Kosovo Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence Grants Bursaries

Ten applicants have been granted a fellowship bursary within the framework of the Kosovo Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence Programme.

The Fellowship is a six-month opportunity for journalists to advance their skills. The programme is supported by the European Union Office in Kosovo and implemented by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Association of Kosovo Journalists.

The recipients of the bursaries will conduct research on issues such as public spending, local governance, public procurement, environment, energy, healthcare, culture, education, media financing, human rights and inter-ethnic cooperation and write an in-depth story based on their findings.

The Kosovo Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence Programme is based on the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, which has been running since 2007.

Click here to read more.

Facebook Removes Pages of Rightists Investigated by BIRN, BBC

Facebook has taken down at least 14 pages identified in a BIRN and BBC collaboration as linked to the Knights Templar International, a ‘Christian militant’ organisation active in the Balkans.

The social media giant has removed a network of pages, whose followers total millions, tied to the Knights Templar International, KTI, BIRN reported on Thursday.

KTI – which calls itself “a living shield and sword for the defence of Christian communities and the upholding of Christian principles” – has boasted about how its vast network of social media pages helped to elect Donald Trump as US President and swing the UK referendum on leaving the European Union.

The organisation has attracted controversy for its hard-line views on Muslim immigration to Europe and donation of equipment to so-called “migrant hunters” in Bulgaria and to Kosovo Serbs preparing for confrontation with Kosovo’s mainly Muslim Albanian majority.

In May this year, BIRN and the BBC published the fruits of their collaboration into the British nationalists operating in the Balkans.

BIRN’s investigation highlighted the links between British anti-immigration hardliner Jim Dowson and a web of patriotic sites, including the KTI, which are becoming increasingly active in Serbia.

The BBC produced television and radio documentaries focusing on Dowson, “the invisible man of Britain’s far right”, and his activities in Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia and Kosovo. Read it here: Is this Britain’s most influential far-right activist?

These collaborations are part of BIRN’s Paper Trail to Better Governance programme, funded by the Austrian Development Agency.

BIRN Conference Highlights War Crimes Cooperation Problems

Cooperation on war crimes cases between prosecutors’ offices in former Yugoslav countries happens rarely despite agreements between the states, said participants at a major regional conference organised by BIRN.

Regional cooperation between prosecutors’ offices in former Yugoslav countries is beset by problems, despite the protocols that states have signed agreeing to collaborate on war crimes cases, said speakers at a conference organised by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Sarajevo on Wednesday.

“The cooperation exists in theory, but it is non-existent in practice,” Aleksandar Kontic, legal officer at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals in The Hague, told the conference entitled ‘After the ICTY: Regional Cooperation, Accountability, Truth and Justice in the Former Yugoslavia’.

Kontic said that the chief prosecutor at the Hague court, Serge Brammertz, has reported countries in the region to UN Security Council on several occasions due to their non-cooperation on war crime cases.

He also suggested that part of the problem was that all countries in the region still divide suspects into two categories – “our heroes and their criminals”.

The acting chief prosecutor at the Bosnian state prosecution, Gordana Tadic, said her institution wants to improve regional cooperation because some of the suspects being sought for prosecution in Bosnia and Herzegovina are living in Serbia and Croatia.

“It is important for war crime perpetrators not to remain unpunished no matter where they are,” Tadic said.

In 2013, the prosecutor’s offices of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia signed protocols enabling the free exchange of war crime cases, investigations and case documents. Despite the fact that several cases have been exchanged and processed, very few against high-ranking suspects have been successfully transferred to neighbouring countries’ jurisdictions, while numerous suspects have never been arrested or had cases brought against them.

Jurica Ilic of the County Prosecution in Zagreb pointed out that Croatia has certain legal differences that complicate cooperation with other former Yugoslav states.

“There is a problem related to existence of different standards in individual countries, which makes it impossible to take over complete cases,” Ilic said.

Croatian law does not recognise the concept of a ‘joint criminal enterprise’, and the Croatian government has ordered the country’s Justice Ministry, when reviewing cooperation requests from Bosnia, to refuse to act on any which “violate state interests” – meaning those in which Croatia is named as a participant in a joint criminal enterprise during the Bosnian conflict.

Paul Flynn, prosecution manager at the EU’s rule-of-law mission in Kosovo, EULEX, said meanwhile that cooperation between Pristina and Belgrade on war crimes cases was almost non-existent.

“Without that, I think we shall have no justice at all,” Flynn warned.

Merita Gashi, an adviser to the Kosovo chief state prosecutor, said that Pristina and Belgrade have no legal cooperation at all because of Serbia’s refusal to recognise Kosovo’s independence.

“There are around 13,000 victims of the military conflict in Kosovo. Victims are tired of waiting. They are beginning to lose confidence,” Gashi said.

Ivan Jovanovic, an expert in international law, told the conference that former Yugoslav countries had to accelerate cooperation because as the years pass, suspects, victims and witnesses are all getting older.

“We are witnessing that victims are dying and many suspects are dying,” Jovanovic warned.

The conference continues on Thursday.

Read more:

Poor Cooperation Leaves Balkan War Crime Suspects at Large

Srebrenica Suspects Find Safe Haven in Serbia

Serbia-Kosovo Stalemate Allows Fugitives to Stay Free

BIRN Albania Holds Workshop on Organised Crime

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, in Albania held a workshop between civil society and journalists on the topic of organised crime on Tuesday.

Around 17 journalists, experts and civil society representatives, from the fields of security and organised crime, gathered in Tirana on October 2 for a workshop organised by BIRN Albania to discuss topics and strategies that investigative reporters can use in order to better report on organised crime and its role in society.

The event was part of a project called ‘Strengthening Media’s Role in the Fight Against Corruption,” financed by the Open Society Foundation in Albania. The project’s aim is to strengthen journalist’s reporting on corruption in the country through cooperation with civil society, in order to contribute to a more informed citizenry that is engaged in the democratic process.

Dalina Jashari from the Institute of Democracy and Mediation facilitated the workshop, in which participants suggested a series of key topics centred on organised crime, including the nexus between it and politics, the poor record of the justice system in enforcing extradition of drug pins wanted in the EU and money laundering, among others.

The goal of the workshop was to inform the upcoming call for investigative reporting grants on the topic of organised crime, which will be launched in the coming week by BIRN Albania. Through the call, three journalists will be selected by an independent jury and will be mentored by BIRN editors for a period of three months to produce hard-hitting investigative reports on the topic of organised crime.

After the ICTY: Regional Cooperation, Accountability, Truth and Justice in the Former Yugoslavia

Twenty years after the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and a year after the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia closed down, accountability, truth and justice still seem more like an ideal than a reality.

The conference, organised under the umbrella of BIRN’s Transitional Justice Initiative, will discuss regional cooperation in war crimes prosecution and missing persons, victims’ participation, and the role of archives, art, media and museums in dealing with the past.

Participants from civil society, the expert community, institutions, academia and the media will try to answer the overarching questions – how far we are from reconciliation, and what more we could do to combat impunity and increase intercultural dialogue?

The conference aims to have a results-oriented approach that will be reflected in a policy paper that will be used to further influence policies on both the national and EU levels with the goal of making transitional justice one of the key areas within the framework of EU negotiations.

The working languages of the conference are English, Albanian and BCS. Simultaneous translation will be provided during the whole event.

For more information about the conference, click here.

BIRN Holds Discussion with Kosovo Ombudsperson

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Centre for Advocacy Democracy and Culture, ACDC organised a discussion in Prizren, Kosovo on September 21 about the role of the Ombudsperson in dealing with issues of public interest.

The discussion’s focus was on the possibility of cooperation between the Ombudsman, civil society and the media in addressing issues of public interest, especially human rights.

The discussion was held with the support of the Dutch Embassy as part of the project ‘OmbudsWatch’, which aims to promote the role of the Ombudsperson.

Panellists and participants had the opportunity to put questions to Ombudsman Hilmi Jashari and the Dutch Ambassador, Gerrie Willems.

Willems said that this project aims to increase people’s awareness about the role of the Ombudsperson as well as increasing the interest of civil society and the media in monitoring the work of the Ombudsperson.

She added that through the implementation of the project, she hopes to improve the situation as regards human rights in Kosovo.

Hilmi Jashari said that according to a report issued by the Ombudsperson, 117,000 court cases have not yet been brought to a conclusion.

Jashari also cited delays in court proceedings for which mean that some poeple have wait eight or nine years for a court ruling.

He further criticised the way in which laws are drafted in Kosovo, citing the short period of time in which they are drafted by experts who he said did not have enough experience in the area.

Study on Rising Public Debt in Western Balkans Launched

A regional study of public debt in the Western Balkans was launched at an event in Podgorica, Montenegro on September 19.

The study is part of the Balkan Monitoring Public Finance project, a joint effort involving BIRN and nine other civil society organisations from EU accession countries in the Western Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia) and EU member states (Slovenia and Bulgaria).

It is designed to improve the accountability and transparency of public finances in the targeted countries and strengthen civil society’s role and voice in monitoring countries’ performance in this area.

The study shows that rising public debt has raised concerns about the long-term sustainability of public finances, particularly given that debt tolerance level is lower for lower-income economies.

The event in Podgorica included a discussion with representatives of the World Bank, the Montenegrin parliament, Western Balkan civil society organisations and prominent media from the region about how to jointly tackle the unsustainable levels of public debt in Western Balkans.

“Debt management activities should be audited annually by external auditors and audits of government financial statements should be conducted regularly and publicly disclosed,” argued of the authors of the study, Andreja Zivkovic from Wings of Hope in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The State Audit Office should have a legal obligation to inform and educate citizens in finance issues, about the fiscal performance of governments and state institutions and about the work of the Audit Office itself,” Zivkovic added.

Ajda Pistotnik from EnaBanda in Slovenia, another one of the authors of the study, argued that the public should be involved in discussions on the issue.

“Greater participation by citizens in affairs that directly concern them is in itself a public benefit and is a stimulus to greater transparency and accountability in public finance,” Pistotnik said.

BIRN Holds Meeting on Regional War Crimes Cooperation

After previous meetings in Zagreb and Sarajevo, BIRN organised a meeting of transitional justice stakeholders in Belgrade on September 11 to develop recommendations for improving regional cooperation in prosecuting crimes committed during the 1990s wars.

The meetings are being held as a part of BIRN’s Balkan Transitional Justice programme, bringing together representatives of war victims’ associations and the courts, as well as NGO members, humanitarian law experts and representatives of international organisations.

At the meeting in Belgrade, the participants raised various issues concerning regional cooperation in prosecuting war crimes committed during the 1990s conflicts, such as trials of defendants in their absence, the lack of cooperation between countries’ prosecutor’s offices and the lack of political will for states to fully cooperate.

As well as raising their concerns about such problems, the participants suggested possible solutions.

This input, along with input from the meetings in Zagreb and Sarajevo and the upcoming one in Pristina in September, will be formulated into recommendations.

After all four meetings with stakeholders, one final conference will be held at the regional level in Sarajevo on October 3-4.

The recommendations from the stakeholders’ meetings and the conference will be used to create a policy paper for improving regional cooperation between states in prosecuting war crimes.

BIRN Kosovo Announces Human Rights Reporting Award Competition

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Kosovo, in cooperation with The Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture, ACDC, is calling for entries for a competition to win awards for the three best journalistic pieces on TV, in print or online media in Kosovo that highlight abuses of the rights of minority communities, women’s rights and LGBT rights.

*The stories submitted for the competition must have been published, aired or broadcast in Kosovo media during the period from November 1, 2017 to August 30, 2018.

Through this initiative, BIRN and ACDC, as part of the project ‘OmbudsWatch – Promoting the Ombudsperson’s Role in Kosovo’, supported by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kosovo, believes that journalists rewarded for their successful coverage of the topics will improve further engagement with these issues in the future. The initiative is intended to boost the coverage of human rights issues and the work of the Ombudsperson, and help to set new standards for media reporting.

Stories will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Style of writing and writing skills;
  • The value of the story and the impact it has on the audience/readership;
  • Addressing the rights of minority communities, women’s rights and LGBT rights in a unique manner;
  • Degree of logistical challenges;
  • Inclusiveness of the story;
  • Available sources used in information collection;
  • In-depth reflection of the current circumstances in Kosovo with regard to the specific marginalised communities;
  • The impact the report has had after publication.

In addition to the basic criteria, the following will be taken into account for TV submissions:

  • The quality of picture and sound;
  • The quality of video and sound;
  • Technical realissation of the story.

All applications for the Human Rights Award must be received by September 23, 2018 by 00:00, via the following e-mail address: [email protected]

*Incomplete applications or applications received after the deadline will not be taken into consideration.

Any questions related to the Human Rights Award can be directed to the email address above.

Applications from qualified female and male candidates from all religious, ethnic and social backgrounds are strongly encouraged. Gender balance will be taken into account during the selection process.

The journalistic prize will be accompanied by a monetary stimulation (1st prize 800 euros, 2nd prize 600 euros and 3rd prize 400 euros) for each of the three winning stories.

The prizes will be awarded in the first week of October 2018.

The applications received will be evaluated by a professional jury composed of three members – one journalist/editor, one human rights activist and one representative of the Ombudsperson.


BIRN Kosova shpall garën për raportim në çështje të të drejtave të njeriut

Rrjeti Ballkanik i Gazetarisë Hulumtuese, BIRN Kosovë, në bashkëpunim me Qendrën e Avokimit për Kulturën Demokratike, ACDC, ka kënaqësinë të shpallë konkursin për tri storiet më të mira gazetareske të botuara në televizion, shtyp dhe online, që theksojnë abuzimet me të drejtat e komuniteteve pakicë, të drejtat e grave dhe të drejtat e LGBT.

* Storiet e paraqitura duhet të jenë të publikuar ose të transmetuar në mediat kosovare gjatë periudhës prej 1 nëntor 2017 deri më 30 gusht 2018.

Përmes kësaj iniciative, BIRN dhe ACDC, nën projektin “Ombudspersoni – Promovimi i rolit të Ombudspersonit në Kosovë”, mbështetur nga Ambasada e Holandës në Kosovë, beson se gazetarët që shpërblehen për mbulimin e suksesshëm të temave me interes do të përmirësojnë mobilizimin dhe angazhimin e mëtejshëm me këto çështje në të ardhmen. Kjo nismë shërben si mjet për të shtuar rëndësinë e mbulimit të çështjeve të të drejtave të njeriut dhe rolin e Ombudspersonit duke vendosur një standard të ri për raportimin në media.

Storiet do të vlerësohen në bazë të kritereve të mëposhtme:

  • Stili i aftësive të shkrimit;
  • Vlera e stories dhe ndikimi që ka te audienca;
  • Adresimi i të drejtave të komuniteteve pakicë, të drejtat e grave dhe të drejtat e LGBT në mënyrë unike;
  • Shkalla e sfidave logjistike;
  • Gjithëpërfshirja e tregimit;

Burimet e disponueshme që përdoren në grumbullimin e informacionit;

  • Pasqyrim i thellë i rrethanave aktuale në Kosovë në lidhje me komunitetet e margjinalizuara;
  • Ndikimi që ka pasur pas botimit.

Përveç kritereve themelore, për aplikimet televizive do të merren parasysh:

  • Cilësia e figurës dhe zërit;
  • Cilësia e videos dhe zërit;
  • Realizimi teknik i stories.

Të gjitha aplikacionet për Çmimin e të Drejtave të Njeriut, në kuadër të projektit “Projekti i Ombudspersonit për Promovimin e Ombudspersonit në Kosovë”, do të pranohen deri më 23 Shtator 2018, deri në 00:00, në e-mail adresën: [email protected]

* Aplikimet e jo të plota ose aplikimet e pranuara pas afatit kohor nuk do të merren në konsideratë.

Çdo pyetje që ka të bëjë me Çmimin për të Drejtat e Njeriut mund të drejtohet në e-mail adresën e përmendur më lart.

Aplikacionet nga kandidatët e kualifikuar nga të gjitha përkatësitë fetare, etnike dhe sociale inkurajohen fuqishëm. Balanca gjinore do të merret parasysh gjatë procesit të përzgjedhjes.

Çmimi gazetaresk do të shoqërohet me stimulim monetar (Çmimi i parë 800 euro; Çmimi i dytë 600 euro dhe Çmimi i tretë 400 euro) për secilën nga tri storiet fituese.

Çmimet do të jepen në javën e parë të tetorit 2018.

Aplikacionet e pranuara do të vlerësohen nga një juri profesionale e përbërë nga 3 anëtarë, nga të cilët do të ketë një gazetar/redaktor, një aktivist për të drejtat e njeriut si dhe një përfaqësues nga Ombudspersoni.


BIRN Kosovo otvorio je nagradni konkurs za izveštavanje o ljudskim pravima

Balkanska istraživačka mreža, BIRN Kosovo, u saradnji sa Centrom za zastupanje demokratske kulture, ACDC, objavljuje Konkurs za tri najbolja novinarska rada objavljena na  televiziji, u štampanim i online medijima, kojima se naglašavaju zloupotrebe prava manjinskih zajednica, prava žena i prava LGBT osoba.

* Prijavljeni radovi treba da su objavljeni ili emitovani u kosovskim medijima u periodu od 1. novembra 2017. do 30. avgusta 2018.

Ovom inicijativom BIRN i ACDC, u okviru projekta “OmbudsNadzor – Promovisanje uloge Zaštitnika građana na Kosovu”, uz podršku Ambasade Holandije na Kosovu, žele da doprinesu daljem novinarskom angažovanju  na ovim pitanjima. Ova inicijativa ima za cilj da unapredi izveštavanje o pitanjima ljudskih prava i rad Zaštitnika građana.

Priče će se ocenjivati na osnovu sledećih kriterijuma:

  • Stil pisanja i veštine pisanja;
  • Vrednost priče i njen uticaj na publiku;
  • Obrada prava manjinskih zajednica, prava žena i prava LGBT na jedinstven način;
  • Stepen logističkih izazova;
  • Inkluzivnost priče;
  • Raspoloživi izvori koji su korišćeni pri prikupljanju informacija;
  • Detaljno odražavanje trenutnih okolnosti na Kosovu u odnosu na date marginalizovane zajednice;
  • Uticaj koji je zabeležen na kraju nakon objavljivanja.

Pored osnovnih kriterijuma, za podnete TV priloge će se uzimati u obzir i:

  • Kvalitet slike i zvuka;
  • Kvalitet videa i zvuka;
  • Tehnička realizacija priče.

Sve prijave za Nagradu za ljudska prava moraju biti primljene do 23. septembra 2018. do ponoći na e-mail adresi: [email protected]

Nepotpune prijave ili prijave primljene nakon roka neće biti uzete u obzir.

Sva pitanja o Nagradi mogu se uputiti na gore navedenu e-mail adresu.

Snažno se ohrabruju prijave kvalifikovanih kandidata žena i muškaraca iz svih verskih, etničkih i socijalnih sredina. Rodni balans će biti uzet u obzir tokom izbornog procesa.

Novinarska nagrada će imati i novčani deo (1. nagrada 800 evra, 2. nagrada 600 evra i 3. nagrada 400 evra) za svaku od tri pobedničke priče.

Nagrade će biti uručene prve nedelje oktobra 2018.

Primljene prijave će ocenjivati stručni žiri sastavljen od tri člana: novinar/ka ili urednik/ca, aktivista ili aktivistkinja za ljudska prava, kao i jedan predstavnik ili predstavnica kancelarije Zaštitnika građana.

BIRN Journalists Trained in Data-Driven Reporting

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held a three-day training course on data-driven journalism for the network’s journalists across the region from September 6-9 in Tirana.

Seventeen reporters and editors from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia participated in the training, led by Lawrence Marzouk and Crina Boros. Marzouk and Boros are authors of the recently-published BIRN Albania guide, ‘Getting Started in Data Journalism’, which aims to introduce journalists to data-driven reporting techniques that are essential fror contemporary investigative journalism.

As an editor for BIRN, Marzouk leads a cross-border team of journalists, sending huge volumes of freedom of information requests, scraping data and using traditional reporting methods to delve into high-level corruption in the Balkans and beyond.

Boros is an intrepid investigative journalist who reports on conflicts of interest, vulnerable groups, problematic policies and the use of public funds.

The three-day training course gave the journalists an intensive introduction to data journalism, which ranged from its definition to the location of credible sources of data, the mining of data, open data, wall gardens and the databases that hold information that is most valuable to investigative reporters.

Boros also held a crash course in Excel sheets and descriptive statistics as a powerful tool for data reporters, with added real-world exercises using trade and airline industry data.

A special session was held by Boros on Pivot Tables and how they can analyse big data sources.