BIRN Albania Opens Call for Organised Crime Investigations

BIRN Albania launched a call for investigative stories on organised crime themes on October 10.

BIRN is offering grants for three journalists to cover organised crime stories, as well as mentoring by experienced editors.

The call is part of the project ‘Strengthening Media’s Role in the Fight Against Corruption’, financed by the Open Society Foundation in Albania.

The project’s aim is to strengthen 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.

Three journalists will be awarded grants to cover their expenses while conducting investigations and writing their stories on organised crime.

The journalists will have around three months to dig deeper and research their ideas, and will also have the opportunity to work with experienced editors as mentors to guide them through the process of writing in accordance with BIRN standards.

The call only applies to journalists from Albania and closes on October 30.

Click here for more information (in Albanian) about the application procedure.

Click here  to download the application (in Albanian).

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.

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.

BIRN Albania Documentary Screened in Sarajevo

BIRN Albania’s documentary ‘Free Flow’, which follows the resistance of villagers, activists and civil society to the construction of hydropower plants in Albania, was screened on August 12 in Sarajevo.

The screening, which was hosted by Civil Rights Defenders, aimed to highlight the decade-long struggle of local activists for water, property and environmental rights which were being threatened by energy companies and politicians.

Directed by film-maker Elton Baxhaku, the documentary follows villagers, activists, scientists and artists as they try to draw attention – in court and on the streets – to the threat posed to the environment and the local eco-tourism industry.

After its premiere in Tirana on June 11, BIRN Albania has held several screenings of the documentary in affected areas like the villages of Polis and Valbona, and for a more diverse audience at Dokufest, the international short film and documentary festival in Prizren, Kosovo.

Sunday’s screening in Sarajevo was the sixth screening of the documentary held by BIRN Albania and partners. It was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Ena Bavcic and Vasilika Laci, programme officers of Civil Rights Defenders in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Albania, with the participation of film-maker Elton Baxhaku.

Further screenings will follow in Albania in the autumn.

BIRN Albania Publishes Data Journalism Manual

‘Getting Started in Data Journalism’ is a manual published by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania which aims to introduce journalists to data-driven reporting techniques that are essential to contemporary investigative journalism.

The manual was authored by BIRN editor Lawrence Marzouk and the investigative journalist Crina Boros.

More information available here.

The whole manual is available here.

BIRN Albania Publishes Data Journalism Manual

‘Getting Started in Data Journalism’ is a manual published by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania which aims to introduce journalists to data-driven reporting techniques that are essential to contemporary investigative journalism.

The manual was authored by BIRN editor Lawrence Marzouk and the investigative journalist Crina Boros.

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.

Over the past decade, data journalism has become a buzzword in media circles, grabbing the attention of traditional reporters and appearing on university syllabuses across the world.

Although universally accessible, ‘Getting Started in Data Journalism’ was written with Albanian journalists in mind. Its aim is to help reporters understand the power of harnessing data to deliver impactful story ideas which can hold power to account, expose corruption and highlight wrongdoing.

The manual aims to set reporters on the path of data journalism, but also be useful for the everyday work of journalists in general.

The whole manual is available here.

BIRN Albania Documentary Screened at Kosovo’s Dokufest

The BIRN Albania documentary ‘Free Flow’, which follows local resistance to the construction of hydropower plants in Albania, was screened on August 5 and 6 at Dokufest, the international documentary and short film festival in Prizren, Kosovo.

‘Free Flow,’ which was directed by award-winning film-maker Elton Baxhaku, is competing in the national documentary competition at Dokufest.

The film draws attention to the decades-long struggle of Albanian villagers, activists and civil society against hydropower projects which pose a threat to the environment and the local tourism industry.

In cooperation with Balkan Green Foundation and Kosovo Civil Society Consortium for Sustainable Development, BIRN Albania helped organise a panel discussion at Dokufest, called ‘Reflect the Green in You’, which focused on the harmful development of hydropower plant projects in national parks and downstream areas.

As well as the ‘Free Flow’ director Elton Baxhaku, among the panellists at the Dokutalks event held on August 6 at Prizren’s old hamam were BIRN Albania editor-in-chief Besar Likmeta,  Aleksandra Bujaroska from the organisation Front in Macedonia, Ena Bavcic from Civil Rights Defenders in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Fabian Techene from WWF Adria. The panel was moderated by Visar Azemi from the Balkan Green Foundation.

The next screening of the documentary will be held in Sarajevo on August 12.

BIRN Albania Documentary Screened in Valbona

The BIRN Albania documentary ‘Free Flow’, which follows local resistance to the construction of hydropower plants in Albania, was screened on Saturday in the village of Valbona, part of the Valbona Valley National Park where two of a planned 14 power plants are being built.

Directed by filmmaker Elton Baxhaku, the documentary follows villagers, activists, scientists and artists as they try to draw attention – in court and on the streets – to the threat posed to the environment and the local ecotourism industry.

Villagers from nearby Dragobia attended the screening, fresh from a sit-down demonstration last month on a road that traverses the valley, in protest at quarry explosions conducted by energy companies.

The next screening of ‘Free Flow’ will be on August 5-6 at Dokufest – the annual international film and documentary festival held in Prizren, Kosovo. It will then be shown in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo on August 12.

BIRN Albania Film Screened in Hydropower Protest Village

BIRN Albania’s documentary ‘Free Flow’, about resistance to hydropower plant developers, was screened on Thursday in the village of Polis, the first place in the country to protest against the construction of a hydropower plant, which locals say has dried up a vital water supply for the irrigation of their lands.

Their protest in 2014 against the Gurshpat hydropower plant was quashed by local police, a dozen villagers were detained and seven protesters were later convicted and given sentences that varied from fines to six months’ imprisonment.

Gurshpat is only one of the hundreds of small hydropower plant concession awarded by the Albanian government over the past decade, which have sparked an increasing number of conflicts between developers and the state on one side and activists and local communities on the other – over water rights, property rights, lack of consultation and environmental damage.

Data obtained by BIRN Albania as part of a recent investigation shows that dozens of similar conflicts have erupted across the country in recent years.

‘Free Flow’ was directed by film-maker Elton Baxhaku focuses on three areas, the Shebenik Jabllanica National Park, the Vjosa River and the Valbona National Park, and follows villagers, community rights activists, scientists and artists as they struggle to voice their concerns over hydropower plant projects, challenge concession contracts in court and protest in the streets to encourage support for their cause.

Elton Baxhaku is an acclaimed Albanian film-maker, best known for his 2014 documentary ‘Skandal’ and the 2016 documentary ‘Selita’, which was co-directed by Eriona Cami.

During the summer of 2018, BIRN Albania will hold also other screenings in affected communities near the Vjosa River and the Valbona National Park.

The documentary will be also screened in August at Dokufest, the international film and documentary festival held in Prizren, Kosovo.

BIRN Albania Documentary Screened for EU Grantees

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held a special screening of its documentary ‘Free Flow’ for grantees of EU-funded projects in Albania on July 4, when it was hailed as an example of effective cooperation between journalists and civil society to advocate for environmental and community rights.

The screening was held during an exchange event held at Tirana’s Europe House.

Representatives of 21 grantee organisations of new EU-funded projects of CSF and EIDHR, were invited to network, share and build synergies.

The documentary, which was directed by film-maker Elton Baxhaku, covers the decade-long grassroots struggle by local communities, activists and civil society organisations against hydropower plant projects that threaten the environment, the water supplies of local communities and their livelihoods that are based on sustainable tourism.

In the past two decades, the Albanian government has approved over 500 hydropower plant projects on its rivers and streams, which environmentalists say threaten some of the last unspoiled river systems in Europe.

The documentary focuses on three areas, the Shebenik Jabllanica National Park, the Vjosa River and the Valbona National Park – following local villagers, community rights activists, scientists and artists as they struggle to voice their concerns over hydropower plant projects, challenge concession contracts in court and protest in the streets to encourage support for their cause.

Elton Baxhaku is an acclaimed Albanian film-maker, best known for his 2014 documentary ‘Skandal’ and the 2016 documentary ‘Selita’, which was co-directed by Eriona Cami.

During the summer of 2018, BIRN Albania will take the documentary ‘Free Flow’ on the road and hold screenings in affected communities near the Vjosa River, the Valbona Valley and the Shebenik-Jabllanica National Park.