Fellowship 2024: Voices – Call for Applications Open

We are awarding 10 fellowships to journalists from Central and South-Eastern Europe who have an idea for a story that needs dedicated on-the-ground reporting, in-depth research, generous funding and sustained editorial attention to do it justice.

Applications are solicited under this year’s theme, Voices. Successful applicants will be selected by an independent committee to take part in our annual programme for professional development, culminating in the production of a compelling long-form story to be published by BIRN, its media partners and/or the media outlets from the region.

Our output takes the form of features, analysis and investigations, presented in depth for a global audience. We emphasise strong storytelling and rigorous, on-the-ground reporting – qualities traditionally associated with the best magazine journalism.

The Fellowship provides:

  • a bursary of €3,000
  • the chance to improve your reporting skills by working in close collaboration with world-class editors
  • ongoing mentoring and support from BIRN’s leading regional journalistic network, present in 14 countries of the Central and SEE region
  • the opportunity to participate in an introductory seminar in Vienna, May 20th – 24th, focused on reporting and storytelling techniques,
  • the chance to win additional awards worth between 1.000 and 3.000 euros for the best three stories
  • worldwide publication of reports in local languages and English through our network of media partners
  • membership of the Fellowship alumni network, designed to support networking between fellows who have participated in the programme since 2007
  • This year’s call is open until March 25th. Please send us your proposal using the official application form.
  • To maximize your chances of a successful application read more about the programme including the tips from our editors.

Here is what our editor, Neil Arun, has to say about this year’s topic.

Before journalism, the printing press and the first clay tablets where our ancestors practised their writing, there was the spoken word. Every year, the Fellowship asks applicants to consider a theme. This year’s theme, Voices, goes back to the oldest form of communication.

It also appeals to the instinct that, we believe, drives the best long-form journalism: the desire to get away from the desk and hit the road in search of those sources, those voices, that can add something meaningful to a bigger conversation.

On social media today, it can seem as if everyone has a voice. However, not all voices are heard, or worth hearing. What are the voices in your society that have been drowned out by the noise? What do we miss when we don’t listen? Whose are the voices worth seeking out at this moment? How does power speak, and what does it leave unsaid? And how will your Fellowship story send out a signal that can cut through the noise?

Our themes are always broad, because we want to attract the broadest range of applications. If you haven’t got a pitch in mind for the Fellowship, we hope the theme will inspire you. If you already have a story that you would like to report, please take a few minutes to tease out a link with the theme in your application. Don’t worry if the link seems a bit of a stretch – we are looking to gauge your ability to argue, rather than your fidelity to the theme. And we will always prioritise a good pitch that is only loosely linked to the theme over a weak pitch that fits the theme perfectly. Good luck.

About the Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence

The Fellowship has been providing journalists with editorial guidance and funding to pursue agenda-setting stories since 2007. Aimed at promoting the development of a robust and responsible press, the programme has helped shape journalistic standards across the region while boosting the careers of participating reporters.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and Erste Foundation set up the Fellowship with a view to encouraging in-depth cross-border reporting in south-eastern Europe. In 2020, the programme was expanded to include four central European countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

To read our stories and find out more about the Fellowship please visit the Fellowship official page.

‘New Wave’, BIRN Albania’s Documentary on Migration, Screened in Tirana

New film explores push factors behind latest migration wave from Albania toward the European Union and Britain.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania on February 13 staged the premiere of its documentary New Wave in Tirana. More than 100 people – some of the standing – gathered at the Agimi Art Center for the screening, including members of the diplomatic corps, activists, journalists and filmmakers.

The documentary, produced in cooperation with Barraka Production and directed by award-winning director, Elton Baxhaku, explores the push factors behind Albania’s latest migration wave toward the European Union and the United Kingdom.

It includes interviews with people from different walks of life and different regions of the country, as well as experts and academics that study migration and its impact on individuals, families and society, in an attempt to explain what is pushing so many to migrate and what this means for the Albania and its future.

Elton Baxhaku is an Albanian filmmaker best known for his 2014
documentary Skandal, the 2016 documentary Selita, which was co-directed by Eriona Çami, and Free Flow in 2018.

The documentary was produced as part of the project “Using Big Data and Multimedia to Boost Quality and Independent Journalism in Albania”, which is supported by the European Union and the Swedish government and implemented by BIRN Albania.

The project worked to create an enabling environment for Albanian journalists to produce independent content through training, mentoring, technical and financial support, in close cooperation with civil society, so improving freedom of expression and strengthening media pluralism in Albania.

In the next few months BIRN Albania will take the documentary on the road and hold screenings in several Albanian cities and towns, which are considered as ground zero for the latest migration wave.

BIRN Albania Wins Landmark FOI Case

Verdict forces Qualification Commission to reveal name of private sponsor who paid for vetting institutions staff’s weekend retreat in luxury resort.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania has won a landmark lawsuit against the Independent Qualification Commission, IQC, over the right to public information.

The IQC is one of three institutions charged with vetting judges and prosecutors in Albania.

The verdict, which was adjudicated by the Appeals Administrative Court in Tirana, forces the IQC to reveal the name of a private sponsor who paid the bill for a weekend retreat in a luxurious resort for the vetting institutions staff.

BIRN sought the records from the IQC in 2022. After the IQC refused, a complaint was filed with the Commissioner on the Right to Information. The Commissioner ruled in BIRN’s favour but the IQC filed a lawsuit against his decision.

In the First Instance Administrative Court in Tirana, BIRN Albania journalist Edmond Hoxhaj joined the case as a third party. When the judge ruled in favour of the IQC, Hoxhaj appealed, and on January 23, the Administrative Court reversed the verdict, upholding the earlier decision of the Commissioner for the Right to Information.

Meet the People Behind BIRN: Adelina Ahmeti

From an active basketball player to an awarded journalist who has worked on investigations of many cases that ended with arrests, indictments or dismissals of officials due to corruption – this has been the professional path of 27-year-old Adelina Ahmeti, a BIRN Network journalist working at KALLXO.com.

Adelina began her career as an intern at KALLXO.com at the end of 2015 and was promoted to journalist within months. Her primary fields of experience relate to security issues and law enforcement, and her articles often arouse regional interest.

Let’s meet her!

  1. You were a basketball player. If it weren’t for your injury, would you still be a sportsperson, or something else?

Although not as active as before, I am still a sportsperson. Now I prefer other forms, like walking, running, or fitness, a little easier sport that does not cause me injury problems. Now I’ve become a journalist, I tend to believe that everything happens for a reason.

  1. How did you decide to become a journalist?

It’s a cliché, and we hear it many times – “I dreamed of this profession as a child,” – but it is true. Watching news shows on TV and reading good pieces in newspapers, I always imagined having my name on the bylines and doing the same. I always wanted to do something to help other people, to be the voice of my community, to investigate any case that we can learn something about, to go and report from a place where people don’t have access, to tell them only the truth and what’s really happening there, to be everywhere for them – because journalism is not easy, we need to work hard to get attention and then have their trust. When people trust us, we can get so much information about what’s happening in institutions and cases.

  1. You have worked at KALLXO.com since 2015. Regarding journalism, your primary fields of experience are related to security issues and law enforcement. What did you find most challenging in your work so far?

When I start thinking about this, I see one fact: I always watched movies and documentaries about police, lawyers and crime cases, and when one of my editors called me and asked if I wanted to be a journalist who follows security issues, I didn’t hesitate to say: “Yes, of course, I love this.” But, as a 19-year-old at that time, hesitations came as I started overthinking about whether I would be able to create enough sources for my work to follow what was happening in security institutions. Now, eight years later, I feel proud, and I’m happy about everything I did in the past years investigating so many cases that ended with arrests, indictments or dismissals of various officials due to corruption cases. It was hard at the beginning because when I started to go into police stations or crime scenes, people often watched me strangely. It was not common then for women journalists to report from difficult areas or cases. The situation has changed a lot since then, and I see more and more young women working as journalists, taking on serious cases to report on.

  1. Last year was very rewarding for your work since you received the award in the field of child protection from the Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo. Can you tell us a bit more about your awarded story, “Sex Crime File: How the Accused of Sexual Assault on a Student Was Released”?

I started working on this case in 2022 when someone wanted to meet me to discuss his 14-year-old daughter, who’d been the victim of a sexual assault in her school. He first told me: “I don’t believe the system, the police, the prosecutor, and I came here to tell you what’s happening with the case.” I thought this was a reward for me; people who’d lost trust in institutions that are supposed to protect them come to me to address their problems with a system which is not working. These are the moments that grow you as a journalist.

It was continuous work on the story. In the end, it resulted in an investigation that made the prosecution extend the investigations and indict a second suspect, who was previously somehow “forgotten” and considered just as a witness.

  1. During your career, you received many awards for investigative journalism. What do they mean to you?

First of all, pride. Taking awards is not what I think of when I work on any investigation. It is just an evaluation of my work by others who assess it. My first and foremost goal is to try to give a voice to those who are unheard. The impact of the reports is the biggest prize for me. The awards given to me over the years since I started my career are just another impetus for the work we do.

Call for Applications: BIRN Kosovo Training on Fact-Checking Journalism for Young Journalists

In multi-ethnic, post-conflict societies, misinformation has the potential to adversely impact conditions for sustained peace and coexistence among communities and create political strife.

Moreover, in a digital and social media age, and with the steep rise of online news portals in Kosovo, rumors and manipulated fake news can have heightened operational consequences for credible media outlets and journalists in Kosovo.

Media outlets lack the necessary capacities (resources and skillsets) to report on issues and uphold professional fact-checking standards, whereas consumers are not well-equipped to identify spurious news stories and debunk them.

Such false news items are frequently on topics related to members of non-majority communities, which in turn perpetuates discrimination, and reinvigorates fear and insecurity amongst readers. These news items are easily spread across most online media given current social media algorithms reward polarizing and extreme content.

To address these challenges and create more credible and professional future generations of journalists in Kosovo, on February 26, 2024, BIRN will organize a one-day training module with journalists and journalism students on fact-checking standards, methodologies, and tools.

The one-day training module will bring together 20 young and mid-career journalists as well as students of journalism from different communities, who will have the opportunity to acquire knowledge and hands-on skills on how to report on fact-checking methodology and tools.

The training module will be delivered by BIRN’s team of award-winning journalists and editors, who have extensive experience in investigating, reporting on, and advocating for fact-checked journalism.

Who can apply?

Students of journalism, young and mid-career journalists across different regions in Kosovo, who are interested in learning more about reporting based on fact-checking methodologies are eligible to apply for this call.

Applicants from marginalized communities in Kosovo, including members of minority ethnic communities and women, that fulfill the above-mentioned criteria are encouraged to apply for this call.

To apply for the one-day training on fact-checking reporting click here.

Language:

Simultaneous translation in Albanian, Serbian, and English will be provided.

Location:

The training will take place in Prishtina, Kosovo. Details regarding the specific location and agenda will only be provided to selected participants.

Deadline for application: February 5, 2024

Date of the training course: February 26, 2024

*This training activity is supported by the UNMIK.

International Free Media Advocates Condemn Cyber-Attack and False Copyright Claims Against BIRN

International Press Institute, and Media Freedom Rapid Response condemn cyber-attack and false copyright claims against BIRN’’s flagship website Balkan Insight.

The International Press Institute, IPI – a global network of editors, media executives and journalists, with a mission to defend media freedom and the free flow of news – and the Media Freedom Rapid Response, MFRR – a Europe-wide mechanism that tracks violations of press freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries – on January 10 condemned the cyber-attack and false copyright claims that BIRN received in December 2023.

“International Press Institute, IPI condemns the recent DDoS cyber-attack and two allegedly fraudulent copyright claims filed against BIRN which comes after it refused to delete public interest reports on convicted Turkish fraudster Yasam Ayavefe,” stated IPI.

MFRR included the attacks against BIRN on its Mapping Media Freedom map.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s website, Balkan Insight, on December 22 received a major distributed denial-of-service DDoS attack after it published news about false copyright claims made over two of its articles concerning convicted Turkish fraudster Yasam Ayavefe.

A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the regular functioning of a targeted server by overwhelming it with a flood of internet traffic.

BIRN on December 19 had published a news article, “BIRN Texts on Turkish Fraudster Falsely Reported over Copyright,”  about two false copyright infringement complaints it had received concerning two of its articles.

The first article, published February 15, had been about a cyber-attack on the Greek media outlet Documento, after it reported that Ayavefe’s wife had secured fake ID papers from an organised crime gang.

The second article, published July 26, had been about the request of an Ayavefe representative for BIRN to remove its reports about his client.

“These kinds of posts affect the business life of my client [Ayavefe]. He has invested in so many countries and posts like this cause my client material and moral damage,” Bener Ljutviovski, who introduced himself as Ayavefe’s representative, told BIRN in an email.

BIRN received the copyright infringement complaints via a hosting company that leases out servers, submitted by two people under the name of Rocky Paul, purportedly based in Colorado, US, and from an individual named Sharon Henkel, purportedly based in France.

The complaints claimed that a blogspot page titled Global News Express and a Tumblr account called “mindbluray” had originally published the BIRN articles.

However, the alleged authors had merely republished the BIRN articles, changing the dates from February 26 to February 1 and from July 26 to July 21.

It is not the first time cyber-attacks have buffeted BIRN; in September 2022, BIRN and its Greek partner media outlet Solomon’s websites came under a DDoS attack after publishing an investigation on how Ayavefe – despite being convicted by a Turkish court in 2017 of defrauding online gamblers and arrested in Greece in 2019 trying to cross the border into Bulgaria on a false passport – got honorary Greek citizenship.

The investigative outlet Inside Story first wrote about Ayavefe’s Greek citizenship – and came under a DDoS attack after publishing its report on him.

In the meantime, Ayavefe managed to get 201 online content items in Turkey removed under three court orders. The removed content included news articles, social media posts and even the official website content and social media posts of the Turkish Police.

Ayavefe’s representative in July, besides asking for the removal of the articles, offered BIRN financial incentives in return for compliance. “My client Dr Yasam Ayavefe has an advertising company, if you help us in this case we can provide advertising services to your organisation, so you can grow to a bigger organisation. We would love to cooperate with you,” he wrote.

BIRN rejected Ljutviovski’s offer and his repeated demands to remove the articles about Ayavefe.

BIRN Kosovo publishes report on justice system’s handling of terrorism and corruption cases in 2023

BIRN Kosovo published the report titled “The Justice System’s Handling Cases with Terrorism and Corruption Charges in 2023”, which is based on the monitoring of the justice system and presents a detailed analysis of how cases of terrorism and corruption are handled by the justice system in Kosovo during 2023.

BIRN monitored 7 terrorism cases and 16 corruption cases that remain active in 2023, which are handled by the Special Department of Basic Court in Prishtina, and also gathered data from public documents on cases of terrorism and corruption.

This report highlights the lenient sentencing policy and non-involvement of all institutions as the main weaknesses of the system, especially in corruption cases. It also reveals the courts’ serious issues with the delays in handling cases, by showing data from prolonged cases handled by the Special Department of the Basic Court in Prishtina and the Special Department of the Court of Appeals in 2023.

As per the terrorism cases, data from this report shows that the justice system had a quicker approach to dealing with such cases. However, considerable delays are also observed between the time when the crime is alleged to have been committed and the time when the indictment is filed and when the trials are held. As for punishments, this report finds the sentencing policy inadequate. Revealing that in 3 out of 7 monitored cases that have been issued a conviction, sentences appeared in the lowest threshold of the sentence envisaged.

The report also provides recommendations intended to be a useful aid to justice institutions to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Kosovo’s justice system and contribute to developing the necessary justice reforms.

The main recommendations of this report focus on the improvement of Prosecution from addressing the mistakes made in the application of investigative techniques, to considering the court’s findings when prosecutors failed to establish the intent of the accused in committing criminal offenses and ensuring prosecutors are provided with skills and updated knowledge to investigate violent extremism and terrorism cases.

Other recommendations include the further strengthening of KJK and KPK collaboration with international organizations, civil society, and other relevant institutions, as well as the media, with the common goal of strengthening the efforts against corruption and increasing the public’s trust in the justice system.

Click here for the report on Albanian and English.

This activity is implemented as part of the “Media as a means to improve the transparency of the justice system and the fight against terrorism and extremism” project, supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation through the Italian embassy in Prishtina.

Western Balkan Journalists Tackle Challenges of Sustainable Development in Awarded stories

As climate change and environmental disasters increasingly dominate the concerns of Western Balkan countries, a significant need remains to raise awareness of future sustainable development.

Once again, media outlets have underscored their crucial role in addressing this urgent matter, with the current edition of the Western Balkans Sustainable Energy Journalism Award acknowledging outstanding stories.

The focus of this year’s Sustainable Energy Journalism Awards centred on energy transition, featuring stories on environmental corruption, greenwashing and the social inequality of green transition.

The 24 applications received for the award came from all six countries in the region – Kosovo, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Albania – reflecting the widespread interest of journalists in shedding light on these issues. The awarded stories were chosen by three international and independent jurors.

The two awardees brought attention to unjust practices in their countries’ solar transitions. “Solar Blossoms”, the winning story by journalist and academic researcher Lirika Demiri, portrayed the challenges faced by citizens transitioning to solar energy in coal-dependent Kosovo, revealing broader obstacles and power interests impeding the solar industry’s full potential.

The third-placed investigative story “Solar Boom in Stolac”,  by Naratorium journalists Alena Beširević and Harun Dindarević, focused on energy transition, exposing how laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina favour investors at the expense of citizens.

Themes like climate change, decarbonization and green energy can be difficult to acknowledge. But storytellers like Katerina Topalova made it easier. Her story, “Hard Winter”,  in five short videos, explained problems and solutions related to food and energy after the war in Ukraine and Covid-19 in a way that’s easy to understand. She used videos, graphics, and animation to make it interesting – and won second place in the selection.

Numerous journalist stories adopted an informative approach, such as podcasts on solar energy panels, while one media from Bosnia educated citizens about energy prosumers and opportunities for electricity self-sufficiency.

Other narratives investigated the environmental impact of hydropower plants, such as collaborative efforts by media from Bosnia and Albania, shedding light on the complexities of small hydro plant construction in Albania and their repercussions on communities. Journalists from Montenegro documented local efforts to preserve rivers from destructive mini-hydropower plants in their stories.

Several stories underscored social injustice and energy poverty, exposing challenges faced by impoverished families and marginalized communities in accessing sustainable energy services.

The Green Agenda for the Western Balkans designates this region as among the most severely affected in Europe by the repercussions of climate change, a trend expected to persist.

A 2022 survey in the Western Balkans found that 67 per cent of respondents consider climate change a problem, while 31 per cent do not. An EU survey showed 93 per cent of EU citizens regard climate change as a serious problem.

Through their stories, journalists disseminated information about environmental issues, educated society, demanded accountability and transparency, and advocated for mobilization. This was made possible through the active engagement of stakeholders, communities, activists, experts and local governments.

The Sustainable Energy Journalism Award has emerged as a significant motivator for journalists committed to addressing the challenges of sustainable development facing the future of the Western Balkans. BIRN is committed to furthering the capacity building of journalists and media outlets as they strive to investigate topics related to sustainable energy.

BIRN Kosovo publishes report on the procedures of release of individuals convicted of terrorism

On December 28, 2023 BIRN Kosovo has published a report titled “Conditional Release and Supervision of Persons Convicted of Terrorism” based on its direct monitoring of the advantages and disadvantages of the management of the process of the release of individuals convicted of terrorism.

Kosovo ranks among the countries with the highest number of foreign fighters per capita who have joined the terrorist organization ISIS in the war in Syria and Iraq.

Kosovo also is one of the first countries to accept the repatriation of its citizens who had sided with terrorist organizations in conflict zones. In 2015, Kosovo adopted a specific law to prevent its citizens from participating in foreign conflicts. The justice system responded quickly to the issue, swiftly prosecuting, investigating, and adjudicating individuals involved in terrorist acts.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) has analyzed the conditional release process of individuals convicted of criminal acts related to terrorism. BIRN selected a random sample for analysis, comprising of five cases handled between 2015 and 2020 by the Conditional Release Panel.

Based on the methodology, the analysis focused on five cases of individuals conditionally released, convicted of committing criminal acts related to terrorism, including terrorism with religious motives and other forms of terrorism.

In its analysis, BIRN looked into the conditional release procedure of individuals convicted of terrorism from the initial report of the Correctional Service, the Conditional Release Panel’s decision, to the final report of the Probation Service after the supervision period was concluded.

For the compilation of this report, BIRN utilized the archives of the Probation Service of Kosovo and the Conditional Release Panel.

Data analysis on the processes carried out for conditional release encompassed the entire chain of institutions, including the submission of requests for conditional release, to the compilation of the case file by the Correctional Service, processing of the file, decision-making by the Conditional Release Panel, and the supervision process and the drafting of the final report on the supervision process by the Probation Service of Kosovo.

The report also includes individual summary analyses of all analyzed cases, chronologically detailing the key moments in the handling of each case.

At the end of the report, BIRN included recommendations to justice institutions, such as the Ministry of Justice, the Conditional Release Panel, Probation Service, courts, etc.

Click here for the report on Albanian and English.

This activity is implemented as part of the “Media as a means to improve the transparency of the justice system and the fight against terrorism and extremism” project, supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation through the Italian embassy in Prishtina.

Meet the People Behind BIRN: Aleksandar Djordjevic

Aleksandar Djordjevic has worked as a journalist since 2009, mainly covering politics and public finance.

He joined BIRN in February 2012. Since then he has mainly worked in the field of data journalism and investigative journalism, specialising in public finance reporting.

In 2016, he won first prize in the EU Investigative Journalism Awards for Serbia and an award for best investigative story in print media by the Independent Association of Serbian Journalists and the US embassy in Belgrade.

He was also awarded the best media report on monitoring of public spending in Serbia organized by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP.

If he wasn’t a journalist, he would be doing some higher-paying but less stressful job. The only condition is that is not morally compromising in any way. Two stories that he worked on recently greatly impacted the wider Serbian public.

Let’s meet him!

  1. Why did you decide to become a journalist? What is it like working in BIRN?

I always wanted to know what was going on around me, questioning what was served as the truth. In this region, the official version of the truth rarely coincides with reality.

Unfortunately, we cannot be proud of our journalistic tradition in the Balkans.

As a child in the 1980s, I heard people arguing with the TV and disputing what they heard there, and with good reason. At that time, there was only one television station, and it did not report in the public’s interest but in one party’s interest.

In the 1990s, we got media pluralism but also the most brutal propaganda. In the noise of war, however, the first free media were born, which I eagerly listened to, read, and watched. That is perhaps the moment when my deeper connection with journalism was born, because I saw that even in the most difficult circumstances, it is possible to report objectively and truthfully.

To this day, in this region, and especially in Serbia, propaganda and the [ruling] party’s version of the truth have absolute dominance over objective journalism. BIRN is one of the few media organisations in this region that maintains professional standards and from which you can hear a version of the reality that is neither propaganda nor directed by interest groups. That’s why I’ve been working in BIRN for 12 years; here I have the freedom to work on stories that are important to the public, which you can’t hear on other media.

  1. A story that you and Gordana Andric worked on regarding how millions of euros for the vulnerable ended up in other people’s bank accounts (people close to the authorities or who are part of it) greatly impacted the country. Tell us about working on that story. What was the most challenging thing?

Behind this journalistic story stands a team of over 20 people who worked on it for four years. Of course, not every day, but starting in 2020, BIRN has been working, together with another non-governmental partner organisation, on a project monitoring state competitions grants.

During that time, the team collected data on 50,000 projects that the state financed with more than 180 million euros in competition grants. All these data are combined in one online database. It is a huge and important undertaking that BIRN has done in order to make the spending of this public money more transparent because the state does not have this data consolidated in one place.

But also in order for the non-governmental sector to be more efficient and spend this money for the general benefit. Imagine the effect on society of almost 200 million euros spent on social protection and improvement of environmental policy, which is what this money was primarily intended for.

Unfortunately, our research shows a significant part of this money was allocated to non-governmental organisations exclusively on a political basis.

BIRN published the first story on this topic two years ago. A month ago, a new story was published where the mechanism of misuse of state money, which was intended for the prevention of peer violence, was thoroughly dismantled and explained.

I think the public recognized our venture because the corrupt mechanism was presented to them in detail. They could also see the face of corruption. Principals of primary schools are shocked by the fact that the state gave more money for fictitious projects than the annual budget of their schools – while their schools have no money for heating.

  1. Another story was about Milan Radoicic’s involvement with marijuana labs in northern Kosovo. Tell us more about this.

Milan Radoičić is an example from the beginning of our story of how state propaganda misleads the public. He was presented in the state media and by state officials as one of the fighters for [Serb] national interests [in Kosovo].

BIRN, on the other hand, has published dozens of stories in the last couple of years in which it can be seen that Radoičić and Zvonko Veselinović are the opposite of that. The two of them have been labeled by international diplomatic organisations as part of an organised criminal group that is cooperating with the state ruling structure to enrich themselves at the expense of the public interest, not in favour of national interests.

You will not hear that version of the story on national frequencies; it is largely hidden from the Serbian public.

  1. What would you be working on, instead of journalism?

Some higher-paying but less stressful job. The only condition is that it is not morally compromising in any way.

  1. What is your advice to someone who wants to work as an investigative journalist in our region?

Arm yourself with patience. Investigative journalism is a marathon discipline, not a sprint. The strength and endurance necessary for a marathon are acquired through study, work and constant curiosity, and an open mind.

But curiosity must not turn into obsessive digging into the dark holes of other people’s inaction because over time, defeatism and cynicism will overwhelm you. That will have a negative impact on the quality of your work.

Curiosity must be directed towards learning new skills but also towards learning about values. Journalists are not there just to convey dry facts and information (soon artificial intelligence will do that), but to represent values. Only in this way will journalists maintain the capacity and strength to deal with the ever-increasing challenges of distorted values and disinformation.