“Missing you…”

“Missing You…” is a documentary that depicts the suffering and reality facing people who lost family members during times of peace and war.

Apart from the search for the missing, the film describes how identification through DNA analysis is conducted and lists the governmental and non-governmental organizations involved in seeking missing persons.

The fate of those who went missing during war and peace is the same. The documentary shows how to alleviate the suffering of people who are searching for their family members, both at the regional and international level.

The documentary is available on Detektor.ba and BIRN YouTube Channel.

The Silent Scream

“Silent Scream” is a documentary that depicts the trauma that sexual abuse victims still feel twenty years after the end of the Bosnian war.

Featuring the testimonies of women and men who survived sexual abuse during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as neighbouring countries, the documentary aims to encourage all victims to report the crimes they experienced and speak up about what they went through.

Experts, NGO representatives and judicial institutions appear in the “Silent Scream.” They describe the problems victims have to deal with and explain what witnesses have to go through when trying to prove that incidents of sexual wartime violence occurred.

The documentary is available on Detektor.ba and BIRN YouTube Channel.

RULE OF LAW – DISCLOSED: Monitoring organised crime, corruption and terrorism cases at the Court of BiH

BIRN BiH

The programme is dedicated to monitoring and reporting on cases of organised crime, corruption and terrorism.

Summary

BIRN BiH has filled a gap in domestic journalism in reporting on and monitoring war crimes prosecutions, but there is a simultaneous gap regarding rule of law issues. This problem is evidenced by ongoing tabloid-esque coverage of organised crime, corruption and terrorism. Inadequate research and a failure to comply with ethical standards have resulted in lawsuits against publications that have concerned themselves with rule of law issues.

BIRN BiH was also the first media outlet to start to write about disciplinary procedures within judicial institutions. Until then, these cases were unfamiliar to the public, since no press statements or any other kind of information from the judiciary was made public.

By achieving its project goals, BIRN BiH successfully contributes to the rule of law in Bosnia and Herzegovina through consistent monitoring of and reporting on the work of the domestic judiciary, thereby ensuring the judiciary’s accountability to the country’s citizens as well as harmonisation with relevant EU standards.

By establishing an editorial team trained in monitoring organsed crime, corruption and terrorism cases before the Court of BiH, the project aims to expose both good and bad practices by the country’s judiciary in regard to the rule of law; to raise reporting standards in the media, and to restore public trust in judicial institutions.

Main activities

  • Attending organised crime, corruption and terrorism trials;
  • Conducting fieldwork, collecting data and interviewing stakeholders (investigative journalism);
  • Writing and publishing analysis pieces and investigative stories;
  • Exercising public pressure via press conferences and social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube;
  • Exercising public pressure via TV shows geared towards a large viewership;
  • Judiciary and media follow-up analysis (measuring the project’s impact), followed by a set of recommendations to governmental institutions made by relevant stakeholders (judiciary representatives, journalists, academia, etc).

Target groups

  • the Bosnian judiciary
  • the wider media
  • the international community

The project benefits lawyers, judges, and staff members at state- and entity-level courts, as well as the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council, the Ministry of Justice and the Court of BiH, and the general public in the country.

Bosnian Ombudsman Praises BIRN BiH’s ‘Integrity’

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the few examples of high media integrity in the country, says “Special Report on the Situation and Threats Against the Journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina” presented on August 28 in sarajevo.

Human Rights Ombudsman Jasminka Dzumhur said that the media situation in the country today is much worse than in previous years.

Bosnia and Herzegovina ranked 65th out of 180 countries in terms of media freedom and the safety of journalists last year, compared to 2006 when it held 19th place.

The authorities failed to ensure the safety of journalists, who were exposed to violence, harassment and intimidation, as well as facing unfavourable economic conditions and a lack of workplace rights.

“Attacks on journalists are attacks on democracy,” Dzumhur stressed.

BIRN BiH was mentioned in her report as a positive example of good practices and media integrity, along with the Center for Investigative Reporting, Buka Magazine and Media Center Sarajevo.

The South-East Europe Media Observatory was quoted in the report as saying that “for a number of years, these organisations have been protecting and promoting values of public service in journalism”.

BIRN BiH Pitches Ideas at Sarajevo Film Festival

The director of BIRN’s Bosnia and Herzegovina office, Mirna Buljugic, took part in the Sarajevo Film Festival’s ‘True Stories Market’ to pitch ideas to film-makers about possible topics for documentary movies on transitional justice topics.

Buljugic presented three pitches as part of the Sarajevo Film Festival’s ‘Dealing with the Past’ programme, all of them based on stories on which BIRN BiH has reported.

“All our pitches are about the war, but all these stories define the lives of the Bosnian people today,” said Buljugic.

The first pitch was for a documentary about Ibro Delic, a Bosniak who joined the infamous ‘El Mujahid’ unit of Middle-Eastern fighters during the Bosnian war, became a member of the Salafi movement, and who in 2013 went to Syria.

Upon his return he was convicted of terrorism, and is currently serving his sentence.

The second story was about Franc Kos, a member of the Croatian Defence Council at the start of the Bosnian war, who then transferred to the Bosnian Army, and finally in 1994 switched to the Bosnian Serb Army and took part in the Srebrenica genocide. He was convicted and is serving his sentence.

The third story was about defectors hiding in Serbia in 1995, when they were arrested and handed over to the Bosnian Serb police.

They were trained for a few months at the Jahorina Training Centre and then sent on their first mission – the Srebrenica attack of 1995. Some took part in the killings and are now serving prison time.

This is the second year in which BIRN has taken part in the ‘True Stories Market’.

Last year, a pitch from BIRN BiH about a Srebrenica man called Ramiz Nukic, who spends his days searching the woods for remains of those killed in the massacres, was picked up by Al Jazeera, which made a documentary movie which was shown at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival.

Prosecutor Launches Probe after Watching BIRN TV Report

Following a report in an episode of BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s ‘TV Justice’ programme, the Bosnian state prosecution opened an investigation into the rape of a 15-year-old during the war.

A state prosecutor opened an investigation into the rape of the 15-year old after watching a ‘TV Justice’ episode in which the injured party told BIRN BiH about what she had gone through in Bratunac in 1992.

In the November 2014 episode of ‘TV Justice’, the victim, who identified herself by the initials K.E., said she was taken from Srebrenica to Bratunac, as a 15-year-old, and raped several times in abandoned houses. You can watch the full story here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPvPA8_UK9Y

Her emotional testimony caused the prosecutor to seek her out, initiate an investigation and, ultimately, file an indictment against Sasa Cvetkovic, whose trial at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina began on July 11.

The indictment alleges that at the beginning of June 1992, Cvetkovic hit and brutally raped K.E. in an abandoned house in Bratunac.

It further alleges that K.E. was brought, along with two other girls, to the house earlier that day from the Sase Zinc and Lead Mine, where Bosniak civilians were being held in detention.

Pressure Rises on Journalists in the Balkans

Weakening EU and US influence in the Balkans and increased Russian influence, as well as growing political and economic pressures on journalists, have created a harsher environment for Balkan media, BIRN’s biennial meeting heard.

At the biennial meeting of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network on Saturday, Ana Petruseva, director of BIRN Macedonia, said the situation facing the media in the Balkans “seems to be going from bad to worse”.

In addition to the usual political and financial pressures, she said, the media is seeing new types of pressure – the labelling of reporters and media outlets as spies and foreign mercenaries, as well as the opening of a large number of fake news websites.

Petruseva said the flood of fake news was “creating a media noise” in which it is becoming difficult for the public to distinguish between real and fake information, as a result of which confidence in the media in general is declining.

“People are losing trust in the media, and start to see everything as propaganda and promotion,” Petruseva said at the BIRN meeting on Saturday in Kopaonik, Serbia, referring to the new challenges facing the Balkan media.

Wolfgang Petritsch, a BIRN Board member and the president of the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation, warned the Balkan countries not to always count on EU support, as many in Brussels saw “stability as the priority” over reforms.

“The EU position has weakened owing to its internal problems. As long as it does not finish the process of internal reforms, there will be no strong EU role in the region,” he said, noting that while the promise of EU enlargement is fading, authoritarian regimes in the region are strengthening.

“Since no system has been established of how to handle enlargement, the situation will remain in the ‘twilight zone’,” Petritsch said.

Political analyst for The Economist and Balkan expert Tim Judah said the policy of “stabilitocracy”, whereby the EU and the US appear to tolerate authoritarian Balkan leaders who deliver stability, is essentially a pragmatic response.

“It means dealing with the leaders that we have, and dealing with the Balkans in the way that they are,” he said.

Judah said that while Western influence had decreased, Russian influence had grown, but that Moscow saw setbacks in recent months – giving the example of Macedonia, where Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has been ousted, and Montenegro, which joined NATO on June 5 despite Russian opposition.

“What is Russia’s interest? It is simple, they want to create within the region pro-Russian or neutral territories,” Judah said.

BIRN Board member and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe Stefan Lehne said the Balkan countries could move closer towards EU membership in different ways.

“Parallel to the very, very slow and very boring and complicated enlargement process there could be some process of horizontal enlargement. The Balkans countries should not join only country by country, but policy by policy,” Lehne said, listing Balkan countries’ participation in the Energy Community as an example of this.

BIRN board member and media expert Robert Bierman spoke of the recent experience of the media in the United States, where the administration of President Donald Trump has been targeting the press.

“Any weakness in the media will be pointed at. It doesn’t matter if two things are wrong and 98 are right, those two things become the most important in the world. It doesn’t matter that the administration is doing 98 things wrong and two things right,” Bierman said.

However, he added more optimistically that Americans appear more ready now to pay for editorial content, adding that the media are also continuing to do their job.

Before the panel, BIRN Regional Director Gordana Igric presented the results of the BIRN network’s projects in the last year, noting that the network had directly reached over five million people.

“In the past year, this number increased by over half a million people,” Igric said, adding that milestone stories had tackled such major issues as corruption, problems with public procurements and concessions. As a result of these investigations, officials have been removed and criminal charges filed.

Igric said that BIRN currently operates 16 websites in various languages, and has produced over 100 TV reports and films and held 50 training courses during the past year.

According to Igric, BIRN’s articles have been republished or cited in many respected foreign media, including The Guardian, the BBC, and Bloomberg. BIRN has also been very active in advocating the prosecution of war crimes and in participative budgeting activities.

The biennial BIRN network meeting continues until June 10 on Mount Kopaonik in Serbia.

Sarajevo Panel: Transitional Justice is a Global Challenge

The implementation of transitional justice mechanisms represents the only way to secure stability and respect for human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in other places around the world, concluded participants in a panel discussion held as part of the WARM Festival in Sarajevo on June 29.

The discussion on ‘Conventional and unconventional approaches to transitional justice’ dealt with lessons from the Balkan region and their implementation in areas throughout the world where attempts are being made to deal with the consequences of conflicts.

Denis Dzidic, editor at the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovivna, said Bosnia’s biggest failure was in the field of compensation for victims, adding that there was also still no law governing the rights of torture victims.

“We, in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region, have never gone through an institutional reform,” Dzidic said, adding that the country’s Transitional Justice Strategy was an excellent document, but it had not been implemented.

Tanya Domi of Columbia University in New York said the key issue was how to involve victims in reconciliation processes, how to give them a voice and ensure that they are satisfied with the process of justice.

Myles Wallingford of the Post-Conflict Research Center said his organisation focused on making sure that victims have access to justice and that it uses multimedia projects for memoralisation processes.

Samantha Owens of the Art Works Projects Chicago said her project attempted to expand the lessons learned in Bosnia, Congo and Columbia to the United States, where the racial gap was getting more pronounced.

Speaking on behalf of the Sarajevo Film Festival, Masa Markovic said that last year’s festival presented a programme on ‘Coming to terms with the past’.

She said she wanted films from the region that cover conflict-related topics to reach a broader audience.

BIRN BiH Addresses ICTY Legacy Event in Sarajevo

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BIH) editor Erna Mackic was one of the speakers at a side event at a three-day conference reflecting on the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and how others can build upon its achievements.

Mackic spoke at an event called “How NGOs use ICTY findings and document”.

She reminded the audience about the problems that the Bosnian public have with the State Court and Prosecutor’s Office, not being able to receive indictments and convictions, and explained how they could be more open in their work.

“The situation in BiH is very specific and very often the facts established by the Hague Tribunal have been denied, both by state institutions and the public”, Mackic said.

She also spoke about the importance of ICTY Outreach program:

“We had the opportunity to organise the training of journalists who were at the Hague Tribunal and got acquainted with its work. In different ways we were trying to help ordinary citizens to learn more about the work of the Hague Tribunal,” she said.

More than 300 people attend the ICTY conference in Sarajevo from June 22-24, including judges and staff of the ICTY, stakeholders at the local level, as well as international experts and scholars.

A significant number of the participants were from the former Yugoslavia, including associations of victims, youth, lawyers, politicians, NGOs, academics, media representatives and the general public.

Media against Hate Workshop in Poland

Mirna Buljugic, executive director of Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, took part in a Media Literacy Training session organized by the Community Media Forum Europe, CMFE, at the University of Warmia and Mazury, in Olsztyn, Poland, from June 7th to 9th.

The focus was on freedom of expression and respect of human rights, specifically of Muslims, in the media, including discussing the portrayal of Muslims in the European media and highlighting the main issues and recommendations for improvement.

At several workshops, journalists learned more about how to recognize hate speech and become aware of the legitimate boundaries between freedom of expression and human rights.

Buljugic shared her own experience in the Bosnian media, talking about biased news coverage in which reporting still reflects national and religious identity.

A growing problem in BiH, she noted, is hatred that is spread via the online media, especially in the comments sections of online news portals, since no adequate mechanisms exist either to prevent or sanction such abuses from occurring.