Meet the People Behind BIRN: Radmilo Marković

Each month, BIRN introduces you to a different member of its team. For May, meet Radmilo Marković, journalist at BIRN Serbia.

Radmilo Marković, 42, studied journalism but never took his diploma; this didn’t stop him from working on breaking investigative stories and winning the Dejan Anastasijević award for the best online article.

Radmilo, based in Belgrade, has been working for the last two years for BIRN Serbia. His report, “Illegally Legalised: The Corruption Involved in Building Belgrade”, was on buildings built without permits in Belgrade over the last seven years that were legalized by new construction legislation.

His report angered the Mayor of Belgrade, Aleksandar Sapic, who filed two separate defamation lawsuits against BIRN Serbia, its editor, and journalists, including Radmilo, claiming that BIRN’s report had damaged his reputation and caused him mental anguish.

Radmilo spoke to us about the award, his first defamation lawsuit, and about journalism in Serbia and its impact; sometimes he admits he feels that journalists’ work is almost meaningless, as investigative stories have little impact in terms of arrests or prosecutions in Serbia, where impunity is the king.

1. Why did you become a journalist and decide to work for an investigative media non-profit like BIRN Serbia? What do you like most in your job, and what is the most challenging thing?

It was an honour for me when BIRN called me to join them two years ago, as BIRN Serbia is one of the most respected media in the country. These days, when number of clicks is the main interest for media executives, joining one of the few organisations that play by the book was refreshing. The best thing – and the worst thing at the same time – is that you have the time to thoroughly explore the topic you are covering, which sometimes puts you in a rabbit hole of an endless network of people or companies, and you eventually end with a lot of information that you don’t use in a final article. On the other hand, since almost all other media outlets are focused on speed and measure only quantity, you could end up working on something that is forgotten and not in the spotlight of the general public.

2. What kind of stories do you prefer to work on? Do you have a story that you feel especially proud of?

Right now I’m working on the problem of illegal real estate construction in Belgrade, and I hope to be able to widen the scope of my research to the whole of Serbia. The problems here are that the state doesn’t have (or doesn’t want to share) a definite list of all illegal buildings, and the fact that these buildings are being built as we speak, so it’s like a snake chasing its own tail. 

3. You worked on an investigative story on corruption practices in building processes in Belgrade. More than 450,000 square meters of residential property, partially or completely built without permits since 2015, have escaped demolition and somehow been legalised. Tell us more about this investigation. What drove you to start doing it, and what was the impact?

My colleague Jelena Veljković initially found the first such case: under our law, you could legalise a building if it was built before 2015 and exists on the satellite image of Serbia from 2015. Jelena found one building, linked to the person responsible for issuing legalisation documents in Belgrade, that was built during 2017-2018 and still ended up being legalised, which was against the law.

So, she discovered the phenomenon, and after that it was relatively easy but also time-consuming; all we needed to do is to find buildings that weren’t on the satellite image in 2015, and which in spite of that were registered in the cadastre as “legalised”.

We never knew the magnitude of this malpractice, so it was a bit of a shock to see that there are literally hundreds of such buildings.

Sadly, this story – like almost all investigative stories – did not produce any impact in terms of arrests or prosecutions. In Serbia, when it comes to high corruption cases, impunity is the king.

4. Belgrade Mayor Aleksandar Sapic filed two separate defamation lawsuits against BIRN Serbia, its editor, and journalists, including you, claiming that BIRN’s reporting damaged his reputation and caused him mental anguish. Would you like to tell us more about this Slapp case? Has it affected you and your colleagues?

I can speak for myself on this topic. On the day we received the lawsuits I was a bit shaken. No one had ever sued me for something I wrote so it came as a shock. However, over the next few days, this shock became anger – anger that I must now go to court, and not him for all the things that he has done, that we wrote about.

In his lawsuit, he demanded around 50,000 euros per case, which is higher than the amount the court approves in such a cases, so there is a good argument that this indeed is a Slapp case, even if we don’t go to the facts that we have thoroughly researched and carefully wrote these articles, according to all the standards.

5. How would you advise fellow journalists from the regions to tackle Slapps?

I don’t have any idea; this is my first time. It’s useful if a local journalists’ association gives free legal assistance, like in our case.

6. Recently you won an award, would you like to tell us more about it?

Just a few days ago, the Independent Association of Journalists gave me the annual award named after our great late colleague Dejan Anastasijević. The award was for the best online article – that one I mentioned, about illegal legalization of illegally built buildings (good luck in trying to explain that to your public).

It was an honour for me to receive that award, but, as I said during the ceremony, the fact that nothing ever happens after we reveal crime and corruption is making our journalists’ work almost meaningless. But it’s a good feeling to receive such an award, there is no doubt about that.



BIRN Albania Holds Training on Illicit Financial Flows

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania on March 25 in Tirana held a training on illicit financial flows.

Training was delivered by BIRN Albania editors Besar Likmeta and Vladimir Karaj at the Department of Journalism at the University of Tirana.

Fifteen young and mid-career journalists were present. The editors introduced the participants to the basics of money laundering techniques and how investigative journalists investigate them.

The themes covered included investigating offshore dealings and links to tax havens, beneficial ownership, investigating public procurement contracts, tax evasion, money laundering through real estate, trade-based money laundering, identifying assets and scrutinizing authorities’ actions to prevent illegal money flows, as well as tracking cross-border criminal activities.

The training was held as part of the project “Uncovering Illicit Financial Flows in the Western Balkans”, financed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ.

The overall goal of this project is to contribute to raising public awareness about illicit financial flows and provide a basis for decision and opinion makers to boost efforts to combat illicit financial flow.

It aims to increase the pool of journalists in Western Balkan countries equipped with tools and techniques in uncovering illicit financial flows, especially across borders.



BIRN Serbia Journalist Radmilo Markovic Wins Investigative Award

Radmilo Markovic, investigative reporter with BIRN Serbia, was awarded the prestigious Dejan Anastasijevic Investigative Award in the online media category for his reporting on illegal constructions in Belgrade.

Radmilo Markovic was announced as the winner of the award given by the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia and the US embassy in Belgrade on Tuesday.

The jury awarded him for his multimedia investigation that identified hundreds of buildings built in Belgrade without permits in the seven years since new construction legislation entered into force, and made legal via apparently illegal means.

“Investigations into this topic and numerous wrongdoings will continue. We and other media have already done some follow-ups. We wrote and we will continue to write on people who illegally obtained gain by damaging the citizens,” Markovic said after the ceremony.

“However, journalists’ work has its limits. From there, the state institutions should take over – thre prosecution, police and courts. Unfortunately, that other part of it is yet to actually start – for this and hundreds of other investigations that journalists have produced in the last decades,” he added.

This year’s winners included TV N1 journalist Maja Nikolic who received an award in the electronic media category for a documentary Below surface – The last honour and journalists Nemanja Rujevic, Ingrid Gercama, Nathalie Bertrams and Tristen Taylor who were awarded in print category for the story “Parrots worth as much as cocaine”, published by the weekly Vreme. The newly established audience award went to Dalibor Stupar, a journalist of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, for a documentary about heating and air pollution.

The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia organised the 18th annual award for outstanding investigative journalism and reporting on issues of public interest with the support of the US embassy in Belgrade.

This year, 45 stories were submitted for consideration.

Among the nine nominees were three more BIRN journalists. In online media category, the jury nominated  Sasa Dragojlo’s investigation “With Police Connections, Serbian-Syrian Translator Turned People-Smuggler” and Jelena Veljkovic for a series of articles about Nemanja Stajic, Belgrade’s former secretary for legalisation affairs.

Jelena Zoric was nominated in the print category for articles published in Vreme about the “Jovanjica case” – concerning a massive cannabis farm that allegedly enjoyed the protection of Serbian state security.



BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina Premieres ‘Four Walls’ Documentary

‘Four Walls’, a film produced by BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina about pressures on the LGBTIQ community in Bosnia and Serbia, was screened in Sarajevo in cooperation with the Bosnian Pride March.

by Aida Trepanic

‘Four Walls’, a documentary directed by BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s deputy editor Dzana Brkanic about the aftermath of attacks on LGBTIQ people in Belgrade and Banja Luka and the intimidation they face in Sarajevo, was premiered at the Sarajevo War Theatre in the Bosnian capital on May 17.

The first part of the film focuses on the situation in Belgrade before EuroPride in September 2022, when authorities decided to ban the event. A restricted event was ultimately held, at which several members of the LGBTIQ community were assaulted. The perpetrators have not been prosecuted.

The film, which is available on BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s YouTube channel, also deals with the spreading of hatred against the community by right-wing groups and football hooligans in the region and activists talking about attacks in Republika Srpska and discriminatory statements by politicians.

“Our idea was to make a documentary that will show how EuroPride was stopped in Belgrade and how the narratives of politicians and right-wing organisations and the misuse of religious organisations are merging in the region to limit human rights, particularly those of this community,” Denis Dzidic, executive director of BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, said at the premiere.

He explained how the experience of organising the premiere was different from other events held by BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it required the presence of the police, security guards, ambulance crews and the fire brigade, unlike when screening other films and holding debates. However, he noted, this is a situation that the Bosnian Pride March organisers face constantly.

Jan Waltmans, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Sarajevo, whose government supported the production of this film, said that a society that does not respect human rights cannot advance properly.

“Even in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is sometimes difficult to defend human rights, to advocate for human rights, to advocate for equal rights. It is not just through the funding of organisations, funding of BIRN, as our very important partner, that we are connected with what we are seeing and doing tonight, but also what is happening behind the scenes,” said Waltmans, expressing hope that the film made at least a little contribution to a possible change.

Talking about the film at a panel discussion after the screening, Mirza Halilcevic of the Bosnian Pride March said that all the right-wingers interviewed in the film said more or less the same thing – that they would not allow the marches to take place, that members of LBGTIQ community should be eliminated from the public sphere.

“Just as there is ethnic cleansing, there is also sexual cleansing, as a way of cleaning the society by eliminating all socially unacceptable forms, or sexual forms,” Halilcevic said.

He said that there are still parents who throw their children out of the house for revealing their sexual orientation, or have them locked up in psychiatric facilities for forcible treatment.

The documentary’s director Dzana Brkanic said that she has been mostly dealing with war crime victims’ stories over the past 15 years, but that this story had affected her just as much.

“I have to say that within my social circle, not everyone is well acquainted with the situation of the LGBT community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. People just cast an eye over the information or it simply doesn’t affect them in any way,” said Brkanic.

“My hope was for this film to change the mind of at least one person and that would be a success for me,” she added.

The film was edited by Elvedin Zorlak, Mirza Mrso and Admir Svrakic were the camera operators and Samir Hrkovic the sound engineer. Dino Sukalo provided the music and Semir Mujkic was the editor.



BIRN Trains Montenegrin Journalists in Digital Rights Reporting

BIRN trained ten Montenegrin journalists in digital rights reporting in Podgorica for three days from May 16 to 18.

Journalists participated in eleven sessions coverimg a wide range of topics related to digital rights reporting.

The participants came from various Montenegrin media outlets and civil society organisations including Vijesti, RTCG, RTV Teuta, Civic Alliance, Zumiraj, Kombinat.

The training topics ranged from digital rights and their impact on journalism, multimedia storytelling using contemporary tools, and harnessing the power of open-source intelligence (OSINT) in journalism to techniques and best practices in data journalism, data analysis and data visualisation.

The participants singled out a session on identifying and collecting digital rights violations in Montenegro and fact-checking and verification techniques for digital rights reporting as particularly useful in their future work.

“During the session investigating the violations of digital rights in Montenegro, I learned how to recognise a story in the things we encounter every day, for example – what is the extent of the abuse of our personal data, which we are not even aware of,” said one of the trainees.

BIRN’s training course enabled the participants to comprehensively understand the relevant issues around digital rights violations. It gave them practical tools to identify and report on them more effectively.

Journalists play a key role in raising public awareness and driving change and the course was intended to provide skills and knowledge to enable them to produce impactful stories that can contribute to a more informed public debate and ultimately lead to policy changes that protect and promote digital rights in the Balkans.

Numerous reports from international rights groups, media, civil society and international organisations, as well as BIRN’s annual digital rights violations reports, have indicated a worrying situation for digital rights in the Balkans.

Such reports have emphasised the need for continuous efforts to improve the protection and promotion of these rights by improving journalists’ abilities to produce quality reporting on these issues.

Journalists are often the target of online attacks but many of them have yet to fully understand the extent of digital rights violations or the underlying legal and technological aspects that lead to such violations.

BIRN’s training in digital rights reporting addressed these issues and provided the most up-to-date tools and techniques on journalistic protection in the online sphere as well as various resources reporters can use on the job.

“I look forward to any future collaboration with BIRN because all the recent collaborations and training courses are proving to be very useful in my everyday work,” said one of the journalists who attended the course in Montenegro.

Calls for applications for BIRN’s digital rights training for journalists from Kosovo and North Macedonia are still open: find more information here and here.



Challenges to the Reintegration and Resocialization Process in Kosovo – II

Within the framework of the project ‘Resilient Community Program’, BIRN Kosovo published its second report, developed to support and monitor implementation of the National P/CVE Strategy and Action.

This report presents data collected from interviews with officials of the Ministry of the Interior, leaders of the Division for Integration and Socialization, managers of the Correctional Service, the Probation Service, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, representatives of the Police, the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

Data was requested from local institutions in all the municipalities of Kosovo, and the data provided by the municipalities that responded positively to this request are reflected in this report.

The report also presents fact-checking data from the local level, including conversations with mayors and other officials.

The report’s findings were presented at a conference on May 10, which brought together 31 people, of whom 11 were women. The participants represented local and national level institutions, the prosecution, civil society organisations, the media and the international community in Kosovo.

The monitoring and drafting of the analysis were carried out under the Resilient Community program, which is run by a consortium consisting of BIRN, PEN and PIPS and led by ATRC. The program is supported by USAID and the embassy of the Netherlands through the GCERF program.

The program aims to strengthen local and national methods and mechanisms for resocialization and reintegration programs as well as the prevention and fight against violent extremism, by strengthening the coordination mechanisms used by government and non-government actors working on resocialization, reintegration and the prevention of violent extremism in Kosovo.

It aims also to empower government actors, practitioners and non-government actors working in these fields.

Part of this program also includes monitoring the relevant institutions’ activities in the field of P/CVE and R&R, as well as the implementation of the direct activities with the said institutions.



Digital Rights Training for Macedonian Journalists: Applications Open

What are digital rights, who is violating them and how, and why is it important to monitor and report on them? How can journalists recognise problems in this area, prepare stories and get mentoring and financial support for their development and publication?

BIRN is organising a three-day training course for journalists, designed to respond to growing concerns about the violation of digital rights in the Balkans. The training, which will be held in Mavrovo from June 8-10, 2023, will provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of digital rights, focusing on reporting violations, content blocking, manipulation and propaganda in the digital realm.

With technology evolving rapidly, it’s essential for journalists to stay up-to-date on the latest methods and strategies to uncover and appropriately report on digital rights violations. Numerous reports from international human rights organisations, media organisations, civil society organisations and international institutions indicate a worrying situation regarding digital rights in the Balkans, emphasising the need for continuous efforts to improve the protection and promotion of these rights, but also to improve journalists’ abilities to produce good reporting on these issues. Although many countries in the region have regulatory frameworks that formally address these issues, challenges remain, such as online surveillance, censorship and data privacy issues.

Frequent cyber-attacks and online harassment also threaten the safety of many people, including journalists, who are often the target of online attacks. However, many journalists from the region may not be fully aware of the extent of digital rights violations or the underlying legal and technological aspects that lead to such violations.

BIRN’s training course will enable ten selected journalists from North Macedonia to gain a comprehensive understanding of the relevant issues, helping them to identify and report on digital rights violations more effectively. Journalists play a key role in raising public awareness and driving change. This course will give journalists the necessary skills and knowledge and enable them to produce impactful stories that can contribute to a more informed public debate and ultimately lead to policy changes that protect and promote digital rights in the Balkans.

Who can apply?

Any journalist from North Macedonia who is interested in digital rights and has previous journalistic experience. A selection committee will evaluate the applications and select ten (10) journalists who will participate in the training.

How to apply?

Submit the following application form and your CV to [email protected] no later than May 25, 2023 at 5pm CET with the subject line: Digital Rights Reporting Training for Journalists North Macedonia.

Place and date:

The training course will take place in Mavrovo, North Macedonia, from June 8 to June 10, 2023. The organisers will fully cover the costs of accommodation, food and transport for all participants. The working language of the training is Macedonian and Serbian.

What to expect from the training?

The training will provide the selected journalists with basic skills and knowledge to effectively investigate and report on digital rights violations in a time of dynamic technological advances. The training will cover various aspects of digital rights reporting, including identifying and collecting digital rights violations, categorising these violations and reporting on individual cases and broader trends.

The training will offer valuable educational insights and provide an opportunity to connect with fellow journalists and experts working in the field of digital rights.

A unique opportunity after training

After completing the training, journalists will have the opportunity to pitch their story ideas to BIRN. Selected journalists will receive on-the-job mentoring and financial support to research and apply their newly-acquired skills to implement their ideas on cases that involve infringements, content blocking, filtering, manipulation or propaganda in the digital environment.


Отворен повик: БИРН обука за дигитални права за новинари

Што се дигитални права, кој и како ги прекршува, и зошто е важно да се следи и да се известува за нивната примена? Како да ги препознаете проблемите во оваа област, да подготвите стории и да добиете менторска и финансиска поддршка за нивната изработка и објавување?

БИРН организира тридневна обука наменета за новинари, a дизајнирана да одговори на зголемената загриженост за кршењето на дигиталните права на Балканот, Обуката, која ќе се одржи во Маврово од 08-10 Јуни 2023 година, ќе им овозможи на учесниците сеопфатно разбирање на дигиталните права, фокусирајќи се на пријавување прекршувања, блокирање содржини, манипулации и пропаганда во дигиталната област.

Поради брзиот развој на технологијата од суштинско значење е новинарите да останат во тек со најновите методи и стратегии за откривање и соодветно известување за кршењето на дигиталните права. Бројни извештаи од меѓународни организации за човекови права, медиумски организации, граѓански организации и меѓународни институции укажуваат на загрижувачка ситуација во однос на дигиталните права на Балканот, нагласувајќи ја потребата од континуирани напори за подобрување на заштитата и промоцијата на овие права, но и за подобрување на новинарските способности за креирање на адекватен извештај за овие прашања. И покрај тоа што многу земји од регионот имаат регулаторни рамки кои формално ги решаваат овие прашања, предизвиците и понатаму постојат, како што се онлајн надзорот, цензурата и прашањата за приватноста на податоците.

Честите сајбер напади и онлајн вознемирување, исто така, ја загрозуваат безбедноста и на многумина вклучувајќи ги и новинарите, кои често се мета на онлајн напади. Сепак, многу новинари од регионот можеби не се целосно свесни за степенот на прекршување на дигиталните права или за основните правни и технолошки аспекти кои водат до вакви прекршувања.

Обуката на БИРН ќе им овозможи на десет избрани новинари од Северна Македонија сеопфатно да ги разберат релевантните прашања, помагајќи им да ги идентификуваат и поефикасно да известуваат за кршењето на дигиталните права. Новинарите играат клучна улога во подигање на јавната свест и поттикнување на промени. Со оваа обука тие ќе стекнат потребни вештини и знаења и ќе им се овозможи да продуцираат влијателни стории кои можат да придонесат за поинформирана јавна дебата и на крајот да доведат до промени на политиките кои ги штитат и промовираат дигиталните права на Балканот.

Кој може да аплицира?

Сите новинари од Северна Македонија кои покажуваат интерес во областа на дигиталните права и поседуваат претходно новинарско искуство. Комисијата ќе ги оцени апликациите и ќе избере десет (10) новинари кои ќе учествуваат на обуката

Како да аплицирате?

За да аплицирате, доставете го следниот формулар за апликација заедно со вашето CV најдоцна до 25 Мај 2023 со наслов: Обука за известување за дигитални права за новинари на [email protected] .

Место и датум:                                                                 

Обуката ќе се одржи во Маврово 08-10 Јуни 2023 година. Организаторите целосно ќе ги покријат трошоците за сместување, храна и превоз за сите учесници. Работен јазик на обуката е македонски и српски.

Што да очекувате од обуката?

Обуката ќе им обезбеди на избраните новинари основни вештини и знаења за ефективно да истражуваат и известуваат за кршење на дигиталните права во сферата на динамичното напредување на технологијата. Обуката ќе опфати различни аспекти на известувањето за дигиталните права, вклучително и идентификување и собирање прекршувања на дигиталните права, категоризирање на овие повреди и известување за поединечни случаи и пошироки трендови.

Обуката ќе понуди вредни едукативни сознанија и ќе обезбеди можност за поврзување со колеги новинари и експерти кои работат во областа на дигиталните права.

Уникатна можност по обуката

По завршувањето на обуката, новинарите ќе имаат можност да ги пренесат своите идеи за стории до БИРН. Избраните новинари ќе добијат менторство на работното место и финансиска поддршка за истражување и примена на нивните новостекнати вештини за спроведување на нивните идеи за случаи кои вклучуваат прекршување, блокирање содржина, филтрирање, манипулации и пропаганда во дигиталната средина.





War Crimes Prosecutions Still Hampered by Lack of Regional Cooperation

Limited resources, victims’ mistrust of courts and the problem of bringing fugitives to justice are the most pressing issues that war crimes prosecutors in the former Yugoslavia are facing, a BIRN conference was told.

Prosecutors from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Montenegro and representatives of international missions told a conference organised by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Pristina on Friday that there is a need for the new and improved collaboration protocols between former Yugoslav countries to improve the exchange of evidence and extradition of war crimes indictees.

Ivan Matesic, the Deputy Chief Prosecutor – Head of the Department for War Crimes, told the conference entitled ‘Archives and Conflict Prevention: Lessons from the Past, Visions for the Future’ that his country currently has 260 pending war crimes cases that need to be investigated, and in half of them the suspects are fugitives abroad and can’t be brought to court.

Most of the people under investigation for war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina are either in Serbia or Croatia, which both refuse to extradite their citizens to Sarajevo.

But other issues are also hampering regional cooperation, such unwillingness to prosecute senior officials responsible for war crimes and a lack of trust among victims, according to Matesic.

“Victims don’t trust judicial institutions from other countries in the region. And for a case to be transferred to the Serbian or Croatian prosecution offices, victims need to give consent and that often takes a lot of time and effort from the Bosnian prosecution to convince them,” Matesic said.

War victims from Bosnia and Herzegovina have expressed discontent about decisions by the Croatian and Serbian judiciaries, which have often classified crimes differently than their counterparts in Sarajevo. Cases related to Srebrenica are prosecuted in Serbia as war crimes rather than genocide, while Croatian courts often give lower sentences to Croat defendants.

Cooperation in war crimes prosecutions is particularly difficult for Kosovo because it is not recognised by its neighbours Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kosovo war crimes prosecutor Drita Hajdari said that it is also a challenge to get evidence from the successor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, a United Nations institution. Kosovo is not a member of the UN as it is not recognised by the majority of member states.

“Our requests to states rarely get positive answers. And in the case of the ICTY, as it is a UN institution, we can’t cooperate with it directly, so our requests need to go through the justice ministry and EU office, which we are often reluctant to do as the information is very sensitive,” Hajdar said.

“We have sensitive cases, and often there is a privacy concern as the information may be leaked,” she explained.

Civil society organisations also criticised the growing number of trials in absentia in the region.

Sofija Todorovic, director of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia, in absentia trials are often used for political purposes and undermine the right to a fair trial.

Kosovo, Serbia and Croatia have all amended their legislation to allow absentia trials to take place. When Serbia launched a war crimes case against Croatian officers last year it caused a political row between the two countries.

The conference also heard civil society activists and members of cultural and memorial institutions discussing the role of archives in fighting the growing problem of revisionism in the region, as well as preventing the recurrence of crimes.

Velma Saric, director of Post Conflict Research Centre, said this is particularly relevant in countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina where young people are still going to segregated schools and learning different versions of the history of the 1990s wars.

“For us, young people are the key audience and key partner. We used the archives of courts and other civil society groups to create educational programmes and materials. We want to show and teach young people the war through court-determined facts,” Saric said.

Nikola Mokrovic, an archivist from Documenta in Croatia, explained how the rapid pace of technological advancements poses a significant challenge, as archives must constantly adapt to new formats, storage systems and digital preservation methods.

Azir Osmanovic from the Srebrenica Memorial Center emphasised the importance of cooperation and partnership with organisations such as BIRN in order to preserve memories and create educational projects together with war survivors.

The conference also heard a presentation about BIRN’s updated Bitter Land database about mass graves from the wars in the former Yugoslavia and about Reporting House, BIRN’s museum focusing on the role of media in the 1990s wars, which is set to open later this year in Sarajevo.



Meet the People Behind BIRN: Vuk Maras

Each month, BIRN introduces you to a different member of its team. For April, meet Vuk Maras, BIRN Montenegro Executive Director.

Vuk Maras, 37, is Executive Director of BIRN network’s new member, BIRN Montenegro, set up in 2023.

Vuk is based in Podgorica; he studied economics and has worked in the non-profit sector since he was 18 years old, “constantly fighting against corruption and organised crime and advocating for the better rule of law and human rights”, as he told BIRN.

For over three years, he worked as a consultant for BIRN Hub on various projects. He sees his job in BIRN Montenegro more as a duty than as work. In the upcoming months, BIRN Montenegro will produce programmes and investigative stories to inform Montenegrin citizens and other stakeholders, and hold the government and public officials accountable.

Let’s meet him!

  1. BIRN Montenegro is the newest BIRN Network member, set up in 2023. Would you like to tell us more about it?

Montenegro is the only Western Balkan country where BIRN did not have a local office, so this was a logical step for the network. In a situation where the quality of journalism is constantly in decline, where investigative journalism is an exception rather than a common practice, it was necessary to bring something new to the citizens of Montenegro. Moreover, with recent changes to the regime that was ruling Montenegro for over three decades, it is of the utmost importance to ensure that the old corrupt practices do not continue and that Montenegro is able to build institutions that will secure its Euro-Atlantic integration, but also bring a better appreciation of human rights to all its citizens. BIRN Montenegro will investigate cases and bring high-quality news to the public discourse in order to inform Montenegrin citizens and other stakeholders, and to hold the government and public officials accountable.

  1. What drove you to work for BIRN Montenegro, specifically for a media non-profit? What do you like most in your new job, and what is the most challenging thing?

Short answer – lack of justice. I have been an active part of the Montenegrin non-profit sector since I was 18, constantly fighting against corruption and organised crime and advocating for better rule of law and human rights. With such a personal background, BIRN Montenegro, but also the entire BIRN family, is a logical continuation of something I believe is my cause, rather than work.

3. How was the process of forming a media non-profit in Montenegro from scratch? Did you confront difficulties? How did you overcome them?

At this point, we are still finalizing the paperwork and expect our portal to be fully operational in a few months’ time. But through this process, we were able to see how the bureaucracy, inherited even from communist times, can sometimes make life impossible for those fighting for changes and reforms.

4. What shall we expect from BIRN Montenegro in the coming months?

Many interesting investigative stories, hopefully a lot of truthful and professional news pieces, and a lot of activities in the field, improving the overall media scene in Montenegro.

5. What advice would you give to people currently trying to form a media non-profit in the region?

I would say, no matter how hard it sometimes looks, it pays off, as media and NGOs are the key pillars in each country in the region that are protecting democracy and human rights.



BIRN launches call for applications for a three-day training course on legally safe and crisis reporting

BIRN Kosovo has opened a new call for applications for its first three-day training course on legally safe reporting and crisis reporting, as part of the EU-funded project “Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey II”.

Considering the fragile state of democracy in the Western Balkans, skills in crisis reporting such as covering riots and protests but also elections are essential for maintaining high professional standards, as well as for maintaining the personal safety of journalists.

Journalists are often targeted by smear campaigns in the tabloid press and social media for doing their work professionally. They also face difficulties in preserving their digital security and keeping their work and sources safe.

This regional training is designed to answer these challenges by using a multi-sector approach, involving experts in different related fields to share their knowledge and skills. Practical simulations will take place in order to demonstrate adequate techniques for responding to attacks, as well as how to act pre-emptively.

The aim of the regional training camp is to provide journalists with specialized knowledge that helps them protect themselves and their newsrooms from different kinds of attacks, including physical attacks, legal actions such as Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation – SLAPP lawsuits, as well as to preserve their digital security.

A wide range of trainers and guest speakers will administer the sessions including BIRN managing editors and other external guest speakers.

Who can apply?

Final-year journalism students, recent graduates and young and professional journalists from the region, including Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Turkey and Serbia, may apply for the course.

Candidates from across the region are encouraged to apply.

How to apply?

All applications should be submitted in Albanian, Serbian or English by May 31, 2023, at midnight Central European Time to [email protected] along with the following documents:

  • Applicant’s CV
  • Work Sample
  • Motivation Letter

Applicants who do not have any published work can submit their student assignments from practical courses in journalism.

The motivation letter should provide information about the applicant’s opinion and knowledge of the topic and should not exceed 400 words.


The training will be held in English. Translation into Albanian and Serbian will be provided.


The training will take place in Durres, Albania. Details about the agenda and accommodation will be provided to the selected participants.

Deadline for applications: 12:00, Central European Time, May 31, 2023

Date of the training course: June 16 – 18, 2023


Travel costs and accommodation will be covered by BIRN.


BIRN hap thirrjen për aplikime për trajnimin treditor për raportimin e sigurt ligjor dhe raportimin në kohë krizash

BIRN Kosovë ka hapur një thirrje të re për aplikime për trajnimin e parë treditor për raportimin e sigurt ligjor dhe raportimin në kriza, si pjesë e projektit të financuar nga BE-ja “Forcimi i lajmeve cilësore dhe gazetarisë së pavarur në Ballkanin Perëndimor dhe Turqi II”.

Duke marrë parasysh gjendjen e brishtë të demokracisë në Ballkanin Perëndimor, shkathtësitë e raportimit në kriza, siç janë mbulimi i trazirave, protestave, por edhe zgjedhjeve, janë thelbësore për të mbajtur një standard të lartë profesional, si dhe për të ruajtur sigurinë personale të gazetarëve.

Për më tepër, gazetarët shpeshherë janë shënjestër e fushatave të shpifjes në tabloide dhe media sociale, për shkak të punës së tyre me profesionalizëm.  Gjithashtu, ata përballen me vështirësi në sigurinë e tyre digjitale dhe sigurisë së mjedisit të punës dhe burimeve të tyre.

Ky trajnim rajonal është përgatitur ashtu që të ofrojë përgjigje për këto sfida duke aplikuar një qasje ndërsektoriale, me ekspertë të fushave të ndryshme të cilët do t’i ndajnë njohuritë dhe shkathtësitë e tyre. Për më tepër, do të aplikohen simulime praktike për t’i demonstruar teknikat adekuate për të reaguar në sulme, si dhe si të veprohet në mënyrë parandaluese.

Qëllimi i këtij trajnimi rajonal është që gazetarëve t’u ofrohen njohuri të specializuara që u ndihmojnë të mbrojnë veten dhe redaksitë e tyre nga lloje të ndryshme sulmesh, duke përfshirë sulmet fizike, mjetet juridike, si janë paditë strategjike kundër pjesëmarrjes publike – paditë SLAPP, si dhe të ruajnë sigurinë e tyre digjitale.

Seancat do të administrohen nga një numër trajnerësh dhe folësish të ftuar, duke përfshirë redaktorët menaxhues të BIRN dhe folës të tjerë të jashtëm.

Kush mund të aplikojë?

Në këtë trajnim mund të aplikojnë studentët e vitit të fundit të gazetarisë, të sapodiplomuarit dhe gazetarët e rinj dhe profesionistë nga rajoni, duke përfshirë Shqipërinë, Bosnjë dhe Hercegovinën, Kosovën, Malin e Zi, Maqedoninë e Veriut, Turqinë dhe Serbinë.

Inkurajohen të aplikojnë kandidatët nga i gjithë rajoni.

Si të aplikoni?

Të gjitha aplikacionet duhet të dorëzohen në shqip, serbisht apo anglisht para datës 31 maj 2023, në mesnatë me kohë të Evropës Qendrore me postë elektronike, në adresën [email protected] së bashku me dokumentet e mëposhtme:

  • CV e aplikantit
  • Mostër e punës
  • Letër motivimi

Aplikantët që nuk kanë punime të botuara mund t’i dorëzojnë punimet e tyre studentore nga kurset praktike në gazetari.

Letra e motivimit duhet të përfshijë informata në lidhje me opinionin dhe njohuritë e aplikantëve lidhur me temën dhe nuk duhet të ketë më shumë 400 fjalë.


Trajnimi do të mbahet në anglisht. Megjithatë, do të sigurohet përkthimi në shqip dhe serbisht.


Trajnimi do të mbahet në Durrës, Shqipëri. Detajet lidhur me agjendën dhe akomodimin do t’u dërgohen vetëm pjesëmarrësve të përzgjedhur.

Afati për aplikim: Ora 12:00, me kohë të Evropës Qendrore, më 31 maj 2023

Data e trajnimit: 16 – 18 qershor 2023


Kostot e udhëtimit dhe akomodimit do të mbulohen nga BIRN.


BIRN objavljuje poziv za prijavu za trodnevnu obuku o pravno bezbednom i kriznom izveštavanju

BIRN Kosovo je objavio novi poziv za prijavu za prvu trodnevnu obuku o pravno bezbednom izveštavanju i kriznom izveštavanju, kao deo projekta koji finansira EZ “Osnaživanje kvalitetnih vesti i nezavisnog novinarstva u Zapadnom Balkanu i Turskoj II”.

S obzirom na krhko stanje demokratije u Zapadnom Balkanu, veštine u kriznom izveštavanju kao što je izveštavanje o nemirima, protestima kao i o izborima su osnovne za održavanje visokih profesionalnih standarda, kao i za održavanje lične bezbednosti novinara.

Štaviše, novinari su često na meti klevetničke kampanje od strane tabloidne štampe i društvenih mreža zbog toga što svoj posao rade na profesionalni način. Oni se takođe suočavaju sa poteškoćama u očuvanju svoje digitalne bezbednosti i bezbednosti svog rada i izvora.

Ova regionalna obuka je osmišljena da odgovori na sve izazove koristeći višesektorski pristup, uključivanjem stručnjaka iz različitih relevantnih oblasti kako bi podelili svoje znanje i veštine. Dodatno će se održavati praktične simulacije kako bi se demonstrirale adekvatne tehnike za reagovanje na napade i preventivno delovanje.

Cilj ovog regionalnog kampa za obuku je da novinarima pruži specijalizovano znanje koje će im pomoći da zaštite sebe i svoje redakcije od različitih vrsta napada, uključujući fizičke napade, pravne radnje, kao i Strateške sporove protiv učešća javnosti- SSPUJ tužbe, kao i da očuvaju svoju digitalnu bezbednost.

Širok spektar trenera i gostujućih govornika će održavati sesije, uključujući BORN-ove glavne urednike i spoljašnje gostujuće govornike.

Ko se može prijaviti?

Studenti novinarstva na poslednjoj godini studija, nedavno diplomirani studenti i mladi i profesionalni novinari iz regije uključujući Albaniju, Bosnu i Hercegovinu, Kosovo, Crnu Goru, Severnu Makedoniju, Tursku i Srbiju, se mogu prijaviti za učestvovanje na obuci.

Ohrabrujemo kandidate iz cele regije da se prijave.

Kako se prijaviti?

Sve prijave treba dostaviti na Albanskom, Srpskom ili Engleskom jeziku do 31. maja 2023. godine u ponoć po srednjeevropskom vremenu na email [email protected] zajedno sa sledećim dokumentima:

  • CV kandidata
  • Uzorak radova
  • Motivaciono pismo

Kandidati koji nisu objavili neki rad mogu dostaviti svoje studentske radove iz praktičnih kurseva novinarstva.

Motivaciono pismo treba pružati informacije u vezi mišljenja i znanja kandidata u vezi navedene teme i ne treba biti duže od 400 reči.


Obuka će biti održana na engleskom jeziku. Međutim, prevod na albanskom i srpskom jeziku će biti dostupan.


Obuka će se održati u Draču, Albanija. Detalji vezani za dnevni red i smeštaj će biti pruženi samo odabranim kandidatima.

Rok za prijavu: 12:00, centralno-evropsko vreme, 31. maj 2023. godine

 Datum obuke: Jun 16 – 18, 2023. godine


Putni troškovi i smeštaj pokriva BIRN.