkan Insight dedicated to Kosovo’s minorities.

The trainees worked with Gordana Igric, editor-in-chief and BIRN regional director, and Dragana Nikolic Solomon, BIRN Serbia director. Krenar Gashi, BIRN Kosovo assistant editor, also assisted in training process.

The trainees were given advice on writing news analysis and features and they received feedback on the articles they produced in the first round of training.

Following a lively discussion about the political situation in Kosovo and the major issues affecting Serb and Bosniak communities there, BIRN editors and journalists were able to identify topics for Balkan Insight articles and develop their structure and focus.

Around seven articles and an investigation will be published as part of a special issue for Balkan Insight in September.

Following publication of the special issue, BIRN trainees will have an opportunity to spend a week working in major Belgrade media outlets, in order to expand their contacts and receive practical journalistic experience.

The journalists will have a choice of working on either RTV B92 or the newspapers Blic daily, Vreme weekly and Danas.

Arsenije Dunic, young journalist from the Goradzevac enclave, said he enjoyed the practical nature of the training, “This kind of training is very useful to me, since it is concrete and can be immediately implemented in every day work. This training is also helpful since there is little theory and the focus is on journalistic practice.”

Investigative journalism talk at City University

Gordana Igric, BIRN Regional Director, lectured about the challenges of investigative journalism in the City University in London on 22 July.

Igric focused on how to report particularly in cases of grave human rights violations such as rape, war crimes, torture and ethnic cleansing.

An audience of 70 students was shown Igric’s investigative report in which she went to Foca to look for and find the war crimes suspect living freely in the Bosnian town, where he had raped and enslaved many Bosnian Muslim women during the conflict.

In the award-winning TV report, shot in 1997, Igric is seen knocking on doors in Foca apartment blocks until she finds the suspected criminal, who many women victims had named, and whose confession to some of the crimes was shot with a secret camera.

When Gavin MacFadyen, Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, spoke about covert reporting, he said: “Being this direct with war criminals as Igric was on the film, asking them how many people they killed, is extremely brave – I would never dare to do that.”

The session, which was followed by talks from Anna Politkovskaia, a Russian journalist working in human rights violations in Chechnya, and Alfred McCoy, a historian who spoke on reporting about torture and its definitions through different conflicts in history.

Ana Petruseva, from BIRN Macedonia and Jeta Xharra, Krenar Gashi and Casey Cooper Johnson from BIRN Kosovo, attended the training.

The investigative journalism summer school was organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism.

For more information on the topics covered during the training go to link..