Herceg Novi to Host BIRN’s Investigative Journalism School

Herceg Novi and its stunning coastline will be the setting for the BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting in 2019.

The school brings together some of the world’s best journalists and trainers for six-days in the Bay of Kotor, known as the southern-most fjord in Europe.

Between August 18 and 25, reporters will have the opportunities to learn cutting-edge investigation skills while enjoying the delights of Adriatic Sea.

Successful applicants will be provided with excellent possibilities for networking – and the possibility of getting a grant for a story idea.

The lead trainer on the course in Montenegro is one of the best investigative editors in the US, Reuters’ Blake Morrison, a three-times finalist for the Pulitzer investigative award.

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.

Who the Summer School is for:

The training course is suitable for both investigative journalists with a few years’ experience as well as those who are more skilled.

We encourage application from experienced journalists that want to learn new trends and work with a new generation of reporters, as well as editors interested in encouraging investigative reporting in their media outlets.

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 and editorial support. 

Montenegrin coast:

Known as the southern-most fjord in Europe, the Bay of Kotor boasts a landscape that you won’t easily forget. The Iberostar Herceg Novi hotel is at the entrance to the bay, surrounded by forested mountains and a crystal blue sea, to which you have direct access.

On the opposite side of the bay you can admire Herceg Novi, the city that gives its name to the hotel and that has a history dating back over six centuries.

In a secluded location away from the hustle and bustle but well connected with the airports of Dubrovnik (26km) and Tivat (30km), the hotel is just a few kilometres from the popular tourist spots such as Kotor, Perast and Herceg Novi.

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

Apply here!

BIRN Serbia Journalists up for Annual Investigative Award

A series of articles by BIRN Serbia reporters, investigating illegal construction at Mt Golija and the illegal engagement of ruling party officials at the Cuprija Medical School, have been nominated for the annual Prize for Investigative Journalism.

Jelena Veljkovic and Ana Curic were nominated for the annual investigative journalism award in the category of online media.

The awards are given out by the Independent Association of Journalists in Serbia with the support of the US embassy in Belgrade.

Veljkovic has been nominated for the series of research articles on the illegal construction on Mt Golija, behind which stands Zarko Veselinovic, brother of the controversial businessman from northern Kosovo, Zvonko Veselinovic.

Curic was nominated for the series of articles on the illegal engagement of Serbian Progressive Party officials at the Medical School in Cuprija.

Apart from BIRN, in the category of online media, the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network and the portal Juzne vesti are also on the shortlist.

The awards ceremony will be held on May 7 at 6pm at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade.

BIRN Serbia and Partners Launch ‘Dr Spin’ Campaign

BIRN Serbia, the Slavko Curuvija Foundation and the Independent Journalism Association of Serbia (IJAS) have launched the ‘Dr Spin’ campaign on control of the media in Serbia as part of ‘Public Money for Public Interest’ project.

‘Dr Spin’ is a series of ten animated episodes that give the answer to an important question – what does every dictator need to know if he or she wants to suppress the freedom of the media?

In the first ‘lesson’, the character of Dr Spin, who was created by Ilir Gasi, explains why it’s better to have subservient rather than independent media.

New episodes will be posted online every Tuesday on Dr Spin’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.

The episodes will also be broadcast on cable TV N1, as well as on local RTV Sabac and TV Forum from Prijepolje.

BFJE Fellows Selected for 2019

Ten journalists from across southeast Europe have been chosen for this year’s Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence. Over coming months, they will tackle in-depth features and investigations on the topic of FREEDOM.

Now in its 13th year, the BFJE programme gives mid-career journalists the funding and editorial support to dig into complex issues of local and international significance.

This year’s participants were competitively selected from more than 80 applications. An independent committee comprising seven senior European media figures evaluated proposals based on relevance, feasibility and originality, as well as candidates’ professional qualifications and motivation.

The journalists come from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.

The fellowship programme will kick off with an introductory seminar in Belgrade in late April. In addition to receiving funds for research, the journalists will get mentoring from seasoned international editors as they conduct reporting trips to countries in the region and the European Union. The programme will conclude in December with an award ceremony.

Here are the fellows for 2019:

  1. Angel Petrov (Bulgaria)
  2. Ani Sandu (Romania)
  3. Dina Djordjevic (Serbia)
  4. Jelena Prtoric (Croatia)
  5. Katerina Topalova-Dejanovska (North Macedonia)
  6. Kostas Zafeiropoulos (Greece)
  7. Milena Mitrovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
  8. Stavros Malichudis (Greece)
  9. Shkumbin Ahmetxhekaj (Kosovo)
  10. Vedrana Simicevic (Croatia)

BIRN Serbia Holds Training for Online Journalists and Editors

BIRN Serbia organised a two-day training course on media and security in the digital environment for online journalists and editors on April 1 and 2 in Belgrade.

Participants learned how to overcome security challenges and risks, and got introduced to digital tools that can help them in their work.

During the first day, Bojan Elek from the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy presented information on the security situation in Serbia, as well as potential sources for researching security which could be helpful to journalists.

After that, Drew Sullivan and Pavla Holcova from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project shared tips and tricks on how to evaluate and overcome the security risks that journalists face.

On the second day, Andy Black, a digital specialist, gave insights into how online media can survive in the digital jungle.

He presented to journalists and editors a series of digital tools to help them listen to and improve communication with their audience, as well as to raise the visibility of their content.

BIRN Albania Wins Award for Investigative Journalism

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania was given the White Dove award by Partners Albania for Change and Development for its investigative reporting.

The award was presented to BIRN Albania at a ceremony on April 2 by Partners Albania for Change and Development, a domestic organisation focused on strengthening democracy and democratic development.

Partners Albania gave BIRN the award “for the civil courage, professionalism and objectivity shown with investigative reports with a wide public impact”.

At the award ceremony, BIRN Albania executive director, Kristina Voko, thanked Partners Albania for the award, which she dedicated to BIRN’s staff and the many journalists with which the organisation works.

“This award would not be possible without the tireless work of our staff journalists and local reporters and the close cooperation between journalists and civil society,” Voko said.

Apart from BIRN, the Albanian Institute of Science, AIS, and the environmental organization Eco Albania were also recognised for their positive impact on democracy and transparency in the country.

BIRN-Supported Journalist Wins Whistleblower Award

Investigative journalist Klodiana Lala was given the Free Speech Award by the South East Europe Coalition of Whistleblower Protection on March 22 for a story she produced using a BIRN reporting grant.

“Klodiana Lala revealed in January that a political party has manipulated the 2017 parliamentary elections in cooperation with organized crime groups, threatening voters and promising illegal gains,” said Mark Worth, executive director of the European Center for the Rights of Whistleblowers, while presenting the prize.

“Her investigations for BIRN have revealed wiretaps of high level officials and former MPs involved in vote buying, corruption and criminal activities,” Worth added.

A journalist for Albania’s News 24, Lala was the recipient of a grant and mentorship from BIRN Albania editors, as part of an open call for stories on organised crime. She was part of a group of more than 30 journalists supported by BIRN Albania in 2018 with reporting grants.

As part of the call, Lala produced an investigation on the nexus between organised crime, local politicians and election fraud, published by BIRN Albania’s online publication reporter.al with a TV version broadcast VOA Albanian language.

Lala has reported on organised crime and justice for more than a decade. In August 2018, the home of her parents in Tirana was sprayed with bullets by an unidentified assailant. The attack was condemned by human rights organisations and politicians, but the culprits have yet to be identified.

BIRN Serbia and Partners Start Civil Society Advocates Project

New project aims to strengthen a participatory culture in Serbia and empower civil society groups to get people more involved in advocacy work.

BIRN Serbia and its partners are starting a new three-year project, Civil Society Advocates: Through Partnership Towards Democratic Development in Serbia, which aims to to strengthen a participatory political culture in Serbia and credible democratic processes.

The project will be implemented by BIRN Serbia in partnership with Belgrade Open School (BOS) and the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE). It will be supported by USAID.

The project is designed to address the lack of capacities in civil society organizations, CSOs, to undertake successful advocacy efforts, their lack of cooperation with public authorities at all levels, and citizens’ lack of motivation to join and trust CSO advocacy actions.

The initiative is intended to support CSOs in Serbia to test, evaluate and scale their advocacy initiatives in a more strategic way.

By building skills, encouraging citizens’ engagement and improving advocacy programs, the project hopes to contribute to the strengthening of a democratic society.

At the moment there is an open call for CSOs in Serbia to be part of the project and get project support from BIRN, BOS and BFP.

Find out more about this open call on the project website: https://javnozagovaranje.bos.rs/

BIRN Publishes Radovan Karadzic Trial E-Book

Ahead of the former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic’s war crimes verdict this week, BIRN has compiled all its reports on the landmark case into a free, downloadable e-book.

BIRN published a new e-book on Tuesday entitled ‘Radovan Karadzic: Wartime Leader’s Years on Trial’, ahead of the former Bosnian Serb wartime president’s final trial verdict on March 20.

The e-book, which is downloadable free of charge, contains all BIRN’s reports on the case, from the period when Karadzic was on the run to when he was caught and extradited, and throughout the whole of the trial that followed.

Published in English and in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, it includes over 570 articles and runs to more than 1,100 pages.

This is the third e-book published by BIRN. The first was an in-depth e-book containing reports and analyses about the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, while the second one was a compilation of reports on Ratko Mladic’s trial.

Karadzic’s trial began in 2009, lasted for 499 days and heard 586 witnesses.

He was initially indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in 1995. He then spent 12 years on the run, and was finally arrested in Belgrade in 2008 and extradited to the UN tribunal.

The first-instance verdict in 2016 found him guilty of the Srebrenica genocide, the persecution and extermination of Croats and Bosniaks from 20 municipalities across Bosnia and Herzegovina, and being a part of a joint criminal enterprise to terrorise the civilian population of Sarajevo during the siege of the city. He was also found guilty of taking UN peacekeepers hostage.

To download the e-book, click here.

Source: Balkan Insight

BIRN and D+ Publish Report on Kosovo Tax Administration

BIRN Kosovo and Democracy Plus, D+, with the support of the British Embassy, organised a roundtable discussion on March 11 to talk about their newly-published Monitoring Report on the Integrity of Kosovo’s Tax Administration, TAK.

At the discussion, findings from work carried out between September 2018 to February 2019 were published – a seven-month period of direct monitoring. This is among the first reports of its kind to be produced and published by local NGOs.

Download report in PDF

The monitoring was launched as a result of the reported low level of confidence that citizens have in TAK, and their perceptions about the level of corruption in the institution.

The aim of the report was to identify the ‘black holes’ in the process and raise red flags about the need for improvements in the standards, procedures and legal bases which enable and improve integrity within TAK.

Kreshnik Gashi, managing editor at BIRN’s Kallxo.com site, and Visar Rushiti, Policy Analyst at Democracy Plus, presented the findings of the monitoring report.

“This is one of the first reports produced by civil society on this topic and which looks into what is happening in TAK in depth,” said Gashi.

Thomas Adams, the deputy head of the British Embassy in Kosovo, said that the United Kingdom would support the findings and the recommendations of the report published by BIRN and D+.

The report concluded that TAK must seriously engage in improving the overall situation at the institution. Among the 15 recommendations made, BIRN and D+ suggested improvements to the Disciplinary Commission of TAK, the efficiency of its staff and resources, and for tax inspectors to be included among the public officials required to declare their assets.

The director of the Kosovo Tax Administration, Ilir Murtezaj, said that the institution will try to make changes according to the issues raised in the monitoring report.

“We will try to address the findings and recommendations of the report and implement them to the fullest possible level. We have implemented some of the findings that are in the report, such as the creation of a Disciplinary Commission,” said Murtezaj.

The discussion was attended by Kosovo Finance Minister Bedri Hamza and  Afrim Atashi, the director of the Corruption Prevention Department at the Anti-Corruption Agency, as well as representatives of NGOs and relevant institutions.

Download report in PDF