Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence — Winners Chosen

Polish journalist Dariusz Kalan was awarded the first prize for the 2020 Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, at a ceremony held in Vienna on Thursday. The ceremony – delayed because of the pandemic – celebrated the successful completion of the programme.

Kalan won the award of 3,000 euros for his investigation into the legal process arising from a minor road traffic accident involving the Polish prime ministerial limousine and a Fiat. The court case has dragged on for some five years, exposing a catalogue of incompetence and political interference within the Polish judiciary.

Instead of awarding prizes for second and third place, the jury this year decided to distribute the rest of the award fund between three journalists.

Winners of awards for the best story, Marija Vučić, Klodiana Lala and Dariusz Kalan with Fellowship programme editor Neil Arun (Credits – (c) eSeL.at – Lorenz Seidler)

“We could not decide between the three of them because there are all good stories,” said Milorad Ivanovic, representative of the Fellowship alumni group in the Jury. “Each jury member had its preferences, and strong arguments for each of them. After three rounds of voting they still had an equal number of votes, and we just felt that this was the fair solution.”

As a result, a prize of 1,000 euro was given to Albanian journalist Klodiana Lala, Serbian journalist Marija Vucic, and Greek journalist Iason Athanasiadis.

The top prize was awarded to Kalan for the story, The Car Crash That Bent the Wheels of Polish Justice. Through meticulous reporting, he offered a ground-level view of the erosion of judicial independence in the case of a collision between a Fiat, driven by a student, and the prime minister’s limousine.

“Dariuz Kalan reveals what it means for an individual citizen when judicial checks and balances are undermined – you can become powerless if you clash with the powerful,” said Adelheid Wolfl, South Eastern Europe correspondent for Austrian der Standard. “He shows how important it is that we all look very carefully when the substance of democracy and the rule of is undermined in an EU member state like Poland. The storytelling also had a great rhythm, with an instinctive feel for the language.”

Generation 2020, group photo (Credits – (c) eSeL.at – Lorenz Seidler)

Klodiana Lala, TV crime reporter from Albania, won the price for a clearly written, sensitive and un-sensational treatment of Balkan drug gangs. Her investigation Albanian Crime Story: Hostage to the Cocaine Supply Chain, looks into the gruesome kidnap and murder of a furniture-store owner from Tirana, combining it with a broader picture of the growing cocaine market in Europe.

“Klodiana’s story offers an insight into the operation of Albanian organised crime groups through the tragedy of a family. Her report, based on court documents and interviews, avoids cliches and has a clear style and a logical structure”, said Gyula Csak, a BIRN editor and member of the Fellowship jury.

The jury also singled out Marija Vucic, an investigative reporter for Serbian debunking portal Raskrikavanje, for her story Hate, Lies and Vigilantes: Serbian ‘Anti-Vaxxer’ Brigade Plays With Fire. Her detailed expose of a Serbian far-right Facebook group traces the connection between online bigotry and real-world vigilantism, blending traditional on-the-ground reporting with the forensic debunking of conspiracy theories.

“The special value of Marija Vucic’s research lies in the fact that she not only shows the dangers of fake news, but also identifies and confronts those who are significantly involved in the spread of fake news. The political leaders in Serbia should read Vucic’s excellently researched and composed story and draw their conclusions,” said Elena Panagiotidis, editor of Swiss daily, Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

The prize also went to Greek freelance reporter, Iason Athanasiadis, for the story The Accidental Death of an Anarchist. The story looks at the Greek state’s failure to investigate a police assault on an anarchist and the evolving use of the police to tackle public protests.

“Iason Athanasiadis reported with sensitivity and courage on an extraordinary case of police brutality, the tragic death of a young Greek man, and the complex connection between the two. The reader is drawn into a capturing story about powerlessness and violence in the Greek anarchist milieu”, said Kristof Bender, deputy chairman of the European Stability Initiative.

Ten journalists from across the Central and Eastern Europe were awarded fellowships in 2020, and have completed the program under exceptional circumstances that have affected every aspect of their work. Their stories were published throughout 2021, under the topic, Rule of Law.

In addition to the awarded journalists, the 2020 fellows were Bea Bako (Hungary), Elvira Krithari (Greece), Apostolis Fotiadis (Greece), Jakub Janiszewski (Poland) and Augustine Zenakos and Mariniki Alevizopoulou (Greece).

They were all praised by the jury as exceptionally strong group of authors. “This was a phenomenally capable group of journalists who produced excellent work in exceptionally trying circumstances. While four have won prizes for their stories, plaudits are due to each and every one of them for producing stories that will stand the test of time.”

The jury members were Elena Panagiotidis, editor of Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung; Florian Hassel, Central and Eastern Europe correspondent for German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung; Remzi Lani, executive director of the Albanian Media Institute; Kristof Bender, deputy chairman of the European Stability Initiative; Milorad Ivanovic, representative of the FJE alumni network, Adelheid Wolfl, correspondent for Austrian daily Der Standard and Gyla Csak, BIRN editor.

With the conclusion of this year’s programme, the 10 fellows join the FJE alumni network, which consists of more than 150 journalists from 14 CEE countries, who promote the highest professional standards.

The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence was launched in 2007 to promote high-quality, cross-border reporting. The programme provides fellows with financial and editorial support, allowing them to travel, report and write their stories and develop their journalistic skills. In 2020, the fellowship programme expanded to include journalists from the Visegrad Four countries of Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

The Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence is implemented by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and supported by ERSTE Foundation.

BIRN and Partners’ two-day Regional Event Celebrates ‘Media for All’ Project

BIRN gathered with grantees, mentors, and partners at the final event in Novi Sad from May 18 to May 19th to share the impact, success stories and lessons learned from the “Media for All” project.

The event was an occasion to meet 51 media outlets that implemented the Engaged Citizens Reporting tool, ECR, which BIRN developed to introduce  engagement journalism in the region.

During the two days, participants heard from Aida Ajanovic, BIRN’s Project Manager, about the importance of engaging communities in reporting.

“Today’s audience is a no longer passive recipient or consumer of news and information but an active participant who is asking questions, sharing insights and evidence,” Ajanovic said.

Several panel discussions, sharing success stories from the region and beyond, further emphasised the importance of engagement journalism.

Chris Walter, Head of Communities at On Our Radar, from the UK, a guest speaker, explained their work in engaging communities in reporting.

He talked about their manifesto, which revolves around the idea that people have the right to tell their own stories in their own words and in their own time and that technology is a tool for listening, not just for broadcasting.

Giving an example, he explained how they had trained a network of community reporters in the UK experiencing homelessness to use their mobile phones to track the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives.

Participants at the conference also heard from the director of BIRN Macedonia and a mentor on this project, Ana Petrusheva, about the challenges that media outlets in North Macedonia had to overcome to successfully implement the ECR tool.

The event was an opportunity for BIRN’s grantees to share impactful examples and meet other project grantees and exchange ideas and spread the word about the benefits they experienced from engaging with their communities.

One significant benefit is the additional leverage for impact in front of relevant institutions. BIRN’s grantees gave numerous examples across the region, ranging from influencing the openness of national institutions to solving different communal problems in the cities where they live.

The “Media for All” project was implemented in six countries in the region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

The project is funded by the UK Government and implemented by a consortium led by British Council together with BIRN, Thomson Foundation, and Intrac.

Report Details Orban’s Expanding Influence on Balkan, European Media

A new report by the International Press Institute, IPI, offers insight into the ways Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has expanded his influence in the Balkan and European media.

The IPI report, titled “Hungarian Capital in Foreign Media. Three Strategic Models of Influencing the Neighbourhood”, includes articles examining how, where and why Hungary has invested in foreign media in recent years.

Part of the report focuses on how businessmen close to Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party have purchased media outlets in Slovenia and North Macedonia since 2017.

“While Fidesz politicians insist such investments are purely commercial, heavy investments in these media have been used to support Janes Jansa’s SDS in Slovenia and the fugitive former North Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s VMRO DPMNE” the IPI said. [Jansa is a close ally of the Hungarian Prime Minister.]

Another part casts more light on Fidesz’s influence on media in Hungarian-minority communities in Serbia, Romania, and Slovakia, which have all received financial support from Budapest, bringing their media into close alignment with Orban’s populist narrative.

The third part of the report pays attention to the establishment in 2019 of a new international news agency, V4NA, in London, which projects Fidesz’s narrative further, onto a pan-European media landscape.

IPI is an international association of media professionals representing leading digital, print and broadcast news outlets in nearly 100 countries, dedicated to defending media freedom and the free flow of news.

The articles in IPI’s latest report were produced by IPI in cooperation with BIRN, the Hungarian investigative reporting outlet Átlátszó and its Hungarian-language partner in Romania, Átlátszó Erdély, as well as the Center for Media, Data and Society at the Central European University’s Democracy Institute.

BIRN Journalist Wins Fetisov International Award

BIRN’s Haris Rovcanin has won the Fetisov international award in the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Peace’ category for a series of four articles.

A series of four articles by Haria Rovcanin was awarded for their outstanding contribution to peace on February 10, when the Fetisov award organisers announced 13 winners in four categories. The awards ceremony takes place in Switzerland on April 22.

The winners were announced by Aidan White, Honorary Advisor to the Fetisov Journalism Award and President of the Ethical Journalism Network, in a video published on the Award’s social media.

White said the international jury had a record number of entries this year, and “has come up with a terrific selection of world-beating stories”.

“They provide us with a masterclass in stylish, fact-based, and courageous reporting,” White added, noting that the winners come from different backgrounds and different cultures, but all share a passion for truth-telling.

“Every story here is remarkable, and valuable in its own right. They are a shining example of committed and fearless journalism. Together these stories are a priceless body of evidence that journalism, despite all the pressures and threats that are facing news media, continues to make a difference in a global struggle for transparency, humanity and democracy,” White continued.

He said the organizers would announce the final line-up of first, second and third winners at the awards ceremony in April.

Four articles written by Rovcanin, two of which were co-written by Albina Sorguc, a member of BIRN BiH team at the time of publication, were selected as one of the three winners in the “Outstanding Contribution to Peace” category.

The series includes two investigative pieces, about individuals  not prosecuted for the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, “Bosnian Serb Military Police Chiefs Never Charged with Srebrenica Killings, and “Serb Chetniks’ Links to War Criminals and Extremists Uncovered, as well as a feature, “28 Years on, Families still Searching for Missing Bosnian Soldiers and an analysis piece, “BIRN Fact Check: Is the Bosnian Serb Report on the Sarajevo Siege Accurate?

The Fetisov international award promotes universal human values through the example of outstanding journalists from all over the world, as “their service and commitment contribute to changing the world for the better”.

Other winners in the same category include Syrian-Swedish duo Ali Al Ibrahim and Khalifa Al Khuder’s story “Syria’s Sinister Yet Lucrative Trade in Dead Bodies” and Olatunji Ololade from Nigeria for ‘The Boys Who Swapped Football for Bullets”.

The “Outstanding Contribution to Peace” category recognises articles on anti-war topics that have made an important contribution to peace-making and to spreading the concept of human life as the highest value.

Nominated works focus on issues of international disarmament, reduction or ending of national or international conflicts, support for national and international peacekeeping communities.

The three other categories are “Contribution to Civil Rights”, “Outstanding Investigative Reporting” and “Excellence in Environmental Journalism”.  Three winners are announced in each of the categories.

This year, just under 400 entries from 80 countries around the globe were submitted and 13 winners were selected in the four categories. The Fetisov Journalism Award Expert Council selected 37 best stories from 34 countries for the shortlist, which included 17 collaborative works and 11 cross-border investigations.

As described on the award website, the annual contest aims to highlight the works of those journalists who bring up hot-button issues and have widespread impact, reward outstanding journalists with major money prizes for their dedicated work and help nominees and winners to achieve greater visibility by publishing their works on the website of the contest and in print media.

This year, the jury consisted of Ann Cooper and Bruce Shapiro from the US, Barbara Trifonfi from Austria, Christophe Deloire from France, Christopher Warren and Julianne Schultz from Australia, Eva Markaceva from Russia, Kaarle Nordenstreng from Finland, Mariana Santos from Portugal/Brazil, Nikos Panagiotou from Greece and Ricardo Gutierrez from Belgium.

Former BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina journalist Sorguc was also shortlisted alongside Emina Dizdarevic for the Fetisov Award in 2019 in the “Outstanding Contribution to Peace” category with a series of articles on war crimes and transitional justice.

BIRN Albania Holds Roundtable on the Fight Against Organized Crime

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held on Wednesday February 9th a roundtable in Tirana on the topic of organized crime and money laundering.

The event, which was attended by 23 journalists and representatives of civil society organisations and international institutions working in the field of organised crime, money-laundering and illicit asset recovery, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands-supported project ‘Raising Awareness and Accountability on Money Laundering in Albania’.

The goal of the project is to strengthen the fight against organised crime and money-laundering by raising awareness and strengthening accountability on the system for the seizure and confiscation of the illegal proceeds of crime.

The discussion was moderated by Fabian Zhilla, an Associate Professor at the Canadian Institute of Technology and expert with the Global Initiative Against Transnational and Organized Crime.

The roundtable produced lively debate about important topics that should be investigated in the field of organised crime and money-laundering as well as the need to build stronger bridges of communication and cooperation between civil society and journalists.

The main topics discussed included the sectors of Albania’s economy more affected by money laundering, access to documents and sources and methodologies used by investigative journalist to uncover wrongdoing and hold institutions to account for their fight against the illicit proceeds of crime.

The roundtable will inform BIRN Albania’s upcoming call for an investigation on the topic of organised crime and money laundering.

BIRN Macedonia Publishes ‘Media Uncovered’ Database

New database will give the public essential information about the media on which they rely for current events and developments in the country and worldwide.

BIRN Macedonia has published a new database focusing on media. About 30 media were selected in the first stage – those seen as the most popular according to rankings and public perception. They are divided into categories, TV, radio, print or websites.

Each media outlet has its own character and identity, determined by their ownership structure, editorial policy, the team working in it and its history. These were the criteria the database was built on, in order to become a source of information and a place for preserving the testimonies of and on key players in this industry.

Media Uncovered is a hybrid between a classic database and journalistic investigations, and is designed to help compensate for the lack of transparency and accuracy in data on the media.

The database will expand with new media outlets (local and regional) and with new information. With the first group of around 30 outlets, BIRN laid the foundations to which new profiles and new journalistic investigations will be added on hidden ownerships and undetected influences.

The database will give the public essential information about the media on which they rely for current events and developments in the country and worldwide. The quality of information directly influences citizens’ democratic decisions, their acceptance or disapproval of the public policies, as well as their contribution to achieving the common good.

Media Uncovered is a long-term endeavor aiming to collect, filter and present data on the media scene, which is publicly available, but rarely gets in the spotlight and is therefore often forgotten or ignored. Link: mediumi.prizma.mk

BIRN Presents Interactive Publication Within Local Journalism – European Perspectives Project

Learning and incorporating experiences from journalists from the region and beyond will help local media overcome difficulties they face that would otherwise be insurmountable, panelists told a BIRN debate.

At one of the series of Platform B events, on Friday, BIRN presented its interactive publication produced within the project Local Journalism – European Perspectives.

The publication was created in collaboration with nine local media outlets from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia.

Among other things, the publication aims to help journalists learn about alternative financing models and the opportunities that online fundraising and crowdfunding provide – and learn how to recognize fake news and limit its distribution.

It also explains the importance of local media collaboration and cross-border stories in giving stories wider coverage and impact and so becoming societal gamechangers.

While local media face similar struggles everywhere, panelists discussed their resilience and how we can learn from colleagues from the region and beyond.

The focus of the first part of the event was on an exchange between media representatives and journalists from EU countries who face the same or similar problems in their work in the region.

Anna Petersen, editor at Landeszeitung Lüneburg from Germany, spoke about the struggles of local newspapers to satisfy the need for information in smaller communities and the effect of the transformation created by technological upheaval and digitalization.

But Petersen stated: “This should not be a burden. We should discover new possibilities there.”

She added that digitalization and platform development have their advantages because media can reach a broader audience more easily. She also undermined that she believes that print format has not reached the end of its existence. “I don’t like to say that paper format is out, that it is over. Maybe the paper format will be viewed as a medium of deceleration,” she suggested.

“It is important that people are interested in new formats and that they experience them as an additional value because they are an additional content to print edition,” she added.

Márton Kárpáti, founder and CEO of Telex.hu in Hungary, shared his experience of starting a new media outlet, and how he was able to finance and create an independent voice for open debate and democratic discussion.

Kárpáti stated that all Telex’s employees, around 70 of them, worked previously for Index.hu, Hungary’s biggest online news site.  After their independence and belief in what journalism should be were compromised, they had decided to start their own website Telex.hu.

“We had no money. We had nothing. We didn’t know what would happen. But we believed in our staff and believed in readers. Some days after we quit, we asked the readers and possible supporters to help us out, and support us with money,” he said.

In just a few days, they received around one million euros that gave them a safe start. “We were the first crowdfunded news site starting from zero,” Kárpáti added. Now they are the third or fourth biggest news site in Hungary.

Speaking of the importance of cooperation and cross border journalism, Brigitte Alfter, director of Arena for Journalism in Europe, said cross-border journalism should be utilized when it can bring something beneficial but should be used only when there is a shared interest of all participants.

“If there is not a shared interest, don’t use it,” she said, adding: “Use it as much as it helps you. Be sure that it will help you at some point, but don’t use it all the time. Use it when it is necessary.”

In the second part of the event, Amer Bahtijar, president of Tačno.net from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Darija Ranković, editor of Kolubarske from Serbia and Ivana Petrović, editor of City Smart Radio from Serbia, talked about issues they shared as independent local media outlets.

“We are all facing similar problems and issues but they have different phenomena,” said Petrović, adding that “political influence is also accompanied by a huge inflow of money into the pockets of the regime’s loyal media, which has made the marketing opportunities for independent media almost non-existent.”

This is still a lasting problem for local media outlets in the region, but by networking and through collaboration with other local media and beyond the region, some changes and positive results can be made, she said.

Women in Balkan Newsrooms: We’re Not a Monolithic Group

BIRN Platform B debate on Friday heard that, in a context of very diverse experiences, taking a “one-size-fits-all approach” towards fixing the issues women journalists face in the region is not practical.

At one of the series of Platform B events, on Friday, BIRN presented the main findings of its report on the position of female journalists in the Balkans, “Women in Newsrooms: Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Resilience”, which concluded, among other things, that, a “one-size-fits-all approach” to fixing issues women journalists face is not practical, as these women are not a “monolithic” group.

The report includes 21 interviews and a survey filled in by 175 participants, whose responses highlighted trends, opportunities and obstacles, identified through the sharing of experiences and perspectives by women working in the media, to paint a more nuanced and complex picture of women’s role in newsrooms, news-making and the region’s societies more broadly.

“When it comes to women journalists, prevailing narratives have focused on almost exclusively online violence and women’s vulnerability, rather than on the systems that make this type of abuse prevalent, normalized and even profitable,” the report notes, adding that, “when women who are proven to create space for narratives that fall outside of mainstream dialogue are marginalized, the negative implications for society are compounded”.

The report’s six sections depict women as : a monolith; a liability; a workforce; a community; as accessories; and as guerrillas, as “an attempt to paint a picture that is more nuanced – to address the intersecting identities and diverse experiences that actually characterize women’s media – and newsroom more specifically – participation and representation in the Western Balkans”.

In BIRN’s debate on Friday, the co-authors of the report, Bojana Kostic and Jennifer Adams, emphasized the need for “solidarity zones  – spaces created by and for women for support, innovation and connection”, where women can support each other “online and minimize their exposure to social media” which, as the report reads, has “since its inception, failed to provide a safe space for women and marginalized populations”.

One of the panelists, Elida Zylbeari, ethnic Albanian editor-in-chief of the North Macedonian-based Portalb.mk, said that being a journalist can be difficult both as a woman and as part of a minority ethnic group in North Macedonia.

“There’s a (first) language barrier and privilege; the community thinks Macedonians are more important than Albanians, so, when it comes to government briefings, for example, you see even fewer Albanian female journalists,” Zylbeari said, adding that “other minorities (Turks, Bosnians, etc) are practically non-existent – left out, taken less seriously, and undermined”.

Elida Zylbeari at the BIRN Platform B debate on Friday, January 14, 2021. Photo: Zoom/Screenshot

Women journalists in the Western Balkans “are not taken seriously”, as Zylbeari points out. Katarina Radović, a journalist for a regional broadcaster from Novi Pazar in Serbia, agrees. Certain professions such as teaching are perceived as more suitable for women than “being a journalist”, she said.

Adams said international organisations that work in media and women empowerment should work more “to reflect change” and make sure increasing women’s safety in the newsrooms is not translated into a narrative about women being weaker.

“We [international organisations] wanted to push for women’s safety in the newsroom, but the lack of response had the opposite effect. Many women in international media were sent to smaller events because they are considered weaker,” Adams lamented, explaining that, “despite the online violence that is more towards women than men, the reality of women … is not one of weakness”.

Kostic called for more focus on “solidarity zones”, for women to “continue being outspoken”, and for stakeholders to “continue empowering women journalists” by learning lessons from existing women movements.

Platform B – Women in Newsrooms: Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Resilience

Event series by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and partners

Together with our partners, BIRN is launching a series of online and offline events aimed at amplifying the voices of strong and credible individuals and organisations in the region that promote the core values of democracy, such as civic engagement, independent institutions, transparency and the rule of law.

As a primarily media organisation, we want to open space and provide a platform to discuss and reshape our alliances in light of the challenges facing democracies in Southeastern and Central Europe.

This comes at a critical time when the region is seeing several troubling trends towards: centralized power, reduced transparency, assaults on media, politicized judiciaries, unchecked corruption, online violations and social polarization – all amid heightened geopolitical tensions and divisions in Europe.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Platform B event series will be organised with respect for with all relevant health measures. As the situation improves, we hope to be able to host some of the events in BIRN spaces in Sarajevo and Belgrade, and elsewhere in the region.

Platform B will be an opportunity for individuals and groups to meet monthly on selected topics.

Next event: Women in Newsrooms: Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Resilience

Date: January 14, 2022 (Friday)

Time: 3pm-4.30pm CET

At this event, BIRN will present the main findings of its report on the position of female journalists in the Balkans, Women in Newsrooms: Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Resilience.

The report highlights trends, opportunities and obstacles, identified through the sharing of experiences and perspectives by women working in the media, to paint a more nuanced and complex picture of women’s role in newsrooms, news-making and regional societies more broadly. When it comes to women journalists, prevailing narratives have focused almost exclusively on online violence and women’s vulnerability, rather than on the systems that make this type of abuse prevalent, normalized and even profitable.

This report, and accompanying platform, is an attempt to paint a picture that is more nuanced – to address the intersecting identities and diverse experiences that actually characterize women’s media – and newsrooms more specifically – and their participation and representation in the  Balkans.

The report includes in-depth interviews with more than 20 female journalists, editors, fact-checkers, editor-in-chiefs and activists as well as a broad data collection, comprising a total of 175 responses BIRN obtained through an online survey conducted in October and November 2021.

Together with the authors and regional journalists and gender equality experts, we will reflect on the findings of BIRN’s report and offer some recommendations to regional media outlets, journalists’ unions and institutions on how to advance women’s positions in the newsrooms and stop perceiving them as victims but as agents of change.

A complete list of panelists is to be published soon.

Upon registration you will receive a Zoom link.

‘Last Despatches’ Exhibition Commemorates Balkan War Reporters

BIRN opened an exhibition in Sarajevo and published a new book commemorating the journalists and media workers who were killed during and just after the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia.

“Now, 30 years after the beginning of the wars, [some people in] our societies continue to deny many things that journalists documented – denying war crimes, denying genocide,” Ristic said.

The exhibition and book are based on BIRN’s long-running online series, Last Despatches, which documents some of the 155 people who died during the conflicts and shortly afterwards.

BIRN editor Matthew Collin, who edited the Last Despatches book with Ristic, said that the project was an act of commemoration because there have been so few prosecutions for the deaths of journalists during the 1990s wars.

“Our message is that in this atmosphere of impunity, a free media is more important than ever, not only in wartime, but also in peacetime,” Collin said.

Jan Waltmans, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that it was necessary to come to terms with the crimes of the past for the sake of future generations.

“I hope that journalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to progress so that hate speech, genocide denial and other problems will disappear,” Waltmans said.

The Last Despatches book is available to buy here.

The Last Despatches exhibition is open at Ferhadija 10, Sarajevo every day from 12 noon to 8pm until December 19. The exhibition is part of BIRN’s week-long Open House programme, which includes events focusing on issues such media freedom, digital rights, investigative journalism and female empowerment online.

The opening of the exhibition in Sarajevo. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
BIRN’s regional director Marija Ristic. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Copies of the Last Despatches book. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Jan Waltmans, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Sarajevo. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s director Denis Dzidic. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.