BIRN Journalists Trained in Mobile Video Journalism

BIRN journalists from Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and BIRN Hub attended a training course on mobile video production from August 19 to 21 in Skopje.

The three-day training course was conducted by a Voice of America (VOA) Broadcasting Board of Governors trainer.

A group of around ten journalists and editors from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia were introduced to new mobile apps for filming and editing video content on mobile platforms.

They were also taught new approaches and developed skills in video reporting using new technologies that will be in use in everyday reporting and delivering content, especially for social media.

The training was intended to improve focused video content relevant to web and social media audiences and enhance journalists’ ability to tell stories that engage users through text, pictures, videos and livestreaming.

The training continued the cooperation between BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina and VOA, which started at the beginning of 2017.

BIRN Bosnia Story Presented at Sarajevo Film Festival

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday presented a story to film directors and producers about a boy who was abandoned after his mother survived the Srebrenica genocide as part of the Dealing with the Past programme at the 24th Sarajevo Film Festival.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s director Mirna Buljugic briefed the directors and producers on the story about the boy, Amir Secic, whose mother abandoned him four months after the Srebrenica genocide in July 1995.

“His mother was five months pregnant and his father was killed. He was born in November and his mother left him three days later. He stayed at the Home for Children without Parental Care. He was three years old when he saw his mother for the first time,” Buljugic said.

When he was 23, Secic wrote a book called ‘I Was Hardly a Child’ in which he described his life. He dedicated the book to his father Ibrahim Secic, one of more than 7,000 people from Srebrenica who were killed.

Buljugic reflected on some parts of the book in which Secic spoke about how he was given a red bag at the children’s home, which he used to carry with him all the time.

In his book, Secic described the red colour of his bag as “the colour of love, as well as blood, loss and genocide”.

A short video about Secic, who was also present at the event and greeted the participants, was presented to the directors and producers who attended.

The BIRN story is one of the five selected for presentation at this year’s Dealing with the Past programme at the Sarajevo Film Festival, which is supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The five stories are reviewed by interested directors, who then decide which one will be picked up for development as a documentary.

The programme is aimed at connecting filmmakers with organisations dealing with events that happened in the former Yugoslavia.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina has been the festival’s partner in the Dealing with the Past programme since it began.

This year’s festival is taking place from August 10 to 17.

BIRN Participates in Sarajevo Film Festival Programme

A report by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina about a boy who was abandoned after his pregnant mother survived the Srebrenica genocide is one of the five stories being presented at this month’s Dealing with the Past Programme at the 2018 Sarajevo Film Festival.

The five stories are reviewed by interested directors, who then decide which one will be picked up for development as a documentary.

“After the directors watch all five stories on Monday, we will see whose story passes the selection process and becomes material for the making of a serious international documentary,” said BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s director Mirna Buljigic.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina has been a partner in the Sarajevo Film Festival’s Dealing with the Past programme since its inception.

BIRN Bosnia Wins Award for Corruption Investigation

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina on Friday won the 2018 ACCOUNT award for the best multimedia investigation into corruption for a report on the purchasing of safe goalposts for Bosnian schools.

The investigation, entitled ‘Children Wait for Safe Goalposts Due to Typo’, was written by BIRN Bosnia’s journalist Semir Mujkic, and was awarded by the USAID-funded Anticorruption Network – ACCOUNT as the best article in the multimedia section.

Mujkic wrote a series of articles about problems in the purchasing of safe goalposts in the country, after a child died after being hit by an unsafe goalpost in a playground, which can be read here.

After a decade focusing on transitional justice and war crimes issues, BIRN Bosnia has for the past two years expanded into covering wider rule-of-law topics.

Mirna Buljugic, BIRN Bosnia’s director, said that she was honoured to receive the award for the best investigation as there were dozens of contenders.

“At the same time, this award is a huge motivation to continue writing stories on corruption and informing the public in Bosnia and Herzegovina and abroad about the problems in our country,” Buljugic said.

BIRN Coverage of Srebrenica Anniversary Widely Quoted

The coverage of this year’s 23rd anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica by BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina and BIRN’s regional programme Balkan Transitional Justice was widely republished and quoted by other media.

The coverage included text and video stories such as Females Were ‘Youngest and Oldest Victims’ of SrebrenicaSrebrenica: How Bosnians Reported Their Most Traumatic Story, Srebrenica Suspects Find Safe Haven in Serbia and a comment article by Dunja Mijatovic, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Why We Must Not Forget Srebrenica.

BIRN’s stories were quoted or republished more than 100 times in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. Publications from Slovenia, Austria, Romania, Germany, Algeria, Australia, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Italy also quoted Balkan Insight articles on the topic.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina editor Denis Dzidic said that for more than a decade, BIRN Bosnia has been monitoring all the war crime trials in the country, “and as such is recognised by experts, media and the general public as the best source of information regarding genocide and war crimes”.

“Our Srebrenica coverage every year looks to implement several aspects – primarily we educate and remind readers about the various verdicts handed down by international and domestic courts. This is vital, because of the campaign of denial which exists in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region regarding the events in Srebrenica,” Dzidic said.

“Secondly, we look to have personal stories which describe the horrific events of July 1995 and its importance for Bosnian society today, which has still not faced up to the horrific crimes of the early 1990s conflict,” he added.

Bosnian Officials Spend 4.5 Million Euros on Vehicles

Bosnian government institutions and public companies spent around 4.5 million euros on purchasing vehicles in the first six months of 2018, BIRN’s new database shows.

In the first six months of the year, around 4.5 million euros was spent on vehicles for government officials, institutions and public companies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to BIRN Bosnia’s new database.

Of this sum, 1.5 million euros were spent on cars, some of them luxury models. The other three million euros were spent on vehicles like fire trucks, ambulances and SUVs.

A total of 292 tenders were issued to purchase the vehicles, but in more than 70 per cent of the tenders that were fulfilled, only one company applied, the database shows.

Bosnian government institutions and public companies published tenders to purchase 563 vehicles during the six-month period, around half of which were passenger vehicles and SUVs.

So far, 106 tenders have been fulfilled to buy 213 cars – 128 of them new and 38 secondhand, and in the other cases details have not been made public.

The most expensive vehicle purchased in the first six months was for the medical faculty of the Mostar University, in a tender worth 50,000 euros.

Mostar medical faculty dean Milenko Bevanda first issued the tender in late 2017, but annulled it after receiving BIRN’s request for a comment about the purchase.

But in spring this year, Bevanda repeated the tender and bought a new vehicle worth 42,300 euros without taxes from the MRM company in Ljubuski.

BIRN’s database shows that in the first six months of this year, MRM won the most valuable tenders, worth over 375,000 euros.

Porsche BH from Sarajevo won the most tenders, valued at a total of 285,000 euros.

Of the 292 issued tenders in the database, BIRN marked 26 tenders in which the requested specifics of the vehicle are so detailed that they can limit competition or suggest a preferred manufacturer, which is against the country’s public procurement law.

In six tenders, the final value of the tender or purchase exceeded the amount which was planned.

The Bosnian Serb Interior ministry bought six used vehicles for more than 10,000 euros more than the estimated amount.

In the rest of the tenders, the demanded specifics of the vehicle suggest or sometimes directly state a particular model or manufacturer, which is against the public procurement law.

BIRN Bosnia published an analysis in December showing that around five million euros was spent on vehicles in 2017.

After BIRN’s reports about violations of public procurement practices, several institutions amended their tender specifications.

The database also contains a register for vehicles already owned by institutions and public companies, which shows that the average cost of a vehicle is around 25,000 euros.

The Bosnian presidency and the two entity presidents own a total of 54 cars, worth around 1.7 million euros.

The database can be seen here (Bosnian language only).

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.

BIRN Cited in International Reports

Monitoring reports produced by BIRN and articles published in its regional publication Balkan Insight continue to be quoted in international reports about media, human rights and politics in the region.

Freedom House’s annual country reports for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Moldova, published in Nations in Transit 2018 under the title ‘Confronting Illiberalism’ in April this year, quote Balkan Insight articles on transitional justice, inter-ethnic relations, politics, the economy and the situation in the media

The Media Sustainability Index for 2017 published by IREX in May, in its Europe and Eurasia section, mentions BIRN when describing the media situation in the region, specifically media freedom, lawsuits against media organisations and journalists, as well as BIRN’s reporting on corruption and its training programmes.

The US State Department report for 2017 on human rights in Albania, published in April, quotes BIRN Albania’s research about media censorship in the country. The report also mentions that in 2017 a member of the High Council of Justice, Gjin Gjoni, filed defamation lawsuits against two BIRN journalists and two journalists from for their coverage of his asset declaration, which was being investigated by prosecutors.

In the Media Landscape – Serbia report, published by the European Journalism Centre in May, the results of the Media Ownership Monitor carried out by BIRN and Reporters without Borders Germany, as well as articles related to media published by Balkan Insight, are quoted throughout the.

Read more:

BIRN Articles Quoted in International Reports

BIRN Cited as Source in International Reports

BIRN Bosnia Cited As Example of Lawsuits Used as Tool

BIRN Bosnia’s own experience of lawsuits used as a tool to silence the media features in a new report on defamation cases against journalists.

The number of defamation lawsuits against journalists is rising in Bosnia and Herzegovina, although many of them get withdrawn, the online magazine about the media of the Media Center Sarajevo writes.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina recently experienced this, after it published an article about the public procurement process for buying an official car for a state ministry.

As the texts notes, referring to media freedom reports by Reporters Without Borders, local politicians often try to intimidate journalists by suing them for defamation, so deterring them from pursuing their work. Data from Bosnia’s journalists’ association and experiences from newsrooms also show that numerous lawsuits are used as a form of pressure.

Mirna Buljugic, director of BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, recalled what happened in the case of her organization.

“The minister did not want to talk to us, but directed us to his secretary, but after we published the article, he called to talk. We asked whether there was something problematic in the article and he said, ‘No’. Twenty days later, there was a lawsuit against BIRN, the journalist and editor who worked on the story.

“During the course of the lawsuit, when we were supposed to answer the lawsuit, they went further, suggesting making a deal with the minister never to write about him again and never to write about that ministry, either, or about public procurement, which we refused immediately, after which the whole process continued.

“In the last week before we sent the answer, the minister gave up the lawsuit. This then went into BH Journalists’ statistics about politicians who influence the media and create pressures this way through defamation lawsuits.”

Professionalism remains the best protection when tackling political pressures through lawsuits, she and other media professionals conclude.

BIRN BiH Contributes to Report on EU Application

The Initiative for Monitoring the European Integration of BiH presented ‘Alternative Analytical Report on the Application of BiH for EU Membership: Political Criteria 2018’ at a press conference in front of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Parliamentary Assembly on April 24.

BIRN BiH actively participated in producing the report, providing a set of answers covering transitional justice and domestic judiciary topics.

Mirna Buljugic, BIRN BiH’s country director, spoke on behalf of the Initiative about dealing with the past, stressing the key problems of non-existent cooperation between the countries of the former Yugoslavia in processing war crimes, the non-transparent judicial institutions in the country, attacks on the media, and the growing problem of rising extremism and foreign influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After the presentation, representatives of the Initiative sent the report to all the members of the Parliamentary Assembly and to members of Council of Ministers.

More information about the report is available here