Programme

Justice Series: Media, civil society and war crime trials

BIRN BiH's Justice Series programme is the organisation's flagship effort that was launched in 2005, which aims to increase understanding of and support for the work of the war crimes trials in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region.

Location: Bosnia and Herzegovina Duration: 2005 - Present

Summary

After identifying the past as the main stumbling block for all major issues affecting the country, BIRN BiH became the pioneer in engaging the media and civil society representatives in the reconciliation process. BIRN BiH does not only produce reports and articles via its thematic programme, but it conducts analysis, engages with experts from the field, and most importantly, investigates the institutional mechanisms for tackling the issues of transitional justice. 

The Justice Series programme encompasses three core activities for delivery of news and analysis: Justice Report Agency, Radio Justice, and TV Justice. The programme  offers reliable information about war crime trials and transitional justice issues from all the judicial instances of BiH. This information is regularly published on BIRN BiH’s main website, and distributed to over 300 media outlets in the country and worldwide.

BIRN BIH articles that are written as part of this programme are republished on a daily basis in almost all printed media outlets in the country, region and diaspora, as well as in many electronic media outlets.

In addition to the court-side reporting from the Court of BiH and local Cantonal and District courts, the programme includes the following activities: investigative reporting and analysis on local and regional transitional justice efforts; an online archive; coverage of ICTY trials; training activities for media and judiciary, universities, researchers, NGOs and the judiciary, as well as advocacy efforts to promote dialogue between the media and judiciary representatives.

BIRN BiH's Justice Series programme targets a wide audience, from victims of war crimes to politicians and the international community.

This programme has received funding from the following organisations: the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, the MATRA Program of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through Civil Rights Defenders, National Endowment for Democracy, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the British Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina - Foreign Commonwealth Office, the United States Agency for International Development - Justice Sector Development Project II, the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Open Society Fund.

Information Sheet

Main Objective:

BIRN BiH’s objective is to contribute to the establishment of truth and reconciliation by offering impartial information about war crime trials and other pillars of transitional justice. 

BIRN’s Justice Series programme aims to bridge the gap between judicial institutions, security organisations and local government, and the citizens of BiH through timely, objective and reliable reporting on the issues of the past.

By dealing effectively with issues of the past it will also contribute to the overall social, political, and economic progress of BiH.

Specific Objectives:

BIRN BiH encourages:

  • Establishing publicly available source of information by fighting impunity and promoting justice at the state and local level
  • Maximizing the reconciliatory factor of war crimes trials within divided communities in BiH
  • Facilitating regional reconciliation by providing cross coverage of domestic war crimes processes in the regional media.
  • Facilitating the exchange of experience with different post conflict countries of the world
  • Inclusion of over one million members of the diaspora in justice and reconciliation process by delivering news and stories via BIRN BiH media partners
Main Activities:
  • Court-side reporting form the War Crimes Chamber of the Court of BiH
  • Court-side reporting from 16 local war crime courts within BiH
  • Reporting on transitional justice issues in BiH and the region
  • Conducting in-depth analyses and upholding the principles of investigative journalism
  • Online Archiving
  • Production of Radio Justice magazine
  • Production of TV Justice magazine
  • Coverage of ICTY trials
  • Organization of conferences, trainings, workshops for the media and judicial representatives
  • Advocacy through Association of Court Reporters
  • Capacity building and encouraging dialogue between the judiciary and media at the state and local levels in BiH
Target Groups:

BIRN BiH main beneficiaries and target groups are:

  • Local and regional media and their audiences (i.e. BHRT, FTV, RTRS, HRT, RTS, etc)
  • International media (Aljazeera, BBC, CNN, the Guardian, NYTimes, etc)
  • The war victims associations from across the country 
  • Women victims of war and in search of their missing members of family
  • Former male camp detainees 
  • Judicial institutions at the State, local Cantonal and District levels
  • Members of International Community in BiH, especially those directly involved in the rule of law and judiciary (OSCE, EU Delegation, OHR, UN agencies, foreign embassies, etc)
  • National and International non-governmental organizations (i.e. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Center for Transitional Justice, TRIAL, etc)
  • Academic institutions and future generations in the country and abroad (USA, Canada, EU countries)
  • Staff of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
Highlights:

To date through this programme, BIRN BiH has produced over 401 issues of Justice Report weekly magazine and written over 30,000 court-side reports, analysis and investigation in English and Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian language The BIRN team has  also produced over 2,700 radio reports and investigative reportages, and 48 TV Justice magazines.

During 2013 400,000 people viewed BIRN BiH’s new and redesigned www.justice-report.com website. The majority of visitors were from Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States, Croatia, Serbia, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, Russia and Australia. Together with its regional outlet over one million people worldwide read Balkan Insight BIRN BiH’s articles. 

BIRN BiH recorded 8,000 republications in other media. Some of the leading web portals indicated BIRN BiH’s Justice Report as the main source of information for war crime trials and transitional justice in BiH. News outlets such as klix.ba, radiosarajevo.ba, avaz.ba, Oslobodjenje, etc receive millions of readers each day. In addition, close to 18,000 direct newsletter subscribers receive BIRN BiH's publications.

Justice Report is republished daily by Orbus magazine, which is read by Bosnian citizens living in Scandinavian countries, BOSTEL radio and television in Chicago and Peta Strana Svijeta magazine in New York.

 Over 140 radio stations in the country obtain BIRN BiH's daily and weekly magazines, close to 50% of the stations regularly air the radio programme, especially as a part of their morning and evening news segments. 

27 independent stations in BiH broadcast TV Justice, including the BiH public broadcasters (BHRT, FTV, and RTRS), reaching estimated share of 21.6%. 

In addition, BIRN BiH has been a leading facilitator of the dialogue between media and judiciary. It successfully realized publicly acclaimed ‘Stop Censorship About War Crimes’ campaign aimed at halting the anonymisation of verdicts, indictments, and other audio-video material at the Court of BiH. Furthermore, it prevented adoption of an amendment to the Freedom of Access to Information Law that would seriously jeopardize principles of transparency and limit access to public records. In the past BIRN BiH was also successful in introducing amendments to the existing Press Code of the BiH Press Council and the rules for journalists reporting on war crimes trials. 

In cooperation with other BIRN offices in the region, BIRN BiH released its second feature film this year. The film entitled: The Majority Starts Here was screened in all the capitals of the former Yugoslavia as well as along with the 6 episode serial on Aljazeera Balkans. In September 2009, BIRN BiH organised the first regional conference dedicated to court transparency and the responsibility of the media, which brought together all the major actors from ex-Yugoslavia and worldwide. 

BIRN BiH so far published 7 publications about the work of the Court of BiH, and the media coverage of the arrests and commencement of trials to Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic.

BIRN BiH's work in the field of war crimes prosecutions and transitional justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina is featured several times in a new book by Sarajevo-based law professor and human rights activist Goran Simic.  The book, entitled: War Crime Trials in BiH is about the issues faced by people living in a post-conflict society. 

BIRN BiH’s findings and analysis had been referenced in the official reports of: Impunity Watch, TRIAL, Swiss Association Against Impunity, Human Rights Watch, University College London School of Slavonic and East European Studies, Global Investigative Journalism Network, ICTY. 

During 2013, approximately 80 cases were tried before the Court of BiH and 70 cases before the local Cantonal and District courts in BiH.  All case pages were added to BIRN BiH’s online and bilingual one of a kind archive. In total, BIRN BiH trial monitors and court reporters covered 691 witness testimonies/appearances in 421 trial sessions over the course of the year.