We’re looking for people who are willing to share their experience with us to help in a story we’re currently working on. Scroll down for information on how to take part.
The key things we want to know:
What type of violations have you reported?
In what language was the content?
How was the report processed?
What do we consider to be violations of social media community guidelines:
Violent threats (direct or indirect)
Harassment, which entails inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others
Hateful conduct, which entails promoting violence against or directly attacking or threatening other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or disease.
Things to note:
We are looking for social media users that reported content in the Bosnian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Albanian, and Macedonian languages. We want to hear as many different experiences from all around Southeast Europe.
Your stories will be used to help us with an ongoing investigation.
How to take part?
To submit your experience, all you need to do is fill out this form.
Adam Santovac, Jelena Veljkovic, Aleksandar Djordjevic, Nemanja Rujevic, Sanja Kljajic and Ajdin Kamber were announced on December 29 as the winners of this year’s EU Awards for Investigative Journalism, given for stories published in 2019 in Serbia.
The first place for the best investigative story published in 2019 and a cash prize of 5,000 euros went to Adam Santovac for the documentary ‘Super Graduate’, which was broadcast by N1 TV.
The jury said that ‘Super Graduate’ was a very important investigation about corruption in the higher education system, “an area in which the consequences are long-term and unforeseeable, and essentially affect all segments of life in the country”.
The jury praised Santovac for his “in-depth research of numerous, difficult-to-access data outside the borders of Serbia”.
“I think the key to the success of the documentary ‘Super Graduate’ is in its simplicity,” Santovac said in a recorded acceptance speech.
“So, working on this documentary, I managed to fulfill the most basic journalistic function, and that is not only to ask, but also to help people find answers to certain questions,” he added.
BIRN Serbia journalists Jelena Veljkovic and Aleksandar Djordjevic were awarded second place and a cash prize of 3,000 euros for the series of articles about the so-called Krusik affair, which centred on alleged corruption at the state-owned Krusik arms company.
The jury said that Veljkovic and Djordjevic “managed not only to point out direct links between top public officials and serious abuse, but also to prove the existence of the entire system in which the state appears as a guarantor in dirty business”.
The two journalists dedicated the award to Aleksandar Obradovic, a whistleblower from the Krusik factory who first spoke out about the alleged wrongdoing.
The third place and a cash prize of 2,000 euros went to Deutsche Welle journalists Nemanja Rujevic, Sanja Kljajic and Ajdin Kamber for their story ‘The Industry of Leaving’, which dealt with the emigration of health workers and the corrupt practices that are rife in labour emigration.
“The authors, through a very detailed and comprehensive research, discovered and proved the existence of a whole new industry in Serbia which is export-oriented and does not bring benefit to the people living in that country, but takes away quality health workers and care,” the jury said.
Paul-Henri Presset, the head of the Information, Communication and Press Department at the EU Delegation to Serbia, said in a video message that the media plays an even more important role in disseminating reliable information in times of crisis, such the current pandemic.
“At the same time such vulnerable times inevitably open large space for disinformation, a trend that societies will be combating increasingly in the time to come. This is why it is particularly important that we have strong and capacitated media and journalists putting additional efforts in investigating facts on topics important for society,” said Presset.
The shortlisted investigative stories were evaluated by an international jury consisting of Predrag Blagojevic, founder and former editor-in-chief at Juzne Vesti, Valerie Hopkins, south-east Europe correspondent for the Financial Times and Bojan Pancevski, Germany correspondent for the Wall Street Journal.
The EU Awards for Investigative Journalism in Serbia is part of an ongoing EU-funded project entitled Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey, implemented by BIRN Hub in partnership with Thomson Media gGmbH (TM), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Broadcast Union (EBU), Central European University (CEU CDMS), the Media Association of South-East Europe (MASE), the Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN CG), the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM), BIRN Albania and BIRN Serbia. The aim of the project is to empower and support independent journalism and investigative journalists.
BIRN Serbia, as part of the consortium, provides technical support to the project but is not involved in the selection of awarded articles.
One of the most significant issues for media financial sustainability in the digital environment is the influence of social media networks on the media economy and the crisis of traditional advertising models.
The digital environment brought new actors to the market, new production technology, new content distribution methods and new business models, and also threatened the financial survival of some media, the BIRN Serbia report finds.
Besides selling advertising space and producing media content, the state in Serbia still plays a crucial role in the media market, having a negative influence on market relations.
The digital ad market has had constant and stable growth but the most significant revenues have not gone to media outlets but to companies such as Google and Facebook for advertising on their platforms.
The value of the digital advertising market, according to data from the AdEx survey by IAB Serbia rose from 20 million euros in 2015 to 47.05 million euros in 2019.
Mobile advertising recorded the largest growth – a 60 per cent year-on-year rise from 2018 to 2019. Video advertising meanwhile recorded an increase of 45.67 per cent.
In 2019, 11.79 million euros was also spent on advertising on social networks, of which 10 million euros was spent on Facebook advertising alone.
An additional challenge to media is how to motivate the public to pay for the content it produces, bearing in mind the amount of free content that people can access online.
Local media are in a difficult situation facing the limited local advertising market, insufficient capacity to adjust to the online sphere, and non-transparent funds distribution by local self-government.
Financial sustainability plays a critical role in rethinking media policies directly correlated with media freedoms and editorial independence – the poorer media is, the more significant financial pressure it suffers. The third BIRN report encompasses the public direct financing model, online advertising, and copyrights issues.
Two other reports related to media and new internet governance policies and media policies in the digital environment are available on www.birnsrbija.rs.
Journalists from across the Balkan region participated in a series of online workshops and trainings to learn about the best practices in engaging citizens in the reporting process.
Balkan Investigative Reporting Network organised three intensive seven-day trainings for media outlets from six countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia – within the regional “Media for All” project. More than 80 representatives of 23 media outlets from the region attended different workshops during the last week of November and two weeks of December.
For the first three days, each group heard from ProPublica’s engagement editor and lead trainer Ariana Tobin on how to motivate citizens to engage, suggest topics, share their experiences, evidence and tips, helping journalists and editors produce more comprehensive stories.
“Many engagement projects start because communities have gathered much of the evidence themselves. They need a journalist’s muscles and our megaphone. Our work can lead to impact,” Tobin explained, adding that crowdsourcing should only be one part of reporting, while research, interviewing, factchecking and all other journalistic procedures remain the same.
Those attending the training learned that it is essential to select topics people want to participate in, unlike projects where reporters should convince someone to care about.
“If there are stories people want told, journalists should pay attention. You find these stories by listening to people who have been ignored, people who are angry and people who really, really care about their communities… It’s about them, not us,” Tobin pointed out.
Workshops lead by Tobin were followed by sessions delivered by local trainers, award winning BIRN editors, who presented regional context analysis and discussed topics and strategies for engaging local communities, as well as the potential for cross-border collaborations.
Local trainers also presented the Engaged Citizens Reporting tool, a platform designed by the BIRN for the purpose of the “Media for All” project. This enables journalists to develop different kinds of surveys, polls and other ways of engaging citizens. The tool also allows media to analyse collected information and data before incorporating it into their reporting.
The final segment of the training was dedicated to social media platforms to equip journalists with best ways to promote callouts for citizens’ engagement.
The trainings should help the selected media outlets, which were also awarded grants, to implement their nine-month projects successfully and produce quality journalism, taking into account the needs of their local communities.
“We will also provide continuous editorial and mentoring support throughout the project implementation,” said Aida Ajanovic, project manager at BIRN.
The training is part of the regional two-year “Media for All” project funded by the UK government and implemented by a consortium, led by the British Council, along with Thomson Foundation, INTRAC and Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN.
The jury awarded four journalists for “uncovering previously unexplored areas”, stressing that investigative journalism is of great importance for Kosovo and a wider region.
The EU Awards for Investigative Journalism for Kosovo were presented on Monday, December 21, 2020, in an online event on Zoom. The four announced winners were awarded a total of 10,000 euros for stories published throughout 2019.
Their stories reported on the corrupt practices of the Kosovo government, on important environmental issues in the country, and shed more light on children born from wartime rape in the country.
The head of the EU delegation to Kosovo, Tomáš Szunyog, said all the awarded stories “were very interesting and covered some of the most pressing issues of the Kosovo society.
“Free, diverse and independent media are essential in any democratic society and are key to ensuring an informed and engaged citizenship. In order to achieve that, journalists should be able to exercise their function freely,” the ambassador added.
The jury was composed of chairman Xhelal Neziri, an experienced journalist skilled in broadcasting, storytelling, investigative reporting, news writing, and documentaries; Ervin Qafmolla, a Tirana-based journalist and communication specialist who leads the fact-checking unit at A2 CNN in Tirana; and Sefer Tahiri, a journalist with 15 years of experience who currently serves as a professor at the South East European University in Tetovo, North Macedonia.
Neziri, Qafmolla and Tahiri said they had a hard task choosing between the 14 shortlisted applications. Addressing the public, Neziri said evaluating the applications was “an honour both for myself and other members of the jury.
“Almost all [submitted stories] focused on important issues and uncovered previously unexplored areas that were interesting to read and learn about,” Neziri added.
He also added that the importance of investigative journalism in Kosovo and the region was huge, and requires “commitment, time, skills, and money.” He continued: “Democracy functions in the countries where citizens are well-informed.”
First award went to Serbeze Haxhiaj who works for Radio Television of Kosovo, RTK, and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network BIRN, for her investigation “Kosovo’s Invisible Children: The Secret Legacy of Wartime Rape.” This story for the first time revealed facts of concrete cases of children born from rape during the independence war in Kosovo.
More than two decades after the independence war, due to the stigma and prejudice against victims of sexual violence, it is still hard for rape survivors to speak publicly about children born as a result of rape. The negative perception of these women in the patriarchal environment of Kosovo has led in some cases victims to commit suicide.
The article provides evidence of how, because of the stigma that makes mothers feel ashamed to tell the truth, children born to rape by Serbian forces during the war in Kosovo have been kept secret, abandoned, given up for adoption or dumped in orphanages. In some cases, they even drowned. The few women who decided to keep these children a secret and raised them remain fearful of public exposure.
Haxhiaj said the award was an honour for her and an act of homage to the victims of sexual violence. “We are still seeing the consequences for these children that are invisible, and women who have survived sexual violence still fear being exposed,” she told the ceremony.
Second prize went to Leonida Molliqaj, a journalist and founder of the Center for Information, Criticism and Action, QIKA, through which a new media platform is being created where, for the first time in Kosovo, journalistic research will focus on gender equality.
Her piece, “Lack of food security in Kosovo threatens public health”, is the first research of its kind to provide readers with an accurate picture of the food security situation in Kosovo. Despite the legal regulations, the research highlighted violations of the right of access to safe food for the citizens of Kosovo, which is a result of the negligence of institutions.
The purpose of the research was to show the risk to public health that arises from the lack of proper control of food safety, as well as the accountability of the institutional chain for the damages caused.
This revealed the research of the BIRN TV show Justice in Kosovo, which explained how the family company of the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Rexhep Kadriu, was involved in the construction of the Prishtina-Gjilan highway, for which about 66 million euros are earmarked. The investigation has caused a great deal of controversy and the Kosovo Special Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation to uncover conflicts of interest in this activity. The case was recently entered in the register of targeted cases in the Special Prosecution.
The EU awards have the overall goal of celebrating and promoting the outstanding achievements of investigative journalists from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, as well as improving the visibility of quality investigative journalism in these countries among the public.
The prizes are awarded through the EU-funded project, “Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey”, in 2019, 2020, 2021 in EU candidate and potential candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, for investigative stories published between 2018 and 2020. In total, 63 awards will be awarded through a three-year period.
The awards in Bosnia and Herzegovina are coordinated by Balkan Investigative Regional Reporting Network, BIRN Hub, which also runs a regional consortium.
The database contains the records of 220 projects with a total investment value of 4.2 billion euros, as well as hundreds of documents related to concessionary companies.
The database was published as part of the project “Following the Money Trail of Public-Private Partnership Projects in Albania,” supported by the Democracy Commission Small Grants of the US embassy in Albania.
The project’s goal is to support increased transparency on Public-Private Partnerships in Albania through open source databases and data-journalism.
In order to achieve its goal, the project conducted a systematic review of the PPP projects, collecting fiscal data and documents in order to aggregate them in this online database, which will enable journalists, researches and the public to understand and evaluate the true costs and benefits of more than 220 PPPs over the last 15 years.
Through this project BIRN Albania has also raised the capacity of local journalists to analyze and visualize this data in order to inform the public on the hidden costs of PPPs through indepth articles, investigations and videos reports.
The database is accessible online in Albanian and English at: ppp.reporter.al
Balkan Investigative Reporting Network will hold a second public debate on December 22 with group of experts from across the region who will discuss case law and legal challenges of online media regulation.
Disinformation, hate speech and discrimination continue to be major challenges in the digital space in the Western Balkans region, particularly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a surge in fake news. In order to avoid those negative phenomena, digital media need adequate regulation, which ensures a high level of professionalism and objectivity, but at the same time prevents any form of censorship or influence on media independence or freedom of expression. Special contributors in re-shaping digital media regulation and self-regulation are international treaties, domestic legislation, and case law of various courts, including the European Court of Human Rights.
The debate “Case Law and Online Media Regulation in the Balkans” will be moderated by Montenegrin media expert and BIRN consultant Vuk Maras and will focus on existing national regulation and its effectiveness, as well as the question of ensuring a clear line of division between regulation and censorship. The debate should also discuss international standards and practices and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in this field. A special focus will also be put on the legal knowledge and capacities of media to uphold regulatory standards and obligations.
Panelists that will take part in the discussion include:
Edina Harbinja – PhD in Media / Privacy Law (Senior Lecturer at Aston University / Aston Law School, UK)
Lazar Sandev – Attorney at law (Law Office Filip Medarski, North Macedonia)
Jelena Kleut – PhD in Communication Science (Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Novi Sad, Serbia)
Elvin Luku – PhD in Communication Science (CEO at Albanian Center MediaLook, Albania)
Milan Radovic – Graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy (Program Director of Civil Alliance and Member of the Council of the Montenegrin Public Broadcaster)
Snezana Trpevska – PhD in Sociological Sciences (Research Expert at RESIS, North Macedonia)
To join the second debate in a series of discussions on online media regulation with different stakeholders, organised as a part of the regional “Media for All” project, connect with us on the platform ZOOM on Tuesday, December 22, at noon CET.
The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania, together with the Swedish Embassy in Tirana, organised an online debate on December 11 that brought together together local, regional and international experts to discuss digital rights violations.
The debate was organized as part of Integrity Week in Albania and was addressed by the Swedish ambassador to Tirana, Elsa Hastad.
“Media, meaning you here today, your role is exceptional in promoting transparency and really demanding accountability,” Hastad said.
“I know that during the pandemic journalists have made sure that citizens receive care, or that procurement of medical equipment is done in a proper way and disinformation is met with facts,” she added.
The panel discussion was moderated by Albanian journalist Blendi Salaj and included Michael J. Oghia, Advocacy and Engagement Manager at the Global Forum for Media Freedom, the investigative journalists Driton Salihu and Marja Grill from Swedish Public Television, BIRN project coordinator Sofija Todorovic, BIRN Albania editor Besar Likmeta, civil rights lawyer Megic Reci from CRD and the chairman of the Albania Media Council, Koloreto Cukali.
The panel was joined by 70 participants from civil society and media and was broadcast live on Facebook.
Integrity Week is a week-long series of activities held in December, organised by the Chamber of Commerce in Albania as a national awareness-raising campaign to draw attention to the importance of integrity and to promote ethical behaviour not only in business, but also in governmental bodies and academia and among NGOs.
During the two-day course, participants interacted via video call with specialists from two organisations known for their innovation in fact-checking.
On the first day, Stephane Grueso from the leading Spanish NGO tackling disinformation through fact-checking and data journalism, Maldita.es, introduced the topic of disinformation and revealed current trends within the International Fact-Checking Network.
Grueso also outlined methodologies, examples and case studies, as well as how to debunk misinformation through basic tools like tweets, photos, video and geolocation, among other topics.
The second day was covered by four trainers: Kansu Ekin Tanca, Gülin Çavuş, Öyküm Hüma Keskin and Emre İlkan Saklıca, who are part of Teyit, Turkey’s premier independent fact-checking social enterprise.
The training session covered various topics including the importance of technology and building a community of fact-checkers as well as the roots of online misinformation, the challenges it presents and solutions to it. The trainers also outlined advanced search techniques, digital news tracking, and how to use domain information and visual clues.
A total of 36 participants were part of the training, including 24 journalists and six students of journalism, 20 of whom were women.
BIRN and IPI believe the training will help young journalists tackle fake news and unverified reporting by helping them to spot fake news and provide verified information that adheres to journalistic standards. The delivered knowledge was practical, and will help journalists develop these skills further.
The project aims to organise two additional two-day training courses on the topic of false information featuring different international experts, so that both junior and professional journalists have the opportunity to participate in similar training courses in 2021.
Human Rights House in Serbia, marking International Human Rights Day on December 10, awarded BIRN journalist Natalija Jovanovic for her outstanding commitment to the protection, respect and promotion of human rights.
Jovanovic authored an important exposé of data concealment in Serbia on the real COVID-19 death toll.
Human Rights House in Serbia said it wanted to encourage journalists’ work that does not accept censorship and always questions official truths, which is why it awarded this journalist this year.
“One of the foundations of the democratic order of every community, which the government and centres of power in Serbia have for years tried to silence and overthrow is freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
“There are no free peoples or free society without freedom of speech. The right to freely express one’s opinion without the fear of retaliation or sanction, is, as well, the right to objective and timely inform,” it said.
Human Rights House Foundation is an Oslo-based network of 17 CSOs across Europe in 11 countries dedicated to building democratic and open societies founded on unconditional respect for human rights and the rule of law. Network members in Serbia are Civic Initiatives, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, the Helsinki Committee, YUCOM – Lawyers’ committee for human rights and Policy Center.