BIRN Holds Meeting on Regional War Crimes Cooperation

After previous meetings in Zagreb and Sarajevo, BIRN organised a meeting of transitional justice stakeholders in Belgrade on September 11 to develop recommendations for improving regional cooperation in prosecuting crimes committed during the 1990s wars.

The meetings are being held as a part of BIRN’s Balkan Transitional Justice programme, bringing together representatives of war victims’ associations and the courts, as well as NGO members, humanitarian law experts and representatives of international organisations.

At the meeting in Belgrade, the participants raised various issues concerning regional cooperation in prosecuting war crimes committed during the 1990s conflicts, such as trials of defendants in their absence, the lack of cooperation between countries’ prosecutor’s offices and the lack of political will for states to fully cooperate.

As well as raising their concerns about such problems, the participants suggested possible solutions.

This input, along with input from the meetings in Zagreb and Sarajevo and the upcoming one in Pristina in September, will be formulated into recommendations.

After all four meetings with stakeholders, one final conference will be held at the regional level in Sarajevo on October 3-4.

The recommendations from the stakeholders’ meetings and the conference will be used to create a policy paper for improving regional cooperation between states in prosecuting war crimes.

Dusica Tomovic

DušicaTomovic has been Montenegro correspondent for BIRN’s Balkan Insight since 2013.

Dusica has worked as a journalist since 2002, mainly covering politics and security issues.

Before joining BIRN, she worked for Montenegrin newspapers Vijesti where she reported on secutiry and military issues, and organized crime and corruption. She has completed a number of training courses in reporting and journalistic work.

BIRN Participates in Media and Terrorism Conference in Bosnia

Providing accurate and unbiased information is essential when reporting about terrorism and violent extremism, heard a conference organised by the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina on Mount Jahorina from August 31 to September 2, at which BIRN’s regional director was a speaker.

The conference brought together over hundred journalists and media professionals to discuss professional standards related to reporting on terrorism and violent extremism.

As Bruce G. Berton the head of the OSCE mission in the country noted, while news about these topics draws a lot of attention and outlets are expected to publish or air it as quickly as possible, it is up to media to avoid sensationalism in the process.

The age of social media had put even greater importance on reporting professionally and responsibly on violent extremism and terrorism.

Unnamed and non-credible sources are one of the dangers for spreading propaganda.

Adhering to ethical standards such as truthfulness, independence, objectivity, empathy and responsibility are key principles in reliable reporting about terrorism and terrorist attacks, said Aidan White, president of the Ethical Journalism Network.

Marija Ristic, BIRN’s Regional Director, who spoke about reporting on violent extremism in Serbia, stressed that media often respond to the dominant narrative in society.

Reporting on the topic in Serbia is overly tabloid with sensationalistic content, almost no sources, and often alarmist in tone, emphasising Islamic radicalization, Ristic said.

But Serbian media takes a completely different tone when reporting on Serb fighters serving with pro-Russian forces in Ukraine, when its dominant narrative is one of “support for our Russian brothers” and a “justified struggle”, she added.

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 Summer School Puts Focus on ‘Art of Interviews’

On the third day of the BIRN Summer School in Romania, journalists learned about interviewing techniques, how to use the Paradise Papers in investigations, verifying videos and uses of podcasts.

As BIRN’s summer school continued on Wednesday, lead trainer and Reuters investigative projects editor Blake Morrison held a session on the “art of interviewing” and on how to convince difficult sources to talk, describing interviews as a crucial component of the journalistic job.

“Think of any story as a blind date,” he told participants.

Morrison stressed the need for preparation and gave insight into why some people agree to give an interview – vanity, the need to be understood, self-interest, desperation, guilt and curiosity.

Susanne Reber, co-founder of Reveal podcast and Podcasting Executive Producer for E.W. Scripps National, introduced participants to the art of podcasting and of making stories heard.

BIRN investigations editor Lawrence Marzouk spoke of how to research the arms trade, using open source data.

The financial investigations workshop continued with OCCRP’s Miranda Patrucic explaining the Paradise Papers and how investigative journalists can find leads and data in the leaks.

The geolocation and digital investigations workshop also continued on Wednesday, with Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert’s lecturing on how to verify if a photo or a video was taken in a certain location at a given time.

Lead trainer Morrison held a second practical individual session with journalists.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States. For the first time, the Summer School has welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

BIRN Summer School Day 2: Fact-Checking, Financial Reports and Metadata analysis

BIRN’s Summer School continued on Tuesday in Poiana Brasov, Romania, with sessions exploring fact-checking strategies, how to mine financial reports and using metadata for investigative stories.

Blake Morrison, investigative projects editor at Reuters, introduced participants at the BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting to fact-checking strategies and conducted a hands-on exercise exploring the differences between supposition and proof.

Miranda Patrucic, editor with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, explained how to interpret and get the most from financial reports and documents.

In the afternoon, New York Times senior video editor Christoph Koettl looked at how to analyse content and metadata in photos and videos.

Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert introduced participants to open-source investigation and verification looking at how the organisation investigated the downing of the passenger plane MH17 over Ukraine and the 2016 failed coup in Turkey.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States.

For the first time, the Summer School has welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

Ninth BIRN Summer School Begins in Romania

This year’s Summer School started on Monday in Poiana Brasov, Romania, with lectures and interactive sessions on using satellite imagery and digital research in investigative reporting and on how to push for accountability.

Reporters from the Balkan region and across the world gathered on Monday in the mountain resort of Poiana Brasov, Romania, for the ninth BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting.

After greeting participants, Blake Morrison, the school’s lead trainer and investigative projects editor at Reuters, held a lecture and discussion about how to imagine a complex investigative story, as well as how to push for accountability.

Christoph Koettl, senior video journalist at The New York Times, specializing in geospatial and open-source research, also held an introductory session on using digital research and verification in investigative research.

He continued with a lecture on geospatial and satellite imagery used in investigative journalism, followed by an interactive exercise.

In the afternoon, the participants discussed story ideas and were divided up into smaller groups for in-depth sessions with Reuters’ editor Morrison.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States.

For the first time, the Summer School welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organized in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

Media Investigations: Stop to READ (Regional Environmental Acts of Devastation)

BIRN Hub

The project aims to strengthen investigative reporting in Montenegro, which is being implemented by BIRN, CIN Montenegro and Monitor magazine. The project was funded by the EU Delegation in Podgorica.

Summary

Through intensive training, international mentoring and an investigative approach, the project has a goal to increase the capacities of CIN Montenegro, Monitor, and other media outlets whose journalists are taking part.

Within the project, the call for investigative stories with an environmental angle was launched in March 2018.

BIRN, CIN Montenegro and Monitor magazine held a training course in Podgorica in April  2018 for journalists, teaching the investigative skills needed to produce stories covering environmental issues. Topics covered by the course included investigative journalism techniques, online storytelling, multimedia training, video and photo editing, as well as information on domestic and EU politics in the sphere of environmental protection.

Three journalists have been awarded grants to cover their expenses while carrying out investigations and writing stories on the environment and related to Chapter 27 within the EU accession process.

BIRN Recognised for Investigative Reporting in Montenegro

A prominent Montenegrin anti-corruption watchdog has named a BIRN investigation into financial abuses by local chiefs in the Montenegrin town of Ulcinj the best story using freedom of information requests in 2018.

The winner was announced on July 24 in Podgorica by The Network for Affirmation of the NGO Sector, MANS.

The award aims to highlight the achievements of investigative journalists and support and promote quality investigative journalism in Montenegro.

The article – Local Chiefs’ Financial Abuses Blight Montenegrin Costal Town – written by Sanja Rasovic and published in November 2017 on BIRN’s regional publication Balkan Insight, was part of the ‘Investigate for ME and EU project, which is being implemented by the Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN-CG) and BIRN.

Strengthening investigative reporting and the capacities of investigative journalists in Montenegro, as well as the quality of media coverage of EU negotiation chapters, are the focus of this EU-supported project that began in February 2017.

Srdjan Garcevic

Srdjan joined Belgrade Insight as Coordinating Editor in April 2018.

Srdjan also writes comments, blogs and features covering arts, politics, culture and the economy of the region for Belgrade Insight and Balkan Insight. His writing has also been published by a number of regional and global outlets such as MSNBC, Index.hr and others.

Prior to joining BIRN, Srdjan worked as a strategy consultant for a London-based consulting firm. He is the founder of the blog The Nutshell Times, and the podcast series Pokretaci, which focus on regional topics such as arts, design and entrepreneurship.

Srdjan holds an MSc in Economics for Development from the University of Oxford, and a BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Warwick.