Applications Wanted for EU Investigative Journalism Award in Serbia

Applications are being invited for the Serbian part of the EU Investigative Journalism Awards in the Western Balkans and Turkey, which is being administered by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN Hub) and local partners.

Investigative stories published in Serbia from January 1 to December 31, 2019, and related to freedom of expression, the rule of law, transparency, abuse of power and fundamental rights, corruption and organised crime can be accepted.

The award fund in Serbia in 2020 (for achievements in 2019) is 10,000 euros. The first prize will be 5,000 euros, the second 3,000 euros, and the third 2,000 euros.

Individuals or groups of journalists are eligible to apply with work published in all journalistic formats (print, online, radio and TV) in official, minority or international languages.

Articles eligible for submission must have appeared in print, online, radio and TV media outlets in Serbia during the 2019 calendar year.

EU Investigative Journalism Awards in the Western Balkans and Turkey aim to celebrate and promote the outstanding achievements of investigative journalists as well as improve the visibility of quality journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

The awards are a continuation of the ongoing regional EU Investigative Journalism Award in the Western Balkans and Turkey and part of the ongoing project ‘Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey’, funded by the European Union.

The project partners involved all have extensive expertise in the field of media freedom and have been recognised locally and internationally as strong independent media organisations.

The jury for the EU Investigative Journalism Award comprises media experts, some of them from the project consortia. Others are drawn from the extensive network projects that consortium members have, such as editors and academics.

The awards are presented annually in all six Western Balkan countries and Turkey.

Read about the winners of the last year’s competition and their stories here.

For more information, please get in contact by email at euawards@birn.eu.com. All the details and guidelines for Serbia can be found below this article.

The deadline for applications is June 21, 2020.


To download all necessary documents in Serbian click here.

BIRN Kosovo Holds Online Training for Islamic Studies Students

BIRN Kosovo organised an online training session on May 4 for students of the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Pristina.

Twelve students took part in the training session. The focus of the training was the strengthening of critical thinking, protective mechanisms against defamation and slander, combating fake news, and reporting on an ethical basis.

The training was led by Kreshnik Gashi, anchor of the ‘Justice in Kosovo’ television programme, and Labinot Leposhtica, the legal office coordinator at BIRN Kosovo.

Gashi discussed the evolution of the media, provided participants with techniques to help stay safe on social media, and described the role of algorithms on social media.

Talking about ethical reporting, Gashi described the impact that the reporting by the Kosovo media had on the reintegration process of those affected by violent extremism, specifically those who have returned from fighting in Syria and Iraq, and the families that have been affected.

In terms of reporting, Gashi emphasised the importance of fact-checking, as provided that it is done correctly, it fulfills the media’s role in serving the public interest.

Leposhtica explained Kosovo’s media code of ethics, legislation governing the media, and the meaning of freedom of speech on social media.

According to Leposhtica, even though the Kosovo constitution and international conventions ensure freedom of speech, this freedom has limitations, “especially in cases when the freedom of one person violates the freedom of somebody else.” For Leposhtica, “these limitations are in place to prevent hate speech and calls for violence”.

Leposhtica added that the role of the media is to inform readers and viewers correctly and promptly in accordance with international media standards, and to prevent the incitement of discrimination and intolerance on social media.

Since April this year, BIRN has organised two online training courses as part of the ‘Consortium: For a sustainable community’ project, which is funded by the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, GCERF. The previous one was on April 4, for the students of the Medresa Alauddin high school.

BIRN Bosnia Gives Archive Material to Tuzla Memorial Centre

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina handed over a documentary film and an archive of articles about the shelling of Tuzla in May 1995 and the trial of the commander who ordered the attack to the new Kapija Memorial Centre in Tuzla.

The director of the BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, Denis Dzidic, presented the mayor of Tuzla, Jasmin Imamovic, with archive material and a documentary film on Friday that will become part of a display at the new Kapija Memorial Centre, which should be ready to open by May 25, the anniversary of the shelling of the Kapija area of the city.

The material includes articles on texts on the shelling and reports from the trial of Bosnian Serb Army commander Novak Djukic, who was convicted of ordering the attack.

Dzidic stated that BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina was the only media outlet that has monitored all war crimes trials in the country since the state court started operating, including the proceedings against Djukic in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia.

“We are really happy about this opportunity to give our archive to the city of Tuzla and about the fact that it will be forever available to the citizens of Tuzla and all visitors to the Memorial Centre who want to get information about the search for justice and the killings of civilians at Kapija in 1995,” said Dzidic.

Mayor Imamovic said the BIRN archive material would be an important part of the installation as the case against Djukic is significant for the city because the attack was the biggest tragedy that it has endured.

“Here you have a 25-minute film and complete documentation about the trial of Novak Djukic. Everything that they [BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina] worked on, followed and documented, and that they handed over to us for our Memorial Centre, is a precious gift,” said Imamovic.

The Kapija Memorial Centre will be ready by May 25, but will only open when deemed safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Bosnian state court found Novak Djukic, commander of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Ozren Tactical Group, guilty of ordering an artillery platoon to shell Tuzla on May 25, 1995, causing the deaths of more than 70 people.

He was released from prison in February 2014 after the state Constitutional Court overturned the verdict sentencing him to 25 years in prison.

In June 2014, the state court reduced Djukic’s sentence to 20 years, but he had already left the country for Serbia.

A warrant was issued for Djukic in October 2014 because he did not respond to a summons to serve his sentence. Serbia was then asked to take over the enforcement of the verdict.

However, Belgrade Higher Court has postponed hearings to discuss the case several times, and Djukic remains free.

Journalists selected for 2020 Fellowship

We are pleased to announce the names of the journalists chosen for this year’s Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence. Over the coming months, they will work on investigations, in-depth analysis and features on the theme of the Rule of Law.

The Fellowship programme gives mid-career journalists the funding and editorial support to dig into complex issues of regional significance. Here are this year’s fellows, and the topics they intend to cover.

Klodiana Lala, a criminal justice reporter with decades of experience across print and TV outlets in Albania, will examine the evolution of the Albanian underworld.

Genka Shikerova and Boris Mitov, award-winning Bulgarian investigative journalists, will look at the emergence of the country’s so-called “border militias”.

Apostolis Fotiadis, a Greek journalist who has reported extensively on the migrant crisis, will examine the growing tensions around Greece’s migrant camps.

Elvira Krithari, a journalist for Greek media start-up MIIR plans to write about privatised healthcare providers in Greece.

Augustine Zenakos and Mariniki Alevizopoulou, Greek journalists with a track record of freelance initiatives and bylines for the international press, will report on marginalised communities in Greece’s border regions.

Bea Bako, a constitutional lawyer and journalist from Hungary, will report on tensions between the Hungarian government and the European Union.

Dariusz Kalan, an experienced freelance journalist from Poland, will report on the erosion of the rule of law under the current government.

Jakub Janiszewski, an experienced journalist and commentator focusing on politics, culture and gender issues, will examine Poland’s shifting attitudes to homosexuality.

Magdalena Chodowmik, a freelance text and video journalist, will tell the story of the winners and losers in Poland’s transition from communism.

Marija Vucic, a journalist with the Serbian investigative website, KRIK, will look at the spread of propaganda and fake news in the Balkans.

This year’s participants were competitively selected from about 80 applications spanning 14 countries of CEE region. An independent committee comprising seven senior European media figures evaluated proposals based on relevance, feasibility and originality, as well as the candidates’ professional qualifications and motivation.

The Fellows’ stories will be published by BIRN’s Balkan Insight and Reporting Democracy platforms and disseminated widely through our network of media partners in all local languages, as well as in English and German.

We look forward to starting work on these projects. We would also like to thank all journalists who applied for the Fellowship and to announce that the next call will be open in early 2021.

BIRN Kosovo Trains Journalists to Monitor Auditor’s Reports

BIRN Kosovo held its first training course with young journalists on May 7 designed to help them analyse and cover reports from the National Audit Office.

Supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Pristina, the training course was intended to improve the skills of journalists and monitors so they can better identify violations in the allocation of public money. The training session was also meant to encourage young journalists to undertake investigative journalism.

The course was divided into three sessions. The first session was held by Besnik Osmani, the Auditor General at the National Audit Office of Kosovo. The second session was administered by Visar Prebreza, an editor at Kallxo.com, while the third was led by Labinot Leposhtica, the legal office coordinator at BIRN Kosovo.

In the first session, Osmani explained the role and importance of the Auditor and the National Audit Office reports.

Following that up, Prebreza explained the process of researching and reading the Auditor’s reports, and highlighted the importance of illustrations and infographics within an investigation.

Leposhtica then outlined the legal aspects, explaining legal letters and the process of monitoring legal documents.

BIRN Kosovo and Transitions Open Call for Solutions Journalism Stories

To help support the development of solutions journalism, Transitions and BIRN Kosovo have opened a call for applications for micro-grants and mentorship.

The micro-grants are designed for Kosovo-based journalists journalists, including freelancers, who want to do rigorous reporting on solutions-oriented stories that can serve as a catalyst for promoting accountability for regional problems, as well as better informing communities.

In addition to financial support, Transitions and BIRN offer mentoring throughout the production of the article in order to achieve the highest possible quality.

Participation in a practical solutions journalism training course or in a webinar is a condition for receiving a grant.

Transitions and BIRN Kosovo invite Kosovo-based journalists to apply with proposals in either the Albanian or Serbian language.

Emergency Appeal for Journalism and Media Support in Response to the Covid-19 Crisis

To mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, BIRN joined more than 125 journalism support, media development, and press freedom organisations and networks making an emergency appeal for action, support, and assistance to journalism organisations and independent media during the COVID-19 crisis.

Millions of people around the world are looking for reliable, fact-based journalism that can help them navigate the biggest shared challenge of our lifetime.

But at this crucial moment, independent media are facing an unprecedented existential challenge. With the perfect storm of disinformation and misinformation, repression of critical voices in many countries, and disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the situation facing journalism and news media is dire. Revenues for these institutions are collapsing, and funding is decreasing just when we need it most.

The consequences will be felt globally, but the information crisis and the health crisis is certain to be most acute in resource-poor communities.

In response to these huge challenges we – the press freedom, media development, and journalism support communities, including BIRN – launch this ‘Emergency Appeal for Journalism and Media Support calling for bold and robust action from six groups: governments; journalism and media development donors and funders; journalism and media organisations; technology, telecommunication companies, and Internet intermediaries; advertisers; and audiences.

– Governments are asked to respect the rights of press freedom, rule of law, digital rights, access to information, and freedom of expression. States are asked to work with journalism and media associations to assess the damage that COVID-19 is inflicting on critical public-interest reporting and the sustainability of news organisations. They are asked to devise appropriate mechanisms to urgently provide financial support to public-interest journalism through a variety of means while ensuring that any interventions are just and transparent and do not undermine editorial independence or distort the market place. Governments are also asked to, where appropriate, designate journalists and media workers as ‘key’ or ‘essential workers’, and be responsive to the demands of the press freedom community, including calls to release imprisoned journalists.

– Journalism and media development donors and funders are asked to immediately expedite, increase, and scale-up journalism support; coordinate and pool emergency resources; establish an emergency fund to help public-interest media survive; as well as allocate substantial resources to address journalism’s longer-term sustainability problems.

– Journalism and media organisations are asked to find innovative ways to serve their audiences and fight disinformation and misinformation; protect jobs; show a duty of care to those they employ, both physically in terms of equipment and training, and in terms of their working conditions and mental health. Media are asked to pool resources and collaborate whenever possible, as well as ensure that they serve all sections of their communities.

– Technology, telecommunication companies, and Internet intermediaries are asked to create free and safe digital spaces for journalists and professional media to operate online; ensure algorithms recognise, promote, and reward credible, independent, trustworthy journalism; responsibly manage the use of blacklist technology, and prevent automated takedowns of journalistic content related to COVID-19; increase and expedite funding of independent public-interest journalism, fact-checking, and other measures to counter disinformation and misinformation; take stronger action against malicious actors; lower the cost of Internet connectivity, especially in emerging and developing markets to aid access to information; and finally, step up efforts to respect fundamental human rights online.

– Advertisers are asked to stop blacklisting journalistic content related to COVID-19 pandemic and other critical health and social issues online; review how they measure engagement and impact; and use existing mechanisms to advertise through trusted media to build long-term reputations.

– Audiences: And finally, to people everywhere who read, watch, and listen to trusted news services – large and small, local and international, print, digital, or broadcast: journalism is with you during these troubling times. If you have the means, please find ways to support the journalism that you and your community relies on.

GFMD’s Executive Director, Mira Milosevic, says:

“We call on supporters of free and pluralistic media to join our appeal so we can help journalism survive this crisis and continue to play its vital role in communities the world over. The solidarity, innovation and collaboration that we are seeing during this crisis must outlive this emergency and help us address the long-term sustainability and press freedom issues facing journalism around the world.”

For the full list of signatories visit the full statement on the GFMD website.

To request interviews please contact: jhiggins@gfmd.info

Sign the Emergency Appeal for Journalism and Media Support

BIRN Romania Launches Coronavirus Reporting Project

The Black Sea Trust For Regional Cooperation, BST, a project of the US German Marshall Fund, has awarded BIRN Romania a journalism grant for monitoring, analysing and deconstructing cases of disinformation from Romania and Moldova related to the coronavirus crisis.

Between May 1 and December 30, 2020, a total of at least ten journalists from Moldova and Romania will produce around 35 fact-checking stories to be published locally and internationally.

A pool of resources for the public on how to measure, report and block disinformation and one policy paper with the main findings and a set of suggested actions will be published.

Most of the media coverage in both Romania and Moldova is currently focused on the everyday reality of the coronavirus pandemic: what is happening, what are the measures being taken by local and national authorities, and what can be expected.

”Uncertainty about the future looms and anxiety is at its highest, driven not only by natural fear in the proximity of the unknown but mainly by a large number of COVID-19 falsehoods that are still spreading like wildfire on social media, driven also by unethical and unprofessional reporting,” said Marian Chiriac, director of BIRN Romania.”

“In such a context, we believe that there is a huge need for factual reporting, for stories which are double fact-checked, and for a way of reporting which not only increases public debate and the accountability of officials, but which also cause an upward spiral of engagement and altruistic action,” Chiriac added.

BIRN Wins Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Award

To mark World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, campaign group Reporters Without Borders Austria awarded the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network with its annual Press Freedom Award – A Signal for Europe.

The Vienna office of the Reporters Without Borders announced that the BIRN Network has been awarded for its courageous investigative journalism in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, and for its dedication to the fight for human rights, democracy and justice for the victims of war crimes.

The award also honours BIRN’s founder, Gordana Igric, who served as the organisation’s regional director until May 2018, for her pioneering work in establishing the network.

“We are honoured by this acknowledgment from our Austrian colleagues. It comes at a critical time for our region, where media are often hampered by political or business influences and lack the resources to report beyond their own country’s borders,” said BIRN’s network director, Marija Ristic.

“The award gives us more motivation to continue with our uncompromising reporting despite continuous attacks on our journalists,” Ristic added.

“We are also thankful for the honour given to our founder, Gordana Igric, who had a vision of a free regional media network and paved the way for a new generation of journalists and editors who continue to champion the values of human rights and democracy,” she said.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network was established in 2004 as a network of organisations across the Balkans promoting freedom of speech, human rights and democratic values.

BIRN has country-based organisations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. It also works editorially in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.

BIRN’s structure has the advantage of combining local expertise with unique regional cooperation.

The Press Freedom Award – A Signal for Europe is given every year by the Austrian branch of Reporters Without Borders, a leading international non-profit and non-governmental organisation that safeguards the right to freedom of information. Its mandate is to promote free, independent and pluralistic journalism and to defend media workers.

Albania: Call for Stories on COVID-19 and the Earthquake

BIRN Albania is opening a call for story proposals that shed light on how the authorities and society are responding to the COVID-19 epidemic and the aftermath of the deadly November 26th earthquake in Albania.

Proposals are accepted for various journalistic formats, including features, in-depth news analysis, investigations and video features. Successful applications will receive an honorary ranging from 15,000 to 120,000 lek (minus personal income tax), depending on the genre and complexity of the reported story, the costs, etc.

There is no aspect of life in Albania that has not been affected by the coronavirus epidemic. We invite journalists to report the stories that are not being reported at the moment: in-depth features on how different communities or individuals are reacting to the crisis, in-depth news analysis with multiple sources explaining what is happening behind the scenes, and research that follows the money the government is spending on its response to the crisis.

Although the COVID-19 epidemic has pushed the earthquake of November 26th 2019 from newspaper headlines and newsreels, we invite journalists to apply with ideas that report in depth on the response of the authorities and the human angle of the quake that left behind a wave of destruction and affected thousands of people.

Each journalist or group of journalists can submit more than one application. Successful candidates will be notified within  two weeks. Applications will be evaluated continuously on a rolling basis during the period May to June 2020. BIRN Albania will provide successful candidates with editorial support and on-the-job mentoring. The articles will be published in its online publication, Reporter.al.

Successful candidates will have from 15 days to three months to report and write their article, depending on the difficulty of reporting and its complexity. Applicants should take care that their proposals do not overlap with previously published stories on Reporter.al or other media outlets.

All journalists in Albania, employed by other media or freelancers, have the right to apply. This call is financially supported by the Swedish government and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Candidates should submit the online APPLICATION FORM

For an Albanian copy of this call, click here.

For questions or further details, please contact though email at: office.albania@birn.eu.com