Going Public About Corruption: Investigating Abuses of Funds and Positions

BIRN Serbia

Summary

The high level of corruption in Serbia is hampering implementation of necessary social reforms while traditional media are failing to adequately report about it, especially about corruption coming from the centers of political power.

In response to this situation, BIRN Serbia is conducting a project that contributes to anti-corruption efforts in Serbian society and reaffirming the role of media in putting limitations on corruption by exposing and opening up a wide-ranging public debate about the misuse of public funds or positions.

Donor: National Endowment for Democracy

Information Sheet

Main Objective:

To contribute to anti-corruption efforts by publicly exposing cases of corruption, abuse of public funds or posts, obstacles to access to justice which distort the application of the rule of law.

Specific Objectives:

  • The project will make an impact on current state of affairs by addressing the deficit of quality reporting about corruption, and at the same time broaden public support for investigative reporting.
  • The project will rely mostly on Internet-based resources as this is one of the forums for public debate and social interaction that is not strictly controlled by the government in power. Internet platforms are also convenient for presentation of large data sets, as BIRN investigations rely on vast research and numerous pieces of data and documents that validate the stories.
  • The project will apply a cross-sector approach, concentrating primarily on issues related to public spending and management of public resources in the judiciary system and in large state infrastructure projects. In this way the project will increase transparency and tackle some of the most opaque state-run sectors which show the least potential for reform and the largest potential for corruption.
  • The judiciary system is going through various reforms and is still largely influenced by executive powers, while national infrastructure projects are one of the most expensive endeavors to be implemented without any public insight. The project will demonstrate the practical application of data-driven journalism, which helps present complex stories based on numerous documents, pieces of data and sources to a large audience in a comprehensive way, utilizing online data visualization tools and a multimedia approach.

Main Activities:

  • journalistic production
  • creation/update of databases
  • promotion and raising awareness

Target Groups:

  • public administration
  • media, journalists, media organizations
  • the broader public

Highlights:

4 investigative stories, 2 databases

Main implementer:

BIRN Serbia

Digital Media Action for Freedom of Expression in Serbia

BIRN Serbia

Summary

The project aims to open up space for different opinions and responsible community voices. In this way it responds to the lack of functional debate and to the very centralised information system which leaves a large part of the country outside the capital in isolation.

Donor: British Embassy Belgrade

Information Sheet

Main Objective:

To increase the influence and capacities of selected online media to become a primary source of information in their communities, contributing to informed debate on government performance and accountability.

Specific Objectives:

  • The project will utilise the existing community to initiate quality debate and engagement.
  • At the same time, the project will work towards expanding online outlets’ number of followers and fostering information flow. throughout the country to provide credible information from all parts of Serbia to the public.
  • This will have positive impact not just on the Serbian public, being better informed, but also to participating portals as their profile and influence will be strengthened.

Main Activities:

  • support of online portals that have potential to become genuine information platforms and that will enable quality production on national, regional and local digital platforms.
  • cooperation of media outlets in the production and dissemination of the content with the aim of initiating informed debate about the accountability of public officials in a media environment that lacks pluralism and critical analysis.

Target Groups:

  • editors
  • journalists
  • sales managers
  • tech. support

Highlights:

10 articles, 15 videos/visualisations

Main implementer:

BIRN Serbia

Partners:

  • Portal Juzne Vesti
  • Portal Danas

Public Money for the Public Interest – supporting a civil society initiative for the public interest

BIRN Serbia

Main Objective:

The creation of conditions that enable a free and pluralistic media to work in the public interest

Specific Objectives:

For civil society to succeed in influencing changes in media financing policies to reflect the rights and interests of citizens.

Main Activities:

A1: Capacity development for civil society
A2: Improvement of the media’s normative framework and practices
A3: Awareness-raising

Target Groups:

CSOs (app. 30), Local self-governments (10 LSGs), Decision-makers at national level (approx. 10 – Ministry of Culture and Information, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Local Self-government, Parliamentary Board for Culture and Information, MP’s etc.), Influencers (approx. 30 – professional associations, such as Lokal Press, ANEM, UNS, expert community, independent controlling institutions (Ombudsman, Commissioner for Access to Information of Public Importance, State Audit institution, Commission for Protection of Competition, Public Procurement Office, Commission for State Aid Control, etc.), EU Delegation, OSCE media department, international watchdog organizations, journalists (approx. 30)

Fostering Transparency Through Investigative Reporting

BIRN Albania

The project includes journalistic training and mentoring, investigative reporting, and publishing on cases of public procurement fraud, conflict of interests, and corruption in Albania. The aim of this project is to enhance independent and professional investigative journalism as a mean to increase accountability, transparency, and anti-corruption mechanisms on public procurement procedures.

Summary

The aim of this project is to enhance independent and professional investigative journalism as a means to increase accountability, transparency, and anti-corruption mechanisms in public procurement procedures.

Information Sheet

Main Objective:Specific Objectives:
 
  • To enhance journalistic skills in Albania through on-the-job mentoring and regular investigative journalism training, enabling journalists to conduct complex investigative stories about corruption cases on public procurement procedures.
  • To raise the capacities of Albanian journalists to implement the new “Freedom of Information” law as a tool to support greater transparency and accountability of public institutions.
  • To enable other journalists, civil society representatives and researchers to have access to a database with documents received through “Freedom of Information” requests from public institutions.
  • To raise the capacities of journalists to understand the public procurement law in order to better report on corruption and abuse of power cases in the public procurement sector.

Project for Assessing Self-Censorship in the Albanian Media

BIRN Albania

BIRN Albania will carry out a study that will highlight the root cause of self-censorship in the local media and its consequences, with a particular focus on the access to information of vulnerable groups. The study aims to raise awareness on the practice and its negative effects not only on the journalistic profession but also on the right to freedom of information and freedom of expression in Albania.

 

Sports bag without bottom: research on budgetary spending in sport

BIRN Serbia – past programme

Since 2009 under the umbrella of “Eye on Public Finances” programme, BIRN Serbia is conducting several projects related to public spending and monitoring of transparency of public finances.

Summary

Over the years, BIRN Serbia has developed specific methodology in tracking budgetary spending by combining media reporting and advocacy activities. Accessing the data on public spending using the provisions of FOI law, BIRN is launching investigative journalistic reporting which then drives other advocacy and watchdog actions.

The same methodology will be applied again, in conducting the research on budgetary financing of sport. BIRN will take closer look into these budgetary practices, on both national and local level, particularly on financing of sport clubs and sport associations. Besides two journalists working in BIRN Serbia, in this project 4 external journalists will be engaged, covering the field work in South, Southwest Serbia and Vojvodina.

Series of at least five investigative articles will be published on BIRN’s platforms, javno.rs and Balkan Insight, while promotion will be organized via social networks. Articles will be offered to national and local media for republishing and initiating their own stories and reports.

It expected that project contributes to increase of public knowledge on sport financing and that it will provoke the reaction of authorities to make improvements of the future practices.   

The project is financed by The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and supported by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 

Information Sheet

Main Objective:
 
Overall goal of this project is put spotlight and introduce public to practices of budgetary spending in sport and sport clubs, on both national and local level.
 
Specific Objectives:
 
  • Contribute to transparency of public finances through mapping the mechanisms of budgetary spending in sport
  • Uplift the quality of media production by publishing and promoting series of investigative articles via Internet platforms and social networks
  • Raise awareness of public and provoke reaction of the authorities introducing them to budgetary practices and possible corruption cases in the financing of sport.

Main Activities:

 
  • Production of investigative articles, which encompasses formation of journalistic team, gathering of documentation (using FOI law), analyses of data and documents, writing storis, editorial and publishing on BIRN web platforms.
  • Promotion of investigative articles, which includes publishing on javno.rs and other BIRN platforms and promotion on BIRN’s Facebook and Tweeter official accounts. Articles will be offered to other media outlets for republishing and initiating their own stories.

Target Groups:

 
  • Public administration / Ministries,
  • local self-governments,
  • sport clubs and sport associations;
  • media, journalists, media organizations;
  • broader public.

Enhancing media independence through development of sustainable and competitive financing model

BIRN Serbia – past programme

Proposed project works towards development of non-discriminatory, consistent and transparent model for financing media production in order to enable citizens to exercise their right to complete, timely and objective information.

Summary

According to the Media Strategy and Law on Public Information and Media, public funds should be allocated to the media outlets only through the open call procedure which is opposite to the current practice based on which majority of funds for media are allocated directly (73%), while smaller portion is allocated based on the open calls for projects and through tenders (17%).

BIRN will conduct the research on the current practice of media financing through projects, resulting in development of recommendations for optimal model to be applied, as well as for the monitoring and evaluation of the future practice. Follow up advocacy meetings will enable broad public and stakeholders understanding of the proposed measures, and eventually their buy in for application of standards developed through this project.

Overall aim of the project is to contribute to the protection of public interest through provision of independent and quality media production and more transparent public spending.

Information Sheet

Main Objective:
 
Overall goal of this project is to protect public interest through provision of independent and quality media production and more transparent public spending.
 
Specific Objectives:
 
Specific goal is to develop non-discriminatory, consistent and transparent system of financing media production through project financing.
This goals will be reached through analysis of current practice of project financing, developing set of recommendations for programme financing and advocating for its future implementation as planned by new Law on public information.

Main Activities:

 
  • Conduct research on current practice of media project financing through: 1) documentary research od administrative practices, rules, legal regulations and procedures, 2) content analysis of programs co-financed by republican Ministry of Culture and Public Information, Vojvodina Secretariat of Culture and Information and selected local self-governments and 3) questionnaires among media which were selected for financing
  • Production of the Analysis on project financing practice and recommendations for the future reference.
  • Organization of five round tables that will gather all stakeholders - media professionals, representatives of media outlets and public institutions, media law practitioners, international institutions and students of various faculties for journalism, media or communication. Round tables will be organized at Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis, Kragujevac and Novi Pazar
  • Promotion and dissemination of the Analysis- electronic version of the Analysis will be disseminated among relevant public national and regional institutions as well as all LSGs, media outlets, CSOs and international institutions. Besides, the Analysis will be published in PDF format on BIRN and Media Coalition websites and printed in 100 samples to be disseminated to the participants of Round table.

Target Groups:

 
  • Public administration / Ministries,
  • Vojvodina Secretariat,
  • local self-governments;
  • media, journalists, media organizations;
  • broader public.

Highlights:

 
First Analytical Report dedicated to media project financing ever published in Serbia.

Transparent, effective and accountable spending of public finances in media sector

BIRN Serbia – past programme

Most of public funds that reach Serbia’s media are distributed arbitrarily and in a nontransparent manner, without clear and measurable criteria, public procedures, or controls. The most prominent forms of state intervention in the media sector are instrumental in translating financial power of state bodies and organizations into political influence on media content. They effectively function as indirect, soft censorship. Due to a poorly regulated media system, full knowledge of the manner and extent of state funding to various media outlets is unknown to the public. There are no reliable data on either the total amount of public money spent in the media industry, the sources and forms of funding, the purpose of such public spending, or its impact.

Summary

In 2012, BIRN made a pioneer attempt to shed some light and put under public eye practices f budgetary spending in media sector. BIRNs research, conducted on the sample of 33 cities and municipalities in Serbia, demonstrated that almost 80% of all public funds at the local level are allocated to the state owned media outlets. The same research also demonstrated that key condition to receive the funds is to report about activities of local self-governments and local public enterprises.

Being in line with the latest developments in the Serbian media sector and recognizing the importance of implementation of Media Strategy and consequent action plans, BIRN is proposing this project particularly focusing on the aspect of state funding of the media.

The proposed project will provide in-depth look into the current practice of the media project financing and propose ways for its improvement, as the sustainable financing is important precondition for media freedoms and media development.

NUNS (Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia) and CUPS (Centre for Advancement of Legal Studies).

Information Sheet

Main Objective:
 
  • Overall goal of this project is to contribute to more transparent, accountable and uniform spending of budgetary money for media and public informing.

Specific Objectives:

 
With Serbia lacking consolidated and open data on budgetary spending in media sector, specific goal of this project is to gather (using the FOI law), analyse and publish relevant data mapping mechanisms of budgetary spending directed toward media outlets in 2012 and 2013.
Based on research, set of recommendations how to improve budgetary financing of media will be composed and advocated toward national and local governments.

Main Activities:

 
  • Conduct research on current practice of media financing through: 1) documentary research od administrative practices, rules, legal regulations and procedures, 2) tracking budgetary spending toward media in local self-governments, Ministries and public enterprises, using competencies of Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance
  • Production of the Analysis on budgetary financing practice and recommendations for the future reference.
  • Promotion and dissemination of the Analysis: electronic version of the Analysis will be disseminated among relevant public national and local institutions, media outlets, CSOs and international institutions. Besides, the Analysis will be presented on series of meetings BIRN will organize with relevant stakeholders.
  • In cooperation with NUNS and CUPS, BIRN will present Analysis on three round tables, which NUNS will organize in Belgrade, Sombor and Vranje

Target Groups:

 
  • Public administration / Ministries, local self-governments, public enterprises;
  • media, journalists, media organizations;
  • broader public.