Call for Proposals Aimed To Strengthen Independent Journalism

Call for Proposals for the EU Funded Project

“Contribute to strengthening independent, investigative and publicly beneficial journalism and freedom of expression in Kosovo”

BIRN and AJK have joined forces in implementing the EU Funded Project “Contribute to strengthening independent, investigative and publicly beneficial journalism and freedom of expression in Kosovo”. This Call for Proposals is one of the project’s components which aims to provide opportunities for local NGOs/CSOs, including journalists, operating and working in Kosovo, to tackle the issues related to media freedoms and freedom of expression in their respective communities. Specifically, the given scheme seeks to develop not only independent, investigative, impartial, unbiased and publicly beneficial journalism in Kosovo, but also equip its beneficiaries with the required skills and resources to move beyond protocol journalism and delve into creative, investigative, legally-sound and publicly beneficial journalism.

This Call for Proposals contains two lots:

LOT I: Supporting document-based reporting on themes related to good governance, education, healthcare, economy and human rights and encourage access to public documents.

LOT IIImproving internal governance of the PCK and/or its members organizations in respecting labor law, respecting copyright and applying best standards of media legislation.

The applications MUST be sent by e-mail to euproposals@birn.eu.com by 08.06.2018, at 16:00.


Thirrje për Propozime për Projekt të Financuar nga BE

“Kontribut në forcimin e gazetarisë së pavarur, hulumtuese dhe të dobishme për publikun, si dhe në lirinë e shprehjes në Kosovë”

BIRN dhe AGK kanë bashkuar forcat në zbatimin e projektit të financuar nga BE-ja “Kontribut në forcimin e gazetarisë së pavarur, hulumtuese dhe të dobishme për publikun, si dhe në lirinë e shprehjes në Kosovë”. Kjo Thirrje për Propozime është një nga komponentët e projektit që ka për qëllim të ofrojnë mundësi për OJQ/OSHC-të lokale, përfshirë gazetarët që veprojnë dhe punojnë në Kosovë, për të trajtuar çështjet që kanë të bëjnë me lirinë e medias dhe lirinë e shprehjes në komunitetet e tyre përkatëse. Konkretisht, skema e ofruar mëton të zhvillojë jo vetëm një gazetari të pavarur, hulumtuese, të paanshme, joparagjykuese dhe në të mirë të publikut, por gjithashtu t’i pajisë përfituesit e saj me shkathtësitë dhe resurset e nevojshme për të lëvizur përtej gazetarisë së protokollit dhe për të hyrë në gazetarinë krijuese, hulumtuese dhe në të mirë publike .

Kjo Thirrje për Propozime përmban dy llote:

LLOTI I: Mbështetja e raportimit të bazuar në dokumente mbi temat që kanë të bëjnë me qeverisjen e mirë, arsimin, shëndetësinë, ekonominë dhe të drejtat e njeriut dhe inkurajimi i qasjes në dokumente publike.

LLOTI II: Përmirësimi i qeverisjes së brendshme të KMSHK dhe/ose organizatave anëtarëve të saj në respektimin e ligjit të punës, duke respektuar të drejtën e autorit dhe zbatuar standardet më të mira të legjislacionit të medias.

Aplikacionet DUHET të dërgohen me postë elektronike në adresën euproposals@birn.eu.com deri më 08.06.2018, ora 16:00.


Poziv za predloge za projekat koji finansira EU

“Doprinos jačanju nezavisnog, istraživačkog i novinarstva od javne koristi i slobode izražavanja na Kosovu”

BIRN i UNK su udružili snage u sprovođenju projekta koji finansira EU “Doprinos jačanju nezavisnog, istraživačkog i novinarstva od javne koristi i slobode izražavanja na Kosovu” Ovaj Poziv za predloge je jedna od komponenti projekta koja ima za cilj pružanje prilika NVO/OCD-ima, uključujući novinare koji deluju i rade na Kosovu u borbi protiv pitanja koja se odnose na slobodu medija i slobodu izražavanja u svojim zajednicama. Posebno, navedena shema pokušava da razvije ne samo nezavisno, istraživačko, objektivno i novinarstvo od javne koristi na Kosovu, nego i korisnicima pruži odgovarajuće veštine i resurse za prevazilaženje protokolskog novinarstva i udube se u kreativno, istraživačko, zakonski opravdano i novinarstvo od javne koristi.

Ovaj Poziv za ponude sadrži dva lota:

LOT I: Podrška izveštavanju zasnovanom na dokumentima o temama koje se odnose na dobro upravljanje, obrazovanje, privredu i ljudska prava i ohrabrivanje uvida u javna dokumenta.

LOT II: Poboljšanje unutrašnjeg upravljanja SŠM i/ili članica organizacija u poštovanju zakona o radu, poštovanju autorskih prava i primeni najboljih standarda u medijskom zakonodavstvu.

Prijave se MORAJU poslati e-mailom na euproposals@birn.eu.com do 08.06.2018. u 16.00 


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

BBC and Al Jazeera English release BIRN-backed documentaries

The BBC and Al Jazeera English have produced investigative documentaries in recent months working alongside BIRN’s in-house investigative team.

BIRN has collaborated with the BBC and Al Jazeera English in recent months to investigate the far-right in the Balkans and a secretive arms pipeline to Syria.

The Al Jazeera English probe built on BIRN and OCCRP’s award-winning series of investigations, Making a Killing http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/page/balkan-arms-trade, which delved into how Balkan weapons were flooding the Syrian battlefields.

The “America’s Guns: Secret Pipeline to Syria” documentary was first broadcast in March on Al Jazeera’s People and Power show and involved filming in Croatia, Bulgaria and the US.

The report brought BIRN’s findings to a wider audience, revealed the human cost of the scramble to train and equip US-backed Syrian militia.  BIRN published two articles on the back of the research:  Death in Bulgaria: Pentagon Contractor’s Widow Fights For Truth and US Splurges More Cash on Balkans Arms for Syria.

On May 1, the BBC and BIRN published the fruits of its collaboration into the British nationalists operating in the Balkans. The BBC produced television and radio documentaries focussing on “the invisible man of Britain’s far right” – Jim Dowson – and his activities in Hungary, Bulgaria, Serbia and Kosovo: Is this Britain’s most influential far-right activist?

BIRN released its own investigation, focussing on how Jim Dowson and an organisation he is closely linked to are increasingly active in Serbia: British Nationalist Trains Serb Far-Right for ‘Online War.

As part of the research, BIRN also employed a cyber forensic expert Andrej Petrovski of the Share Foundation, who is helping journalists improve their investigations by using cutting edge technologies.

These collaborations are part of BIRN’s Paper Trail to Better Governance programme, funded by the Austrian Development Agency.

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 Kosovo Holds Discussion with Multi-Ethnic Journalists

BIRN Kosovo organised a discussion on April 11 in Gracanica, bringing together journalists from various ethnic communities in Kosovo – Albanian, Serb, Bosnian – with the aim of increasing cooperation between them.

During the discussion, speakers said that one of the main problems they face on a daily basis is the lack of knowledge of other communities’ languages.

The journalists also noted that they do not know each other in person, and said that this would improve their cooperation and eliminate any so-called “fear” of one another.

Petrit Çollaku from the Association of Professional Journalists of Kosovo (AGK) said that the situation in terms of cooperation is currently stagnant.

He suggested that Serb journalists should visit Pristina frequently, in order to get acquainted with the social and political problems of Kosovo.

This is the second consecutive year that this project has been organised by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, supported by the European Union Office in Kosovo.

BIRN Kosovo Reports on Progress of Corruption Cases

A conference organized by BIRN and Internews Kosova on March 28 presented a report with findings on the monitoring of judicial cases in Kosovo that have been targeted in connection with visa liberalization, and the procedures for each case.

At the beginning of the conference, the main findings of the report were outlined.

Labinot Leposhtica, BIRN/Internews Kosova’s Legal and Border Monitoring Coordinator and co-author of the report, stated that there were a total of 39 targeted cases, focusing on 19, with an emphasis on the Basic Court procedures in which 15 of the cases are being processed.

He noted a discrepancy between the data provided by the Prosecutorial Council and the Judicial Council, KJC. From the KJC, it was stated that so far five first instance cases were concluded, and six with a final decision rendered.

In the KPC, there are eight cases with a final decision rendered, and four cases concluded in the first instance.

Of the 19 cases, the largest number now in process are before the Basic Court in Prishtina, two in Mitrovica, Prizren and Ferizaj, and one in the Kaçanik branch.

Aleksander Lumezi, the Chief State Prosecutor, said he agreed that there had been no concrete progress concerning final decisions on the targeted cases.

He pointed out that the Prosecution targeted 40 cases, and that together with the Chief Prosecutor of the Special Prosecution, they are in the targeting phase of a number of these cases, and by the end of June expect to return with more conclusive results.

Faik Ispahiu, Director of Internews Kosova, said there had been some progress but not enough in comparison to what was needed. “There are advances, there is progress, but these are so small as to be almost negligible,” he said.

Abelard Tahiri, Minister of Justice, said policy making is important in this process. “I am talking about its three perspectives: addressing issues arising from the progress report; implementation of the national plan; and the enlargement report, where deep reforms in the judiciary and prosecution are required,” he said.

Enver Peci, President of the Supreme Court, stated that the EU rule of law body EULEX was complicating things, that fighting crime and corruption as criterion for visa liberalization was a process, and that cases cannot be measured day by day.

Reshat Millaku, the Coordinator of the KPC for these cases, said that they had targeted all of the cases to convey the message that no one is untouchable. Millaku stated that when he took up the post of KPC coordinator for the targeted cases, he asked all prosecutors from the basic prosecution to send every case of corruption so that a database could be created.

Hasan Shala, Chairman of the Court of Appeals, mentioned that last year the court concluded 145 cases out of 161 cases in total, and affirmed those who had committed a criminal act, and deserve to, will go to jail.

Aferdita Bytyqi, President of the Basic Court in Prishtina, said the judges of this court and the Department for Serious Crimes faced the biggest challenges. She said she understood that the capital’s court has more cases because high crime is more concentrated in Pristina. Despite these challenges, she said, cases targeted for visa liberalization were progressing.

Skënder Çoçaj from Kosovo Judicial Council indicated several recommendations that BIRN and IKS have provided in the report, which have recently started being implemented, and they need now to decide whether there is legal basis to transfer these cases to other courts.

Three of the 19 cases dealt with in the report are known as the “Ferronikeli”, “Stenta”, and “Safety” cases.

In the “Ferronikeli” case, the accused is the former leader of Lipjan, Shukri Buja; 129 days have passed and the date of the hearing has not yet been determined. In total, 884 days have elapsed since the start of this case.

The “Stenta” case includes 59 physical persons and four juridical ones that have been accused; 646 days have elapsed since the filing of the indictment and no review of the case has begun.

In the “Safety” case, the accused include the director of KEK, Arben Gjukla, and the former head of PRB, Hysni Hoxha and the former chairman of Skenderaj, Sami Lushtaku.

Some of BIRN’s and IKS’s recommendations are:

  • Increased communication between KPC and KJC through joint meetings to coordinate and harmonize data
  • Judges dealing with these targeted cases should be supported by professional associates to assist them
  • Prosecutors who have targeted cases should also rely on professional associates
  • Prosecutors should not be allowed to miss a session; otherwise they will be replaced and will not be able to participate in other cases
  • Requests for transfer or promotion of judges and prosecutors who have cases in process should be refused.

Participants in this discussion included judges and prosecutors of the specific targeted cases, lawyers as well as representatives of civil society.

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

Marija Ristic Appointed as New BIRN Network Director

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Regional Network (BIRN Hub) has appointed Marija Ristic to the positon of Regional Network Director, to replace the current director, Gordana Igric.

Marija Ristic has been appointed as BIRN’s Regional Network Director, effective from May 1 this year.

She will lead the BIRN Hub, which coordinates the BIRN network, dealing with editorial, training, operations and development, as well as developing, fundraising for and coordinating core regional projects.

Since its inception, BIRN has attracted exceptional professionals to its team who have helped the organisation over the years to flourish and become a trusted source of information, and Ristic is one of the foremost examples, said Gordana Igric, the current BIRN Regional Network Director.

“I feel confident that she will bring fresh ideas and new energy to the Network, as well as passionately guard the quality of programmes within the Hub,” Igric said.

Ristic started working for BIRN in 2011 as a journalist, contributing to the regional Balkan Transitional Justice programme. Topics related to facing the past, reconciliation and transitional justice have been at the core of her professional development.

In 2015, Ristic produced the award-winning documentary ‘The Unidentified’, which was screened across the Europe and the United States.

She also made BIRN one of the first media organisations in the Western Balkans to initiate regular reporting about violent extremism, populism and propaganda under the regional Resonant Voices Initiative, which also involved training journalists to cover these topics.

“It is a privilege and an honour to lead such an exceptional team of professionals who have been at the forefront of defending media freedoms, human rights and setting the highest journalistic standards across the Western Balkans region,” Ristic said.

Ristic has significant expertise and knowledge related to media, transitional justice, human rights, democratic processes and EU integration.

She has also been actively involved in organisational development, fundraising and expanding the organisation’s influence regionally and abroad over the past several years.

Ristic is a graduate of the Geneva Academy for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. She has received numerous awards and scholarships from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the OSCE, Zoran Djindjic Foundation and the Research Council of Norway. She is currently a fellow at the Free University in Berlin, Germany enrolled in the European Journalism Fellowship programme, researching universal jurisdiction.

Gordana Igric, the outgoing Regional Network Director, set up BIRN in 2004, and over the past 14 years has overseen its growth from a handful of employees to around 150, with six offices in the Western Balkans, journalistic coverage from 13 countries, and 16 websites in English and local languages.

Eleven Awards Won by BIRN Journalists in 2017

BIRN Network members took home 11 awards in 2017 for reporting within their respective countries as well as for their regional and international investigations.

A multi-country series of investigations about weapons exports into the Middle East, carried by BIRN Hub and BIRN Kosovo won three awards in 2017.

Judges awarding the prestigious Global Shining Light Award honoured the investigation in November with citations of excellence.

“Making a Killing” received special recognition at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2017 in Johannesburg with a certificate of excellence. The report was jointly produced with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). The story deals with the Pentagon’s $2.2 billion weapons pipeline of Soviet-made arms flooding into Syria.

The report is part of a wider research project by BIRN and the OCCRP on the illegal international arms trade. It was shortlisted in July 2017 for the Global Shining Light Award sponsored by the Global Investigative Journalism Network, an association of 155 non-profit organisations in 68 countries.

“Making a Killing” also won an award for online media in an investigative journalism competition organised by the Independent Journalistic Association of Serbia and was also selected in October by voters in an online poll recognising exemplary reporting.

Three Kosovo stories given awards

BIRN Kosovo journalist Doruntia Baliu was awarded the “Best Story on Education” prize in November by the Kosovo Journalist Association and German Corporation for International Cooperation. The award was given to the journalist for her investigation into a grade falsification scandal in the municipality of Drenas.

Pristina-based journalist Serbeze Haxhiaj was honoured in October for her story ‘The Enduring Agony of Wartime Rape in Kosovo’, published on BIRN’s flagship website Balkan Insight. The story explores how women who have been raped and tortured during the Kosovo War are not applying for reparation schemes due to the stigma of rape that is still prevalent in Kosovar society nearly 20 years after the war ended.

BIRN Kosovo’s television programme “Jeta ne Kosove” (Life in Kosovo) and the anti-corruption platform KALLXO.com were given the second prize for investigative journalism by the European Union Office in Kosovo in May.

The investigation that caught the five-member jury’s eys was “Organized Tax Fraud,” which revealed that over 300 Kosovo businesses were involved in a tax evasion scheme through the use of shell companies.

Macedonia took home two awards

Aleksandar Dimitrievski, author of a BIRN’s story about a database for agricultural subsidies, was awarded first prize for investigative journalism for 2016, at a ceremony in Skopje, Macedonia in May 2017. Dimitrievski’s story documents the amount of agricultural subsidies granted to individuals and companies over four years, from 2010-2014, worth about 450 million euros.

The Association of Journalists of Macedonia gave its annual investigative reporting award for 2016 to BIRN journalist Vlado Apostolov in February for his series of articles on properties connected to a Macedonian official, Vladimir Zdravev.

Apostolov received the “Yasar Erebara” award for three investigative articles on properties linked to the former chairman of the Council in the Skopje Municipality, published on BIRN Macedonia’s website Prizma.

Journalists in Serbia won two awards

Dragan Gmizic’s “Flatland Without Birds?”, a documentary about illegal bird hunting in Serbia, won the second prize in the EU Investigative Journalism Awards for 2016.

The film, co-produced by BIRN Serbia and Greenfield Productions, examines how the hunting of rare turtle doves and quail in Serbia is organised and asks whether it can be controlled. The documentary was aired on TV N1, TV CG, and Al Jazeera Balkans.

First prize went to Maja Zivanovic for her series of stories for VOICE, the Investigative and Analytic Centre of Vojvodina. Maja is currently working for BIRN’s regional publication Balkan Insight.

BIRN Serbia journalist Jelena Veljkovic’s story “The Secret of Vucic’s Tavern” won an award in the print media category at the annual competition for investigative journalism, organised by the Independent Journalistic Association of Serbia. Her story looked into claim by Serbia’s Property Directorate that it was unaware an exclusive restaurant had opened in a part of the Belgrade Cooperative building, which the directorate had leased to the “Belgrade Waterfront” company. The directorate refused to answer whether it believed the use of public property by a private company was in accordance with the law.

Albania

Elvis Nabolli, a 2016 fellow in the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, in June 2017 won the award for best article by a young investigative journalist, as part of the part of the EU Investigative Awards in Albania. Nabolli won for his article, “An Albanian War on Drugs”, which was produced as part of a fellowship and published by Balkan Insight.

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.