Corrupting the Birthrates

BIRN Serbia
A new law on financial support to families with children (which was adopted in 2017 and came into force in 2018) has been creating confusion among citizens of Serbia.

Summary

While the government claims its policies are intended to increase birth rates, pregnant women and new mothers across Serbia are dissatisfied with low incomes during their absence from work. A new way of calculating maternity benefits leaves women confused and with no clear information about how much money they can expect while pregnant or after giving birth.

Donor: Transparency International

Information Sheet

Main Objective

To inform Serbian citizens so they can exercise their rights in relation to maternity leave and state financial aid.

Specific Objectives

To develop a digital tool that calculates maternity and pregnancy leave compensation in order to better inform the Serbian public.

Main Activities

Data collection, monitoring and analysis
Developing digital tools
Publishing analysis

Target Groups

Families with children, general public

Highlights

Analysis, digital tools, date bases

Main implementer

BIRN Serbia

BIRN Report Says Media Freedom Declining in Serbia

BIRN report on the state of the media in Serbia notes abuses of funding, lack of pluralism in terms of content, an unclear legislative framework and administrative pressure on independent media as some of the most concerning issues.

The report emphasises a decline in freedom of expression and media pluralism, citing an absence of social, political and economic conditions conducive to the development of a professional and sustainable media sector.

BIRN has submitted the report to the EU Delegation in Serbia as its contribution to the compilation of Serbia’s next European Commission Country Report.

It was produced in partnership with the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia and the Slavko Curuvija Foundation, as part of the EU-funded project.

According to the report [in Serbian], independent media and journalistic organizations monitoring the allocation of funds reported abuses in the distribution of some 10 million euros in the media sector.

BIRN Urges Russian Leader To Release Journalists

As Vladimir Putin visits Belgrade, BIRN journalists have used the occasion to call on the Kremlin leader to release imprisoned journalists in Russia and respect human rights.

BIRN journalists in Serbia on Thursday held up banners asking Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had arrived in Belgrade, to release imprisoned journalists in Russia and to respect human rights.

“Free journalists,” said a banner in Serbian, Russian and English held from the windows of the BIRN office, close to where supporters of Putin in Serbia were gathering for a rally.

The BIRN office also displayed an LGBT flag, calling on Putin to respect human and LGBT rights in his country.

Pro-Russian NGOs with the support of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party on Thursday organized a mass gathering in support of the Russian President who was meeting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in the city.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 58 journalists have been killed in Russia since 1992. The Committee also said it knew of four journalists imprisoned in Russia at this moment.

Rights groups also criticize Russia over its treatment of LGBT people, who face routine pressure, intimidation and violence.

In its latest report, the rights watchdog Human Rights Watch, HRW, noted that a law against so-called gay propaganda was having a negative impact on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and on the young also.

“The 2013 law exacerbated the hostility LGBT people in Russia have long suffered, and also stifled access to LGBT-inclusive education and support services, with harmful consequences for children,” HRW said in December.

The Russian President is meeting his Serbian counterpart to sign a series of agreements and memorandums, highlighting the warmth between the two Slavic countries.

Serbia and Russia are close diplomatic allies. Russia has strongly supported Belgrade in rejecting Kosovo’s independence, while Belgrade has refused to criticise or sanction Russia for its actions in Ukraine and the unilateral annexation of Crimea.

Originally published on Balkan Insight.

BIRN and Partners Start Balkans, Turkey Media Freedom Project

The goal of the three-year project entitled ‘Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey’, led by BIRN Hub and its partners and supported by the European Union, is to enhance media trust among citizens and create a safe environment for journalists to produce independent news content through training, mentoring, technical and financial support, and publishing.

The project will be implemented by BIRN Hub in partnership with Thomson Media gGmbH (TM), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Central European University (CEU CMDS), the Media Association of South-East Europe (MASEE), the Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN CG), the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers in Macedonia (SSNM), BIRN Albania and BIRN Serbia.

It is intended to address the main problems and challenges in the Western Balkans identified in the Feasibility Study for the Establishment of a Regional Program in Media and Journalism Training – poor professional skills among journalists; the limited training capacity at a high proficiency level for mid-career journalists; the lack of financial resources in the most of media sector, especially for investigations; and the limited penetration of the investigative stories that are published.

Planned activities include national and regional training for young and mid-career journalists and for reporters from mainstream media and public service broadcasters, while a separate curriculum for investigative journalism in academia will also be created. In addition, training for training providers will be held, setting up long-lasting training mechanisms for domestic journalists in the region.

They will learn about news criteria and the structure of news stories; knowing their target group; basic interview techniques; sources and checking facts; writing for the web; news and social media; mobile journalism; story-telling; ethics, and techniques and methodologies for interaction with audiences.

The funding of cross-border story ideas and a study trip for up to 20 editors to one of the major media outlets in Europe with a highly-developed investigative newsroom is also planned.

Also envisaged is the launch of a resource platform for investigative journalists, aiming to provide them with the tools and services that will help journalists breach the tech gap between their skills and an investigative story.

An important element of this project is the continuation of the ongoing regional EU Investigative Journalism Award in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Through the award scheme, 63 prizes will be awarded over the course of 36 months, three in each project country (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey).

The project is funded by the European Commission through its Regional Training and Support Programme to Improve Quality and Professionalism in Journalism.

BIRN Report Says Media Freedom Declining in Serbia

A new BIRN report on the state of the media in Serbia notes abuses of funding, lack of pluralism in terms of content, an unclear legislative framework and administrative pressure on independent media as some of the most concerning issues.

A BIRN report on the media in Serbia, presented on Wednesday, emphasises a decline in freedom of expression and media pluralism, citing an absence of social, political and economic conditions conducive to the development of a professional and sustainable media sector.

“This report focuses primarily on the allocation of state funds in the media sector, as BIRN’s long-term monitoring indicates that this is one of the key preconditions for the economic sustainability of media outlets, and, as such, a powerful instrument of misuse and corruption,” it reads.

According to the report, independent media and journalistic organizations monitoring the allocation of funds reported abuses in the distribution of some 10 million euros in the media sector.

BIRN has submitted the report to the EU Delegation in Serbia as its contribution to the compilation of Serbia’s next European Commission Country Report.

It was produced in partnership with the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia and the Slavko Curuvija Foundation, as part of the EU-funded project.

The report says pluralism in terms of media content is largely missing, the media’s legislative framework is not fully implemented and administrative pressure on independent media is increasing.

Significant abuses of funds through project co-financing scheme still persists, and media are often discriminated against because of their editorial policies, it says.

Most of these issues should be deliberated through the Coordination Body, an ad-hoc mechanism established as a dialogue platform between media associations and government.

But the report says the results have been disappointing.

“So far, four monthly meetings were held and the media community submitted 13 requests to governing bodies. The success of this mechanism has yet to be proven, with mild results achieved in the previous period,” it says.

Another issue is the state’s unwillingness to divest itself from ownership in the media sector, the deadline for which expired in October 2015.

Despite this, privatisation process is still not fully finished. The daily newspapers Politika and Vecernje Novosti still function as partly state owned companies, while the news agency Tanjug exists and operates in a legal void, according to the report.

Originally published on Balkan Insight.

BIRN Serbia Film: ‘SNS – the start’

A new film by BIRN Serbia, “SNS – pocetak, 2008” [“SNS – the start, 2008”], delves into the origins and rise of the Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, which has ruled the country since 2012.

During the making of the film, BIRN journalists talked with many  individuals from Serbian public life, but also from the US, who had a role in the creation of the SNS.

The movie starts back in 2008, when a group of Radical Party members, then advocates of the nationalist “Greater Serbia” idea, turned into “Euro-fanatics”.

Journalists have used extensive archive material to tell a thriller-style story about how a faction composed of minor political individuals became rulers of a country.

The movie can be watched on YouTube.

BIRN Film Charts Rise of Serbia’s Ruling Party

A new film by BIRN Serbia, ‘SNS – the start,’ follows the origins and rise of Serbia’s ruling Progressive Party, SNS – and how it became the most powerful political force in the country.

A new film by BIRN Serbia, “SNS – pocetak, 2008” [“SNS – the start, 2008”], delves into the origins and rise of the Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, which has ruled the country since 2012.

During the making of the film, BIRN journalists talked with many  individuals from Serbian public life, but also from the US, who had a role in the creation of the SNS.

Among them are the leader of the hardline nationalist Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Seselj, and his party colleague, Vjerica Radeta.

Others include Serbia’s former president, Boris Tadic, a former vice president of the government, Bozidar Djelic, a former US ambassador to Serbia, Cameron Munter, and the Balkan analyst and former US diplomat, Daniel Serwer.

BIRN journalists also spoke with the Economist correspondent and political analyst Tim Judah, from Britain.

The movie starts back in 2008, when a group of Radical Party members, then advocates of the nationalist “Greater Serbia” idea, turned into “Euro-fanatics”.

Journalists have used extensive archive material to tell a thriller-style story about how a faction composed of minor political individuals became rulers of a country.

The movie will be shown on Monday, November 26, at N1 regional television, at 8pm.

Originally published on Balkan Insight.

Documentary Co-Produced by BIRN Serbia Wins Award

The documentary ‘The Dark Shadow of Green Energy’ by film-maker Dragan Gmizic, co-produced by BIRN Serbia, Al Jazeera Balkans and WWF Adria, was named the best Serbian film at the Belgrade International Green Culture Festival, Green Fest on Tuesday.

The Dark Shadow of Green Energy’ follows Irma Popovic Dujmovic, a WWF Adria activist, on the road through Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, discovering how the regional plan for the mass construction of small hydropower plants creates multiple new problems instead of solving them.

The destruction of the natural environment, people’s resistance against small hydropower plants and the corruption involved in their construction are some of the issues covered by the film.

The documentary was aired on Al Jazeera Balkans, and was screened at the Free Zone film festival in Belgrade.

BIRN Serbia Submits Shadow Report on EU Chapter 23

BIRN Serbia has submitted its shadow report to the EU Delegation in Serbia as a contribution to the compilation of next European Commission country report on Serbia.

The BIRN Serbia shadow report focuses on negotiations for Chapter 23 of the EU acquis, which covers the judiciary and human rights, particularly the section on freedom of expression, offering insights and an alternative narrative on state of progress in this area.

The shadow report puts special emphasis on freedom of expression and media pluralism issues as a precondition for overall democratic dialogue in the country.

BIRN Serbia found that the constant shrinking of media freedoms and freedom of expression and absence of a social, political and economic setting conducive to the development of professional and sustainable media sector is a matter of concern, influencing the country’s overall democratic capacity.

The shadow report also calls for changes related to media legislation and the cessation of pressures on media by state bodies.

The report is a result of BIRN Serbia’s overall engagement in the field of media development and media freedoms, but also as part of activities under the project ‘Public Money for Public Interest’ supported by the EU through the IPA Civil Society Facility instrument.

Follow this link [in Serbian] on our project site to find out more.

Documentary Co-Produced by BIRN Serbia Nominated for Award

The documentary ‘The Dark Shadow of Green Energy’ by film-maker Dragan Gmizic, co-produced by BIRN Serbia, Al Jazeera Balkans and WWF Adria, has been nominated for an award at the Belgrade International Green Culture Festival ‘Green Fest’, in the Serbian film category.

The Dark Shadow of Green Energy’ follows Irma Popovic Dujmovic, a WWF Adria activist, on the road through Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, discovering how the regional plan for the mass construction of small hydropower plants creates multiple new problems instead of solving them.

The destruction of the natural environment, people’s resistance against small hydropower plants and the corruption involved in their construction are some of the issues covered by the film.

The documentary was aired on Al Jazeera Balkans, and will be screened at the Free Zone film festival in Belgrade on November 12 at 11 am, The Cultural Centre Of Belgrade.