Marko Selaković, the spokesman for the United Regions of Serbia party, has criticized BIRN’s research into the operations of his former business.
Since June this year the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has been investigating the spending of Belgrade public companies and the city administration on marketing and other services provided by PR agencies. BIRN journalists have obtained some 300 business contracts over the course of the research and conducted dozens of interviews with representatives of the public administration and private companies, while two articles have been published.
When BIRN began its research into the work of the Stratkom PR Agency, which does business with several public companies and state institutions in Serbia, Selaković expressed his discontent on Facebook and Twitter. Selaković is the former director of the company, and was recently appointed spokesman of the United Regions of Serbia party. Writing on the social network websites, Selaković said he was unhappy that journalists were showing interest in Stratkom’s business operations.
“Over the past few days the so-called investigative journalists swooped down on the StratCom agency, where I worked until December 10. They called practically all StratCom clients (they didn’t meet with StratCom) and insisted on answers to all kinds of questions. They got the answers but refused to see the contracts. Also, they are not interested in other agencies but focus solely on StratCom. The digging up and checking of clients goes all the way to the level of the Rača municipality. They are calling clients’ managers, municipal heads, directors...The interviews are very unpleasant and conducted in a bitter tone of voice. Practically everyone’s been on StratCom’s back over the past few months – from the Tax Administration on-site inspection to tax police officers, etc, etc. Now that I am no longer there I feel it is my duty to put a stop to the abuse of people working at the company. As for me, I’m prepared to file a criminal complaint against myself. If it is established that StratCom or I personally did anything illegal, I am prepared to bear all the consequences. I’m just asking for the selective persecution and pursuit of people who are doing their jobs to stop once and for all. In whose interest is it for a healthy agency to be eliminated from the market?...
… Let’s get one thing straight here: I have always been and will be in favour of investigative journalism. I have never been and will never be in favour of selective investigative journalism…
… But I really don’t understand where they get the right to repeatedly call, day after day, EACH and EVERY StratCom client and over and over again ask absurd questions such as: "Did Selaković abuse his position as URS spokesman so StratCom would work with you?"; "Do you know how much money you are paying them?"; "Do the people know that you are giving them money?"; "What is it that they do for you for that kind of money?" and similar questions. In this process, the “investigative journalists” don’t want to talk to the people in charge of implementing the agreements but only with the management. And they call them over and over again, day after day. This creates tension in the agency’s relations with clients because the clients feel very uncomfortable. My question is: how can I abuse a position that I have held for 15 days (and I ended my employment the minute I took on this political position) and StratCom has been around for years? But no, this question isn’t heard."
The Silent Scream, a documentary about survivors of wartime sexual violence, produced by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH), was screened at The New School for Public Engagement, in New York.
Past participants in the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence from all over the Balkans came to Belgrade from November 28-29 for the annual BFJE Award Academy and to take part in parallel alumni sessions that enabled them to exchange experiences, discuss new ideas and present their latest projects.
Journalists from across the Balkans gathered in Belgrade from December 5 to 6 to discuss the contemporary Balkan art scene and have their stories commissioned for BIRN’s ‘Invisible Art’ project, supported by the Prince Claus Fund.
BIRN journalists Parim Olluri and Petrit Collaku were awarded the first prize for an online story by the United Nations Development Programme and the Journalists Association of Kosovo.
BIRN BiH’s new documentary "The Silent Scream" was screened to a group of students studying human rights in the western Balkans at the Harriman Institute at the Columbia University in New York.
‘Invisible Art’, a new project from the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, will be launched with a regional meeting of participating journalists in Belgrade.
The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH) in co-operation with the Centre for Post-Conflict Research, the OSCE Mission to BiH, and the British Embassy presented the International Protocol on Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, and 'The Silent Scream' documentary to stakeholders in Brcko District and Zenica last week.
The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH) held the last of its annual countrywide round of meetings with representatives of the media and judiciary in Banja Luka, Brcko and Sarajevo last week.
The top prize in the 2014 Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence has been awarded to Jeta Abazi, journalist from Kosovo at a closing ceremony held in Belgrade, on Friday.
The premiere of “The Silent Scream” documentary produced by BIRN BiH, provoked debate at the screening in Banja Luka on Monday, November 24 2014.