BIRN Bosnia Celebrates 100th Edition of ‘TV Justice’

In November this year, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina produced the 100th edition of its television programme ‘TV Justice’.

The 100th edition covered judicial institutions’ reluctance to share information and the fact that they use internal regulations to limit media access to court processes.

Problems facing journalists in their everyday work include inaccessible indictments, anonymised verdicts, low-quality recordings from trials lasting ten minutes only, and the refusal by judicial officials to give interviews or make public appearances.

All this is happening despite the fact that the Bosnian laws stipulate that trials should be public and the international standards call for transparency, which means quick responses to inquiries, as well as the availability of indictments and verdicts.

Transparency was reduced in 2012 when the Agency for Protection of Personal Data submitted letters to the state court and prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, telling them they do not have to automatically publish all data.

The state prosecution then removed all indictments from its web page, while the Bosnian state court adopted changes to its regulations on access to information, which entailed using initials instead of full names in court documents and issuing only ten-minute recordings from trials, which significantly reduced the potential for media reporting.

This meant the quality of material that could be used by electronic media fell significantly, so the format of specialist shows had to be changed.

After that BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina launched a campaign titled ‘Stop Censorship’, which was supported by international organisations and associations of victims such as the International Commission for the Missing Persons and the Women, Victims of War association.

The director of BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mirna Buljugic, said the ‘Stop Censorship’ campaign was initiated because war crimes are of public interest and the public should know who was indicted for the gravest crimes. She said the campaign was eventually successful, as it was followed by a decision to change the rulebook and discontinue the anonymisation of verdicts.

“BIRN’s mission was not only to tell those stories to Bosnian citizens, but also to make an impact on positive changes in society in some way. Through our stories and stories told by witnesses, we tried as journalists to help judicial institutions reach out to certain witnesses and certain stories which could actually be translated into court processes later on,” Buljugic said.

In the 100th edition of ‘TV Justice’, journalists and editors say that judicial bodies are increasingly closed to the media, which prevents quality reporting on legal processes related to war crimes, as well as on corruption and organised crime cases.

BIRN Editor Talks About Transitional Justice at Leipzig Conference

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina Editor Denis Dzidic participated in a conference in Leipzig, Germany for young journalists entitled ‘Correcting Images’ (‘Bildkorrekturen’) from November 23 to 25.

Dzidic spoke about the role of media in peace-building and how reporting on transitional justice topics can assist reconciliation in a post-conflict society.

The ‘Correcting Images’ conference is financed by the German Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation and the German Academic Exchange Service. It was organised by Engagement Global in cooperation with the universities of Munich, Leipzig and Bamberg, the German School of Journalism and the Deutsche Welle Academy.

Its aim is to promote accurate images of developing countries in Germany and to motivate the general public to contribute to global reconstruction for social justice. The conference provides a forum for dialogue on global issues between participants, especially young students of journalism and journalists from the North and South.

BIRN Editors Address Nuremberg Trial Reporting Seminar

BIRN editors from Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in a seminar in Nuremberg, Germany, on journalism and trial reporting on November 19-22.

BIRN Kosovo’s Kreshnik Gashi and BIRN Bosnia’s Denic Dzidic travelled to the German city of Nuremberg to address a seminar organised by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and the International Nuremberg Principles Academy on journalism and trial reporting.

Gashi, editor and moderator of BIRN Kosovo’s TV programme ‘Justice in Kosovo’, made a presentation about the work of BIRN Kosovo’s site KALLXO.com on reporting war crimes, covering the legal responsibilities of journalists writing such sensitive reports, accurate and objective reporting, and the verification of facts before reporting on cases.

Dzidic, editor in chief of BIRN Bosnia’s online publication Detektor, spoke about lessons learned from following international tribunals and war crimes trials in Bosnia and Herzegovina. He highlighted how BIRN had become a specialised news media for transitional justice and what importance that played for the victims and diaspora communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The seminar focused on the key role of journalists on informing the public about criminal trials, the seminar was structured into three modules – Basics of International Criminal Law; Journalism and International Criminal Tribunals, and Reporting on International Criminal Tribunals.

Opening remarks at the seminar were made by the director of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, Klaus Rackwitz, and Dr. Fidelman Donlon from the registrar’s office at the Kosovo Specialist Chambers.

Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung

DONOR
The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) is a political foundation with a focus on civic education programmes promoting freedom and liberty, peace and justice. The KAS has 16 regional offices in Germany. Its offices abroad are in charge of over 200 projects in more than 120 countries.

The BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting has been organised in cooperation with the KAS’s Medienprogramm Südosteuropa/Media Program South East Europe since 2012. The Summer School enhances the reporting skills and journalistic standards of journalists from the Balkans and beyond, training 20 journalists from the Balkan region and 10 international journalists each year.

The KAS office in Sarajevo supported BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2007 until 2014 and the implementation of its activities related to publishing, training and encouraging dialogue between the state court, local courts and the media.

Web: https://www.kas.de/home

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).