Investigate for ME and EU

BIRN Hub

‘Investigate for ME and EU’, a project which is being implemented by the Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN-CG) and BIRN, began in February 2017. CIN and BIRN jointly won this grant in the first-ever EC media call to be organised in Montenegro.

Summary

Through its partnership with BIRN, CIN-CG – which was established just three years ago – will strengthen its capacities, both in terms of supporting journalistic investigations and in managing an EU project.

Investigative stories about the process of EU integration are produced by the members of CIN CG team and journalists from other Montenegrin media – those that are chosen in a call for the best investigative proposals, which is already open. They will deal with the biggest challenges in the country’s negotiations with the EU, including corruption, the rule of law, and environmental issues.

Western Balkans Countering Violent Extremism Training Initiative

BIRN Hub

Summary

The overarching objective of this initiative is to contest extremist narratives in the public discourse, in particular those disseminated online, throughout the Western Balkans. The specific objectives of this project are:

–        To equip critical voices with the skills, know-how and resources to challenge extremist narratives.

–        To encourage critical evaluation of extremist messages by the most vulnerable groups and the general public.

–        To improve policies and practices in the region in handling and responding to online extremist content.

The project adopts an iterative approach, involving a wide range of stakeholders in discussing needs, gaps and opportunities to challenge violent extremist narratives online, followed by the development and testing of prototypes of effective digital solutions and tools to enhance counter-messaging content production and distribution and to strengthen resilience against violent extremism.

Actions will be aligned with national Countering Violent Extremism strategies, with partnerships formed with mainstream media, public institutions, technology companies, and private investors, with the aim of influencing policies and practices in contesting extremist narratives online.

Exercising the Freedom of Expression and Openness of State Institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia

BIRN Hub

“Exercising the Freedom of Expression and Openness of State Institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia” is a project intended to increase public awareness on issues of access to justice and contribute towards more transparent and more responsive institutions in these three countries.

Summary

The regional project will result in three country-based and one cross-regional analysis, the first of its kind, offering a regional perspective on the accessibility of public institutions in the Western Balkans.

RULE OF LAW – DISCLOSED: Monitoring organised crime, corruption and terrorism cases at the Court of BiH

BIRN BiH

The programme is dedicated to monitoring and reporting on cases of organised crime, corruption and terrorism.

Summary

BIRN BiH has filled a gap in domestic journalism in reporting on and monitoring war crimes prosecutions, but there is a simultaneous gap regarding rule of law issues. This problem is evidenced by ongoing tabloid-esque coverage of organised crime, corruption and terrorism. Inadequate research and a failure to comply with ethical standards have resulted in lawsuits against publications that have concerned themselves with rule of law issues.

BIRN BiH was also the first media outlet to start to write about disciplinary procedures within judicial institutions. Until then, these cases were unfamiliar to the public, since no press statements or any other kind of information from the judiciary was made public.

By achieving its project goals, BIRN BiH successfully contributes to the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina through consistent monitoring of and reporting on the work of the domestic judiciary, thereby ensuring the judiciary’s accountability to the country’s citizens as well as harmonisation with relevant EU standards.

By establishing an editorial team trained in monitoring organsed crime, corruption and terrorism cases before the Court of BiH, the project aims to expose both good and bad practices by the country’s judiciary in regard to the rule of law; to raise reporting standards in the media, and to restore public trust in judicial institutions.

Main activities

  • Attending organised crime, corruption and terrorism trials;
  • Conducting fieldwork, collecting data and interviewing stakeholders (investigative journalism);
  • Writing and publishing analysis pieces and investigative stories;
  • Exercising public pressure via press conferences and social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube;
  • Exercising public pressure via TV shows geared towards a large viewership;
  • Judiciary and media follow-up analysis (measuring the project’s impact), followed by a set of recommendations to governmental institutions made by relevant stakeholders (judiciary representatives, journalists, academia, etc).

Target groups

  • the Bosnian judiciary
  • the wider media
  • the international community

The project benefits lawyers, judges, and staff members at state- and entity-level courts, as well as the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, the Ministry of Justice and the Court of BiH, and the general public in the country.

Project for Investigative Journalism and Cooperation Between Media and Civil Society

BIRN Macedonia
For the ‘Project For Investigative Journalism And Cooperation Between Media And Civil Society’, BIRN Macedonia is working with NGO representatives and journalists to build and foster efficient links between media and non-governmental organisations with the goal of creating greater visibility for the NGOs and creating an environment for the production of more relevant investigative stories.

Donor: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Summary

The project aims to support investigative journalists by giving financial support and providing a space for their stories to be published. The project is part of the USAID programme for strengthening independent media in Macedonia and is implemented in partnership with Center for Civil Communications, Center for Investigative Journalism – SCOOP Macedonia, TV magazine KOD and daily newspaper KOHA.

The project, which was launched in December 2012, has several different elements including fostering links between journalists and NGOs, training of NGO representatives, and supporting journalists to investigate and publish their stories.

Macedonia’s media are troubled by many challenges. The closure of independent and critical media, increasing pressure and government control over numerous media outlets and the rising trend of self-censorship have led to a journalism guided by the political and business interests of media owners and limited space for objective reporting, which has almost wiped out investigative reporting. At the same time, professional journalistic standards are largely ignored.

With this project, BIRN Macedonia is promoting and seeking to strengthen the relationship between the media and NGOs by identifying priority issues of common interest. Ten debates on different topics between journalists and NGOs are included. The goal is for the participants to identify the topics that need to be tackled.

BIRN Macedonia is supporting investigative journalism by opening 11 calls for investigative stories. More than 50 journalists will be awarded financial support for in-depth investigations on specific topics. The selected journalists will be provided with mentors from BIRN and partner organisations who will guide the journalists through the investigative process.

The project provides for the publishing of stories written by the selected journalists on a separate website designed for the project, but also via other media. The website will not only serve to publish the stories but also function as a database for NGOs and experts in various fields which journalists and NGO representatives can use to get the information and contacts they need.

BIRN Macedonia together with its partners will provide training and expertise for the NGOs and media through 10 workshops so they create a common language, and also train the NGOs to achieve higher visibility in the media.

Together with the KOD TV magazine, 17 investigative programmes will be created in the framework of the project.

In addition, the comprehensive databases and research on issues of wider interest will be published.

The project was initiated by BIRN Macedonia in 2012 and was supported by USAID.

Information Sheet

Main Objective:

To bridge the current gap between journalists and non-governmental organisations on issues of public interest.

To build operational and efficient partnerships between CSOs and media as the base for more objective journalism and a more informed public.

Specific Objectives:

Establish partnership relationships between media and CSOs that will enable long-term cooperation, instead of one-off contacts on issues of public interest. Currently media tend to ignore or use the work of CSOs selectively, thus depriving the public of the big picture. At the same time, both media and CSOs have not forged any strong ties or cooperative relationships.

Achieve greater visibility of the work of CSOs and in turn greater media legitimacy; design a line of communication between media and CSOs, so CSOs can arm journalists with necessary reporting information in the public interest, helping their professional, fact-based, and objective reports, resulting in more professional journalistic stories.

Support public interest journalism by improving journalists’ skills, capacities, tools, information and offering financial resources for in-depth and investigative reports, as well as space for the publishing of their stories, the project aims to create a pool of investigative journalists, create a web platform and contribute a significant number of reports on key issues.

Provide the public with better and more substantial information as the basis for making informed decisions (in their private lives, businesses and as members of society), raise public awareness on key issues and stir up debate.

Main Activities:

Identifying media and CSOs’ common issues through a series of public debates between journalists and CSO representatives.

Research on the current media coverage of the identified common issues through an in-depth monitoring of the way Macedonian media and journalists report on these issues

Creating a common language for CSOs and media through 10 workshops for CSOs.

Technical assistance to Macedonian journalists in reporting on important issues in a more professional, fact-based and objective way.

Providing journalists and CSOs with space for reporting issues of common interest and for offering citizens important information.

Sharing information and news reporting materials with other Balkan countries.

Delivered outputs:

17 debates on topics of public interest

10 workshops for cooperation between journalists and civil society organisations

11 calls for investigative stories

More than 100 CSO representatives involved in the project’s activities

2 media monitoring reports on reporting on topics of public interest

16 journalists awarded with scholarships to participate in BIRN’s Summer School for Investigative Reporting

4 complex databases developed

17 TV investigations produced

55 investigative reports supported through the calls for investigative stories

24 databases with analysis on given topics

Over 150 investigative reports published on the website prizma.mk

1 interactive web application developed

Target Groups:

Journalists and CSOs from Macedonia

Highlights:

The investigations that originated from the project have received numerous awards and acknowledgments for investigative journalism in Macedonia, such as, the Nikola Mladenov award, the Jashar Erebara award and the European Union award for investigative journalism, to name a few.

The database ‘Skopje 2014 Uncovered’ was awarded the best investigation for 2015 by the Macedonian Media Institute. The BIRN Team received the Nikola Mladenov award for investigative journalism for this investigation.

The 2016 winner of the Nikola Mladenov award was the KOD Team for the TV investigation ‘The Case of Kosta Krpach’, which was supported by the project.

‘Skopje 2014 Uncovered’ was also awarded the second prize for investigative journalism in 2015 by the EU Delegation in Macedonia, while Boris Georgievski was awarded the first prize for ‘Dossier Telecom’, published on Prizma.

BIRN journalist Vlado Apostolov won the Jashar Erebara award for investigative journalism from the Association of Journalists of Macedonia in 2016 for the investigation ‘Dossier Zdravev’.

The database on agricultural subsidies was awarded the best investigation of 2016 by the EU.

The database ‘Foreign Investments Uncovered’ is shortlisted for the Global Data Journalism Award for 2017 in the Small Newsroom category.

Investigative Reporting to Boost Reforms 2016-2019

BIRN Macedonia

BIRN Macedonia, in partnership with the Center for Civil Communication and NGO Info-centre, is implementing the project Investigative Reporting to Boost Reforms.

Donor: European Union

This project’s aim is to create a core of well-skilled investigative journalists, as well as a network of effective grassroots CSOs from all over the country which should contribute towards improved investigative journalism both through their work and through cooperation between journalists.

Various activities will be implemented in the scope of this project such as media monitoring on qualitative and quantitative assessment of investigative journalism in media reporting; an intensive, module-based, training programme on investigative journalism into government accountability; regular mentorship and coaching of investigative journalists; an award competition for investigative stories, with the winners sent to participate in regional conferences or schools to share experiences and to network; public debates on the role of investigative journalism; sub-granting to additional CSOs for smaller projects, training and mentoring of local CSOs in the preparation of open databases for important issues on a local level; preparation of additional open databases on important social processes and issues on the national level; a series of workshops to increase cooperation between journalists and CSOs to benefit investigative journalism; establishing a pool of CSOs and journalists who will advocate for greater transparency, accountability and responsibility on the part of the authorities.

The project envisages delivering the following results: increased quality and credibility of investigative journalism by improving journalists’ skills, capacities, tools and access to information for in-depth and fact-based reports; building operational and efficient partnerships between CSOs and the media to provide greater availability of information based on thorough and replicable investigative journalism; introducing CSOs to the concept of open databases to boost their activities and create resources for investigative journalism and their own further actions, and to provide the public with better and more substantial information upon which to make informed decisions.

The period of implementation of the project is 2016-2019. This project is funded by the European Union.

 

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)