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.

BIRN Albania’s Documentary ‘Free Flow’ Premiered

Nearly 100 activists, civil society representatives and film buffs packed the Destil Hostel in Tirana on June 5 for the premiere of the BIRN Albania-produced documentary ‘Free Flow’, which was directed by documentary film-maker Elton Baxhaku.

The premiere was held on World Environmental Day, in an effort to underline the importance of documenting the efforts of local communities to protect the environment and their way of life.

The documentary covers the decade-long grassroots struggle of 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 hydro power 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 Çami.

BIRN Regional Meeting Held in Bucharest

Directors, board members, partners and donors of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, met in the Romanian capital Bucharest on June 2-3 for the network’s latest regional meeting of its governing bodies.

At the meeting, the BIRN Network’s activities and achievements in 2017-2018 were presented and the plans for the upcoming period discussed.

The annual Steering Committee meeting and Assembly session were held, and regional social media guidelines were adopted at the event.

In recent times, BIRN has operated in an environment marked by illiberal tendencies in the region, media freedom decline in several countries, captured states, and unresolved issues from the past.

Nevertheless, its online publishing, TV and video production reach growing numbers of people; its journalists have won a number of local and international awards, and its reporting has produced tangible social and political changes.

BIRN’s longstanding donors and partners from Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and ERSTE foundation attended the meeting.

Report on the Assets Declarations of Prosecutors in Albania

Analysis on the System of Assets Declarations of Prosecutors in Albania, a study published by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania, evaluates that structure of the wealth of the members of the prosecutor’s office in Albania as well as the integrity of the asset declaration system.

This latest report comes on the heels of four studies published by BIRN Albania on the integrity of the assets declarations of judges from first-instance courts, appeals courts, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court.

The study sheds light not only on how prosecutors in Albania have accumulated wealth but also on key practices, recognised as “red flags”, which obscure the origin of this wealth, such as gifts or loans from relatives, inherited assets, large bank loans, real estate transactions and cash kept outside the banking system.

This report aims to analyse the structure and source of assets, expenditures, liabilities and income declared by all prosecutors, as well as provide detailed information on changes to the overall wealth of these officials. The authors of this report hope these data will help journalists, experts and civil society actors to independently monitor the performance of the vetting institutions that are expected now to sift through the judicial cohort and investigative cases of illegal assets of judges and prosecutors.

To download a copy of the report in English, click here.

To download a copy of the report in Albanian, click here.