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 Shqiptarja.com 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 https://bit.ly/2KfdOmF.

Between Pressures and Praises – BIRN Network Annual Report 2017

In 2017, BIRN Network operated in an environment of declining media freedoms and unregulated media markets, where authorities and pro-governmental media outlets pressured members of the Network and its journalists; nevertheless, BIRN received national and international prizes as well as different kinds of informal praise.

An unfavourable media situation and the lack of proper cooperation with institutions—sometimes even hostile attitude towards BIRN—occasionally hinders the work of the organisation. However, through this report, we also underscore the best results of BIRN’s work, including the praise it has received.

The report shows what the organisation did to offer high quality journalistic work and to provide citizens with reliable, timely and in-depth reporting as well as BIRN’s contribution to improving media freedom and openness of public institutions. It also highlights the instances in which BIRN’s work had a strong political and social impact, showing that—despite difficulties—professional journalistic reporting can conclude in tangible results.

The whole report is available here [link].

BIRN Documentaries Recognised as Source for Educators

Devedesete.net, a website developed with historians from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, has named two films made by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH) as an important source about the history of the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia.

The Association of European Educators of History, EUROCLIO, in cooperation with associations of history teachers and educators from the former Yugoslav region, recently launched the Devedesete.net website, which contains materials intended to help teach subjects related to the 1990s wars.

The materials include Hague Tribunal verdicts and two documentaries produced by BIRN BiH – ‘Missing You’, about the relatives of missing persons, and ‘Silent Scream’ about the traumas still experienced by wartime sexual abuse victims in Bosnia.

“Our idea was to show to teachers there are materials beyond the curriculum that can be used when teaching about the 1990 wars in a modern and responsible manner. Those include various databases, literature, documentaries and feature films, museum exhibitions, memorials, as well as various NGO projects,” said Aleksandar Todosijevic of the Association for Social History of Serbia EUROCLIO.

Media reporting on organised crime and corruption in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia

A regional comparison of how media report on cases of organized crime and corruption in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia analysing the main obstacles faced by reporters.

BIRN’s project “Exercising the Freedom of Expression and Openness of State Institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia” supported by the German Federal Foreign Office Stability Pact fund, was a regional, 10-month long project with aim to contribute to professionalizing media reporting on legal proceedings related to organized crime and corruption.

The project also intended to increase public awareness on the issues of access to justice and contribute towards more transparent and more responsive institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia.

The project resulted with three unique country-based and one cross-regional analysis, the first of its kind offering a regional perspective on this topic.

Aside from the looking at how media report on the topic, the study also sought to unpack why media report on organized crime and corruption in the way they do. Specifically, the study sought to identify the challenges and constraints faced by media organizations across the region when it comes to reporting on organized crime and corruption.

 

Download reports in English

Regional report

Bosnia and Herzegovina country report

Kosovo country report

Serbia country report

 

Download reports in Albanian

Regional report

Kosovo country report

 

Download reports in BHS

Regional report

Serbia country report

Bosnia and Herzegovina country report

Kosovo country report

BIRN Holds ‘Let’s Hear Women’ Workshop in Banja Luka

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH) held the last of four ‘Let’s Hear Women’ workshops on media communication for women’s rights activists on February 15 in Banja Luka.

Fifteen activists from 11 non-governmental organisations from Banja Luka, Bihac and Buzim were given training to raise the profile of their cause in mainstream media.

After theoretical advice about the importance of taking an active part in public debate and the usage of social networks in NGOs’ work, BIRN BiH staged a practical workshop. The participants gave interviews on camera, watched the results, and were given feedback and recommendations about their on-screen presence and speaking style.

In order to improve interaction with their audiences on social networks, they were introduced to the targeted boosting of Facebook posts. A set of guidelines on writing and distributing public statements was offered, as well one about sending official emails.

BIRN BiH held the four ‘Let’s Hear Women’ workshops in Sarajevo, Tuzla, Mostar and Banja Luka, supported by the US Embassy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A total of 46 women from 32 organisations were given training in public speaking and media communication.

Soldier Praising Mladic Faces Discipline After BIRN Report

Defence Ministry is mulling measures against Bosnian army soldier whose activities on social networks were reported by BIRN.

The Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina has launched disciplinary proceedings against a soldier named Djordje Tojcic, whose Instagram profile praised the former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic.

The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, in The Hague, found Mladic guilty of genocide in the town of Srebrenica and of other war crimes.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BIH, reported that police were investigating allegation about Tojcic’s activities on social networks.

It said police had reviewed the allegations about Tojcic, who on his Instagram profile published a picture of Mladic’s military cap from the 1992-5 war in Bosnia with the description: “Europe knows, but will not admit, the general fought against terrorism.”

Following the description of the image, Tojcic added the message: “Thank you for everything!!”

Bosnia’s Defence Ministry stated that measures would be imposed on Tojcic if a disciplinary proceeding confirms the allegations.

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, Croatia, 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.