First TV Debate aired

BIRN Kosovo aired the first in its series of TV debates, “Life in Kosovo,” on October 19 on the public service station RTK.

Four politicians from different parties were invited to debate and answer citizens’ questions on final-status negotiations for the province in light of the recent report on standards by the UN special envoy Kai Eide.

They were Lutfi Haziri, minister for local government, Enver Hoxhaj, of the Democratic Party of Kosovo’s parliamentary caucus, Teuta Sahatcija, head of the ORA party parliamentary group, and Oliver Ivanovic, leader of the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija.

BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra, chaired the debate in which question were put to the guests in the form of short reportages by various concerned citizens. The next debate in the series will be aired on 9 November, and will look into the issue of Kosovar identity.

This project is supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy. For further information, contact BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra.

Training course gets underway

IRN Macedonian started its International Standards Reporting course in Skopje on October 17 with six trainees who were selected after testing.

This course, run along the same lines as previous BIRN courses in Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina combines theoretical teaching with practical training.

Trainees’ work will be published on BIRN’s website, for local and international dissemination, while successful trainees will have an opportunity to become permanent members of BIRN’s investigative teams.

For more information, contact BIRN Macedonia Director Ana Petruseva.

War Crimes Debate in Brcko District

BIRN BiH’s series of Transitional Justice events for civil society leaders continued last week with a round-table debate in Brcko on October 29.

Designed to stimulate dialogue between the new War Crimes Chamber and the public, the event brought together more than 40 representatives of non-governmental organisations, local government, victims associations and lawyers from BiH’s north-east.

The Transitional Justice project is supported by the Swiss embassy in Sarajevo with the assistance of the Office of the Registrar and Prosecution within the State Court of BiH. For more information, please contact Nerma Jelacic.

War Crimes Conference

BIRN BiH is organising a conference on November 10 entitled “In Pursuit of Justice: An overview of progress in the transitional justice system of BiH”.

The conference is the concluding part of the 2005 Transitional Justice Project, run by BIRN to prepare the media and civil society sector in BiH for the start of trials at the State Court of BiH and the transfer of cases from the Hague tribunal, ICTY, to Sarajevo.

Speakers include Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor of the ICTY, Medzida Kreso, president of the State Court of BiH, Marinko Jurcevic, BiH chief prosecutor, Slobodan Kovac, BiH Minister of Justice, Michael Johnson, chief registrar at the State Court and Nicholas Koumjian, special adviser to the BiH chief prosecutor.

The event, sponsored by the Swiss Embassy in Sarajevo, will take place on November 10 at the Sarajevo Holiday Inn hotel. For more information, contact BIRN’s office in Sarajevo on 033 444 951 or e-mail Nerma Jelacic.

Work on regional TV documentary on Kosovo continues

Work continues on BIRN’s documentary film project, which explores the regional context for, and consequences of, determining Kosovo’s final status.

Over the past four weeks, producer Lode Desmet has worked with BIRN country directors in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo itself in filming, research and interviewing.

Interviews have been conducted with a range of stakeholders in Kosovo’s forthcoming talks. They include Adnan Terzic, the Bosnian Prime minister, Dragan Cavic, President of the Republika Srpska, Sali Berisha, Albania’s Prime Minister, Edi Rama, mayor of Tirana, leading Macedonian Albanian politicians Arber Xhafferi and Teuta Arifi, and Artemija, Serbian Orthodox Bishop of Raska-Prizren.

For more information, please contact Anna McTaggart.

BIRN at investigative journalism conference in Budapest

BIRN was a guest at a regional investigative journalism conference in Budapest on 27-30 October.

The event, “Investigative Reporting in East and Central Europe,” organised by the Danish organisation Scoop and the Hungarian Centre for Independent Journalism, gathered more than 50 journalists from the Balkans, Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to discuss the role of journalism in fighting corruption and the future of investigative reporting in the region.

For more information, please contact Anna McTaggat.

Balkan Insight findings confirmed

The findings of a major investigative report in the September 30 launch issue of Balkan Insight received important confirmation last week, as an official investigation began into six employees of the Serbian interior ministry and three former policemen.

The nine men, taken into custody on October 26, are accused of committing war crimes in Suva Reka, Kosovo, in 1999.

The original article in Balkan Insight, which had predicted this breakthrough, was widely republished in newspapers and news agencies throughout Kosovo, Macedonia and Romania, both when it first came out, and later, in the aftermath of the arrests.

For more information, see reports:
Trial threat hangs over Suva Reka suspects, 28 October 2005
Net closes on alleged Suva Reka killers, 30 September 2005

or contact Gordana Igric.

BIRN Serbia and Montenegro and TV B92 cooperate in supporting minority journalism

To compliment BIRN SaM’s Minority Training and Reporting Project, TV
B92 will host journalists who have undergone BIRN training, with a view
to providing them with further work experience and enhancing minority and
provincial perspectives in national broadcasting.

To date, two trainees from South Serbia’s RTV Presevo, Faruk Daliu
and Ivica Stepanovic, have benefited from this opportunity, producing a
news report on the basis of the Balkan Insight article Serbs Sell up in
Presevo
, BI No.9, 16 November
2005.

Faruk Daliu said of his experience, “BIRN has given me an opportunity
to learn how my favourite TV station functions. It was very useful to get
the chance to learn techniques from its news section through working directly
with its journalists”.

This project is supported by the British Embassy in Belgrade. For more information,
contact BIRN SaM Director Dragana Nikolic-Solomon.

BIRN Kosovo TV Debate Opens Oxford University Seminar

A discussion on Kosovo’s future at St Antony’s College, Oxford University, opened on 8 December with a screening of the first debate in BIRN’s “Life in Kosovo” TV series, in which a number of high profile politicians answered citizens’ questions on final status negotiations.

Dr Richard Caplan, Lecturer and Official Fellow at the university’s Department of Politics and International Relations wrote to BIRN that:

“There happened to be a delegation of some 25 deputy permanent representatives to the EU visiting Oxford and they watched the debate and took part in the discussion that followed. Many of them commented on how impressed they were with BIRN’s high level of journalistic
professionalism.”

The “Life in Kosovo” debate series, aired bi-weekly on RTK and sponsored by the Balkan Trust for Democracy, aim to open up a discussion on taboo issues in Kosovan society, such as the question of Kosovan nationality versus Albanian ethnicity, the existence of party-affiliated intelligence structures and the presence of corruption and nepotism in public institutions.

For more information, contact BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra.

BIRN Bulgaria Trains Journalists on EU Integration

BIRN Bulgaria Director Albena Shkodrova was a guest speaker at a course
held in Sofia at the end of November, entitled "European Integration
of the Balkan (SEE) States and the Media".

Nine young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia,
Moldova, Montenegro and Romania attended the training course organised by
the Centre for Independent Journalism-Sofia and Southeast European Network
for Professionalisation of the Media.

Shkodrova spoke on practical approaches to investigative journalism and
writing about European integration, drawing on BIRN’s expertise in
cross-regional investigations, in-depth analysis and reporting sensitive
intra-ethnic issues.

For more information on BIRN Bulgaria’s activities, contact Director
Albena Shkodrova.