“JR” editor at media seminar in Sarajevo

An editor with BIRN’s Justice Report, Nidzara Ahmetasevic, spoke at the conference “War crimes and media:
possibilities of establishing trust” held on May 18 and 19 in the Mediacentre Sarajevo.

The media representatives from the region who gathered at this two-day round table organised by Transitions Online talked about war crimes reporting, the challenges in war crimes processes and violation of human rights.

In her speech, Ahmetasevic stressed the importance of regular and detailed reporting on war crimes trials before local and international courts, which can be helpful in the process of establishing trust and facing the past.

Other speakers were Dejan Anastasijevic, reporter from Vreme magazine, Belgrade; Boris Vlasic, reporter form daily paper Jutarnji list – Zagreb; Drago Pilsel, columnist and reporter of the daily paper Novi list – Rijeka; Sabina Cehajic, University of Sussex, Brighton; Zoran Pajic, Kings College London; Nevena Rsumovic, editor of web publication NetNovinar, Mediacenter Sarajevo.


A leading Bulgarian court reporter has praised BIRN Bulgaria’s
Reporting from the Courts project which ended last month.

BIRN Bulgaria director Albena Shkodrova announced the successful
completion of the project in an interview on June 29 with the Studio
Bulgaria programme of Radio New Europe.
host of the programme Vasil Chobanov, himself a prominent legal
journalist, praised the project as one of "great importance to the
Bulgarian media world".

Krassen Nikolov of
Mediapool.bg, who participated in the project, told the radio programme
that he got a lot out of the training programme. "It was a remarkable
experience," he said.
The three-month project, supported by US State Department, trained 6
reporters from Bulgarian print media to analyse the work of the
Bulgarian judiciary.
participants produced nine stories, covering topics such as the
probation service, the performance of the ombudsman and punishment of
petty crime.

The stories can be found in Bulgarian, English versions of some of them are available on the same site.

BIRN BiH Guest on “Arena” Talk Show

An editor of BIRN’s Justice Report magazine, Nidzara Ahmetasevic, made a guest appearance on the political talk show ARENA, in Belgrade on June 29.

The topic of the show was the Hague fugitive Radovan Karadzic. There was discussion of a number of issues, including the local consequences if he remains on the run and, more generally, the influence of the Hague tribunal on the region.

The show was hosted by the Forum for South-eastern Europe, a non-governmental organisation with headquarters in Zurich.

Other guests on the show were Biljana Kovacevic – Vuco, president of the Committee of Attorneys for Human Rights, Serbia; Djordje Mamula, senior official in the Democratic Party of Serbia; and Jelena Markovic, spokesperson of the Democratic Party.

BIRN Kosovo: Mythologising History Debate

Kosovo television, RTK, broadcast a BIRN-organised debate on July 19 on how politicians in the Balkans mythologise historic events, looking specifically at the Battle of Kosovo, June 28, 1389 – local Serb celebrations of which were this year attended by Serbia’s prime minister Vojislav Kostunica.

RTK, Pristina, July 19, 2006.

The debate follows the publication of an in-depth report from Gracanica,

Gazimestan and Pristina which concluded that the event has become less politicised since Slobodan Milosevic’s infamous attendance of the 600th anniversary in 1989, at which he delivered a fiery nationalistic speach.

Panelists in the debate were Rada Trajkovic, vice-president of Serb National Council; Jelena Bjelica, editor-in-chief of the bi-monthly Kosovo Serb newspaper Gradanski Glasnik; Ylber Hysa, vice-president of ORA, the Albanian opposition party; and Kaqusha Jashari, president of Social Democratic Party of Kosova.

Bjelica said that “the fact that Kostunica does what Milosevic did, visiting Kosovo on [the anniversary of the battle] and saying ‘this is Serb land’ – knowing how many dead and displaced this type of politics has caused – shows that Serbian society hasn’t yet been able to deal with its past”.

Trajkovic said “I feel very uncomfortable that we look at this [anniversary], as something strictly associated with Milosevic and use it to criticise Serb society….What I want to talk about is how little freedom I have today to walk freely in Kosovo as a Serb, enter a shop and speak in Serbian”.

Bjelica responded with a question, “Why is it possible for me as a Serb to live in Pristina and enter a shop without any consequences?
Because I am prepared to say ‘Good day’ in Albanian and you are not.”

Hysa stressed that, despite Kostunica’s visit, the anniversary celebrations this year were more restrained than in previous years, “
Serbs…are looking at this day with more realism and calmness than some years ago.”

Discussing the need for Kosovo communities to commemorate events without antagonising other groups, Hysa said it was very important that Kosovo Albanians celebrate independence in a way that does not resemble a “rowdy booze-up”, so so that it is really experienced as “a moment of freedom rather than as a threat to anyone else”.

The debate was moderated by Jeta Xharra, BIRN Kosovo Director, while the in-depth report was compiled by BIRN’s multi-ethnic investigative team, Krenar Gashi and Tanja Matic.

Media training for Kosovo human rights workers

Jeta Xharra, Kosovo BIRN Director, held a training session for 17 young human rights activists in Vucitern/Vushtrri on July 15, focusing on how to communicate with the media and pitch stories of human rights interest.

Labinot Berisha, coordinator of anti-trafficking projects within the youth department of the ministry of culture, said the session would help contribute to more sensitive coverage of issues such as child labor, and victims of trafficking and abuse”.
The event was organised in partnership with Management & Development Associates and was held in the Kosovo Police Service school. The activists who took part in the session were:
– Bujar Thaci, Institute of Social Policy
– Linda Loshi, Handicap Kosova
– Majlinda Pirkuqi, human rights volunteer
– Rrezarta Dreshaj, human rights volunteer
– Nerxhivane Haziri, human rights volunteer
– Albana Bytyci, human rights volunteer
– Sylejman Maloku, human rights volunteer
– Bashkim Pacarizi, Kosovo Youth Network
– Labinot Berisha, coordinator for anti-traficking projects, Department ofYouth, Ministry of Culture
– Bekrije Maxhuni, human rights ambassador
– Yllza Jusufi, human rights volunteer
– Besa Shala, human rights volunteer
– Gyltene Retkoceri, human rights volunteer
– Violeta Zefi, human rights volunteer
– Kaltrina Osmani, human rights volunteer
– Arta Buzhala, human rights volunteer
– Manushaqe Vila, human rights volunteer


The BIRN team was featured in the June issue of the women’s magazine Gracija. Entitled “Women lead in Balkan Investigative Reporting Network”, the picture story presented the BIRN BiH team and its Justice Report service which is produced in Sarajevo.

For more about Justice Report or other BIRN BiH activities please contact its director, Nerma Jelacic, at nerma@birn.eu.com

BIRN Macedonia selects first trainees

BIRN Macedonia has started the first part of its primary level journalism training course with an open invitation to young Macedonian journalists to develop their talents.

Applicants will be tested on October 17 at BIRN Macedonia’s Skopje office.

The project seeks to develop and improve the quality of journalism in different regions of Macedonia and to build a wider network of young journalists working in line with BIRN’s internationally recognised reporting standards.

The on-the-job training project will result in six special report packages on critical issues affecting Macedonia’s transition process, such as decentralization, corruption, minorities, and the EU accession process. They will be published monthly in Macedonian and Albanian, and a selection of articles will be reprinted in English.

For more information on how to get involved, please contact Ana Petruseva

BIRN BiH holds round table on War Crimes Chamber in Bihac

BIRN BiH organised a round table in Bihac, north-west BiH, on October 13 as part of its Transitional Justice project to stimulate dialogue between the new War Crimes Chamber and the Bosnian public.

More than 40 representatives from non-governmental organisations, local government, victims associations and lawyers from BiH’s two entities attended the event for a day-long discussion on the role of the WCC in dealing with Bosnia’s past.

Speakers included representatives of the state court’s registry, prosecution, defence and Ootreach sections, as well as Hague tribunal officials, cantonal judges and prosecutors from the Bihac region.

They addressed an audience from Bihac, Cazin, Prijedor, Banja Luka, Drvar, Jajce and Sanski Most. Other events within this phase of BIRN’s Transitional Justice project are scheduled to take place in Brcko on October 27 and Sarajevo on November 10.

The Transitional Justice project is supported by the Swiss embassy in Sarajevo with the assistance of the Office of the Registrar and Prosecution within the State Court of BiH.

For more information, please contact Nerma Jelacic

BIRN Serbia to run investigative journalism workshop in Nis

BIRN Serbia is organising this October 29-30 training in investigative journalism for reporters from the southern part of the country.

The six participants are a mixed group of young Albanian and Serbian journalists who have completed BIRN’s primary journalism training course.

The training will be led by BIRN’s development and editorial director Gordana Igric and investigations coordinator Hugh Griffiths, together with BIRN Serbia director Dragana Nikolic-Solomon.

The workshop comprises theoretical and practical training modules that equip trainees with the tools they need to initiate investigations. A number of real reporting projects will subsequently be carried out under the close supervision and mentoring of BIRN staff.

Training will be based on the first seven modules of BIRN’s investigative training programme, including the investigative team concept, the insight method, sourcing, libel issues, sensitive information management, contacts and tip-offs, pursuing inquiries and investigative interview techniques.

This Nis workshop forms part of BIRN’s Serbia & Montenegro Minority and Training project, funded by the British embassy in Belgrade through the UK government’s Global Opportunities Fund (GOF).

For more information on how to get involved, please contact Dragana Nikolic-Solomon

BIRN Kosovo television debates go on air

BIRN this week launches ‘Life in Kosovo,’ a new series of current affairs television programmes for broadcast on RTK.

The first debate, going out on Wednesday October 19 at 22.45, deals with the mood in Kosovo following publication of UN Special Representative Kai Eide’s report on future status talks for the territory.

Emphasis is on prospects for compromise between Albanian and Serb positions, with Kosovar politicians posed tough questions on the upcoming negotiations by members of the public.

Participants include Lufti Haziri, minister for local government, Teuta Sahatqija, a deputy from the ORA party, Professor Enver Hoxhaj, a PDK party deputy and Oliver Ivanovic, head of the Serbian List for Kosovo and Metohija.

BIRN Kosovo director Jeta Xharra will chair the debate.