BIRN’s Transitional Justice Programme Enters New Phase

Over the next three years, BIRN’s transitional justice initiative, which is supported by the EU, will focus on building the capacities of local media and civil society in order to promote reconciliation and intercultural dialogue.

From 2018 to the end of 2020, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s Balkan Transitional Justice Initiative will work to promote and strengthen transitional justice mechanisms and processes through regular, in-depth, high-quality reporting from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Supported by the European Union, BIRN has partnered with the Netherlands-based organisation Impunity Watch in order to increase and strengthen the capacities of local journalists, civil society activists and victims’ groups to monitor, effectively engage and shape ongoing transitional justice processes, including the implementation of the EU policy framework on transitional justice.

In the upcoming months, besides daily reporting on transitional justice issues, BIRN’s team will produce investigations across the region, televised debates in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and create a focus page about the newly-established Specialist Chambers in The Hague.

It will also continue to work on data journalism, update BIRN’s war crimes verdict map and develop a new database of wartime mass graves.

BIRN will also support local journalists through training sessions, study tours, small grants and mentoring to report on transitional justice.

Impunity Watch will hold workshops and produce policy papers about victims’ participation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

BIRN’s Transitional Justice Initiative has been run since 2011 and besides the EU, it has been supported by the Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands and the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Revealing Corruption Remains Challenge for Balkan Media

Reporters on corruption and organised crime in the Balkans are subject to a range of different pressures and challenges – as our comparison of reporting on such cases in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia shows.

Organised crime and corruption are among the key challenges facing the societies of the Western Balkans, with corruption in particular being a key grievance for ordinary citizens and voters.

As in any democracy, the media play a crucial role when it comes to informing the public on these subjects and shaping public debates.

The extent to which the media are able to do so objectively and independently will help the public to both better understand the scale of the problem and assess what their elected representatives and institutions, tasked with upholding the rule of law, are doing to combat organised crime and corruption.

During 2017, BIRN conducted a regional study that examined how the media report on organised crime and corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia.

Aside from the looking at how media report on the topic, the study also sought to unpack why media report on organised crime and corruption in the way they do.

Specifically, our study sought to identify the challenges and constraints faced by media organisations across the region when it comes to reporting on organised crime and corruption.

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BIRN to Host Regional Conference on Media and Rule of Law

BIRN will host a regional conference on access to information and media reporting on investigative and judicial proceedings in cases of organised crime and corruption on Thursday in Sarajevo.

The event will bring together representatives of the judiciary, non-governmental organisations and media representatives from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia.

The conference is being organised as part of a project entitled ‘Exercising Freedom of Expression and the Openness of State Institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia’, supported by German Foreign Office Stability Pact funds and implemented by BIRN Hub in cooperation with BIRN Serbia and BIRN Kosovo.

In 2017, BIRN undertook a regional study which examined how the media report on organised crime and corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia.

As well as looking at how media report on these topics, the study also sought to analyse why media report on organised crime and corruption in the way that they do.

The study also sought to identify the challenges and constraints faced by media organisations across the region when it comes to reporting on organised crime and corruption.

The media monitoring was carried out in the period from April-June 2017 and involved six media outlets in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia respectively as well as five in Kosovo.

In-depth interviews were conducted with 72 people during this period – 29 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 22 in Kosovo and 21 in Serbia. Among those interviewed were a broad range of current or former judges, prosecutors, policemen, lawyers, editors, journalists, politicians and experts.

The project resulted in three unique country-based analyses and one cross-regional analysis, the first such study to offer a regional perspective on this topic.

The findings will be presented on Thursday in Sarajevo, together with a debate divided into three panels, including guests from the media, police and judiciary across the region, who will conduct a dialogue on issues arising from the analyses.

BIRN Bosnia Probes Weak Points in Country’s Judiciary

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, held a closing press conference for “Rule of Law – disclosed”, a project supported over the past two years by the Netherlands’ MATRA program.

The conference, organized in Sarajevo on November 27, presented analyses of work on the judiciary with a special focus on the processing of organized crime, corruption and terrorism cases over the past year.

BIRN BiH director Mirna Buljugić said the lack of transparency in Bosnia’s judicial institutions, and low level of trust that citizens have in them, are one of the main reasons why BIRN BiH needs to act as a social correctively tool.

Journalist Elameri Skrgic-Mikulic presented analysis on the prosecution of corruption cases before the country’s state-level court, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some of the main problems it detected are the lack of indictments, discrepancy between reported and prosecuted crimes and a shortage of experienced prosecutors.

One of the good practices institutions have started to use, however, is tracking the flow of money, which can present important evidence, and has an important role in preventing new crimes from taking place.

Denis Dzidic, BIRN BiH editor, speaking about cases related to terrorism, noting a trend towards plea agreements resulting in similar penalties.

Dzidic also detected a lack of an effective mechanism of confiscation of illegally acquired property in cases of organized crime.

All analyses are available at following links:

State Judiciary Failing to Seize Illegally-Acquired Assets

Prosecution’s Internal Struggles Undermine Fight Against Corruption

Terrorism Focus Shifts from Trials to Deradicalisation

BIRN BiH Comprehensivlely Covers Ratko Mladic Verdict

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH) journalists reported from The Hague, Srebrenica, Prijedor, Banja Luka and Sarajevo on the day of former Bosnian Serb military chief Ratko Mladic’s verdict, delivering exclusive reports and reactions.

BIRN BiH’s executive editor Erna Mackic and journalist Admir Muslimovic followed the sentencing of Ratko Mladic in The Hague. They filed reports from the courtroom, in real time, before and after the judgment, along with reactions from those who were most affected by the trial.

BIRN BiH also had a live blog dedicated to the Ratko Mladic verdict, publishing minute-by-minute reactions and news from The Hague, Srebrenica, Prijedor, Banja Luka and Sarajevo. For ten hours, while the blog was live, it had about 1,200 unique visits.

In the week of the Mladic verdict, over 107,000 people visited the Facebook page of detektor.ba. Its Twitter account had 33,500 impressions and the web site www.detektor.ba had more than 4,700 unique visitors.

In cooperation with Radio Free Europe, a TV debate was produced about the first count of Mladic indictment – genocide in 1992 in six Bosnian municipalities.

Journalists and editors from BIRN BiH, as media experts on the subject of war crimes and war crimes prosecutions, commented on Mladic’s verdict for Unsko-Sanska TV, N1 Bosnia and Herzegovina, BHRT public service, BH Radio 1, Federal radio, Radio BIR Zenica, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera Balkans, Radio Free Europe, RTV Slon, Canton TV Sarajevo, Bihac TV, Hayat, Bljesak  and Kosovo TV Kohavision.

BIRN BiH will this week publish special reports on the Herzeg-Bosnia verdict at the Hague Tribunal.

BIRN Reporters Trained in Mobile Video Journalism

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina and BIRN Serbia journalists, along with colleagues from seven Bosnian newsrooms and students of journalism, attended a training course in mobile video production from September 22 to 24 in Sarajevo.

The training was done by Voice of America (VOA) Broadcasting Board of Governors trainers, organised by BIRN BiH and supported by the US embassy in Sarajevo.

Thirty journalists and students from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia learnt new approaches and developed their skills in video reporting using new technologies that will be in usage in everyday reporting.

The training was intended to improve the quality and quantity of reporting 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 BiH and VOA, which started at the begining of 2017.

BIRN BiH will continue to produce short video stories for VOA , and additional training sessions are being planned for the next year.

“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”.