BIRN BiH Journalist Wins Srdjan Aleksic Award

Emina Dizdarevic, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has won the Srdjan Aleksic Journalist Award in the category of nominations by journalists, for her three articles on the challenges facing marginalized groups in Bosnian society.

“Dizdarevic has won the award for shedding light, in a special, analytic and creative manner, on topics already addressed by many other journalists, but she did it in a different way and from a different angle.

“The judges were most impressed with her article on the special ‘obstacles’ placed before the Sarajevo Pride Parade organizers, to prevent the LGBT population from realizing its right to hold peaceful protests,” the announcement said.

Her first awarded article dealt with the rights of LGBT persons in Bosnia. Dizdarevic noted systemic shortcomings that force those citizens to pay a higher price than other Sarajevo citizens to exercise their freedom of assembly.

In the second awarded article, Dizdarevic addressed online radicalization through the example of a 23-year-old man, and the systemic problems of online content, which leads to radicalization. This topic does not receive much attention in Bosnia but is of great importance in its post-conflict society.

The third award-winning story pointed to problem of holding trials during the coronavirus pandemic. Many crime victims have been awaiting justice for years, but Dizdarevic warned of the extent to which COVID safeguards will further slow down the prosecution of complex cases.

Second prize in the category of nominations by journalists went to Hilma Unkic and Ajdin Kamber of Diskriminacija.ba portal, while third prize went to Alema Kazazic of Federation TV.

In the category of nominations made by civil society organisations first prize for professional reporting went to Minela Jasar-Opardija of N1 TV. Second prize went to freelance journalist Kristina Ljevak, while Lidija Pisker of Media.ba portal was awarded a special plaque.

Dizdarevic has worked with BIRN BiH since 2014. Over more than six years she has published over 1,600 researches, analyses, interviews, footages and news on judicial topics, war crimes, corruption and terrorism on Detektor.ba portal.

She graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, where she also obtained her master’s degree.

In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Fetisov international journalist award for articles on transitional justice processes and rights of war crime victims, as well as their families in Bosnia.

As a member of BIRN BiH team, she won a special award of the European Press Prize for 2020 for “efforts and success in securing justice for war crimes victims” and for continuous professional reporting on sensitive issues over many years.

Last year, BIRN BiH’s director, Denis Dzidic, was honoured with a special plaque at the Srdjan Aleksic Journalist Award ceremony for continuous professional reporting on sensitive issues by BIRN BiH over many years.

Dizdarevic’s award-winning articles can be found on the following links: Pride Parade Put in Unequal Position by Additional Security RequestsNo Response by Authorities to Online Radicalization, Coronavirus Safeguards Stop Large-Scale Bosnian War Trials Resuming.

The journalist award is presented for professional and continuous reporting on marginalized and vulnerable groups in Bosnian society and development of socially responsible journalism.

This year’s presentation was organised by the Helsinki Parliament of Citizens of Banja Luka and Peace Building Network with support from Civil Right Defenders. The official ceremony will be held in spring next year.

Open Call for Energy Efficiency and Environmental Reporting Workshop

On December 23, 2020, BIRN Kosovo and TV Mreza will organize a workshop for journalists that focuses on improving knowledge and reporting on energy efficiency, as well as the health benefits of using renewables and creating a clean environment.

The workshop will directly increase the capacities of local journalists and help deliver professional and unbiased reporting on energy efficiency, renewables, health and the environment.

It will be designed to contain both theoretical and practical elements, so participants will not only learn theory but immediately implement it in practice.

This workshop is organised within the “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda” project, which is supported by the European Union in Kosovo and implemented by BIRN Kosovo, TV Mreza, ERA Group and Bankwatch.

Journalists attending the workshop will be equipped with the necessary skills to cover the sustainable development agenda, with a particular focus on energy efficiency and the environment.

Trainers in this workshop will be:

Jeta Xharra – BIRN Kosovo’s Country Director
Visar Prebreza and Kreshnik Gashi – BIRN Kosovo’s Managing EditorsFatmir Gërguri – Environmental Expert and former Chief Inspector at the Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals
Aleksandar Djordjevic – Environmental journalist at BIRN Serbia
Dragan Gmizic – Journalist and award-winning environmental film maker in Serbia

Requirements to participate in the workshop: Participants must have been an active journalist for at least one year, either freelance or connected to a media outlet, and must have published or broadcast a minimum of 7-10 stories.

The deadline to apply for participation is 11.59pm on December 22, 2020. The maximum number of participants is 20. The workshop will be held via ZOOM and is the second and final workshop organised within the “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda” project.

If you are interested in participating in the workshop, please click on the link/s below to register in:

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Thirrje e hapur për pjesëmarrje në punëtorinë mbi efiçiencën e energjisë dhe raportimin në fushën e ambientit

Më 23 dhjetor 2020, BIRN Kosova dhe TV Mrezha do të organizojnë një punëtori për gazetarë të fokusuar në rritjen e njohurive dhe raportimit mbi efiçiencën e energjisë si dhe përfitimet e të përdorurit të energjisë së ripërtërishme. Gazetarët që do të marrin pjesë në këtë punëtori do të pajisen me aftësitë e nevojshme për të mbuluar agjendën e zhvillimit të qëndrueshëm, me fokus të veçantë në efiçiencën e energjisë dhe mjedisin.

Kjo punëtori është dizajnuar të përmbajë elemente teorike dhe praktike në mënyrë që pjesëmarrësit jo vetëm që përvetësojnë anën teorike por edhe ta kthejnë atë në rezultate të prekshme. Kjo punëtori organizohet brenda projektit “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda”, mbështetur nga Zyra e Bashkimit Evropian në Kosovë dhe implementohet nga BIRN Kosova, TV Mrezha, ERA Group dhe Bankwatch.

Gazetarët që do të marrin pjesë në këtë punëtori do të pajisen me aftësitë e nevojshme për të mbuluar agjendën e zhvillimit të qëndrueshëm, me fokus të veçantë në efiçiencën e energjisë dhe mjedisin.

Trajnerë në këtë punëtori do të jenë:

Jeta Xharra – Drejtoreshë Ekzekutive e BIRN Kosova
Visar Prebreza dhe Kreshnik Gashi – Redaktorë Menaxhues në BIRN Kosova

Fatmir Gërguri – Ekspert i Mjedisit
Aleksandar Gjorgjeviq – Gazetar në BIRN Serbia
Dragan Gmiziq – Gazetar dhe producent i filmave mjedisorë me çmime të fituara në Serbi

Kriteret minimale për të marrë pjesë në këtë punëtori

Pjesëmarrësit duhet të jenë gazetarë aktivë për të paktën një vit, qoftë i/e pavarur apo i/e lidhur me media, dhe të ketë të publikuar apo transmetuar të paktën 7-10 storie.

 Afati i fundit për të aplikuar për pjesëmarrje në këtë punëtori është 22 dhjetor 2020, 23:59, ndërsa numri maksimal i pjesëmarrësve është 20. Punëtoria do të mbahet përmes aplikacionit ZOOM dhe është punëtoria e dytë dhe e fundit e organizuar në kuadër të projektit “Europeanization of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda”.

Nëse jeni të interesuar të merrni pjesë në punëtori, ju lutemi klikoni në linkun më poshtë për t’u regjistruar:

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Otvoreni poziv za radionicu o izveštavanju o energetskoj efikasnosti i životnoj sredini

BIRN Kosovo i TV Mreža organizuju 23. decembra 2020. godine radionicu za novinare koja se fokusira na unapređenje znanja i izveštavanje o energetskoj efikasnosti, kao i zdravstvenim prednostima korišćenja obnovljivih izvora i stvaranja čiste životne sredine. Ovo će neposredno uvećati sposobnosti lokalnih novinara i pomoći im da na profesionalan i nepristrasan način izveštavaju o energetskoj efikasnosti, obnovljivoj energiji, zdravlju i životnoj sredini.

Radionica će biti osmišljena da sadrži i teorijske i praktične elemente, tako da učesnici neće samo steći teorijska znanja, već će odmah  početi i da ih primenjuju. Ova radionica je organizovana u okviru projekta „Evropeizacija kosovske agende za zaštitu životne sredine“, koji podržava Evropska unija na Kosovu, a sprovode BIRN Kosovo, TV Mreža, ERA grupa i Bankwatch.

Novinari koji prisustvuju radionici biće osposobljeni  veštinama potrebnim za izveštavanje, odnosno pisanje o agendi za održivi razvoj sa posebnim fokusom na energetsku efikasnost i životnu sredinu.

Predavači na ovoj radionicu biće:

Jeta  Džara –  direktorka BIRN Kosovo

Krešnik Gaši i Visar Prebreza – glavni urednici BIRN Kosovo

Fatmir Gerguri – ekspert za zaštitu životne sredine

Aleksandar Đorđević – istraživački novinar u  BIRN  Srbija

Dragan Gmizić – novinar i nagrađivani filmski reditelj o životnoj sredini/ekologiji

Minimalni uslovi za učestvovanje na ovoj radionici: Učesnici moraju da budu aktivni novinari najmanje godinu dana, bilo novinari slobodnjaci ili koji rade za medijsku kuću i da su objavili ili emitovali najmanje 7-10 priča.

Rok za prijavu za učešcće na ovoj radionici je 22. decembar 2020. godine, do 23.59 časova dok je maksimalan broj učesnika 20. Radionica će se održati putem ZOOM-a i druga je i poslednja radionica organizovana u okviru projekta „Evropeizacija kosovske agende za zaštitu životne sredine“.

Ako ste zainteresovani za učešće na radionici, kliknite  link/ove u nastavku da biste se registrovali:

BIRN Investigations Editor to Talk on Prague Media Forum

Ivan Angelovski, an investigative reporter and editor working on long-term international projects for BIRN, will talk at this year’s Prague Media Point.

Prague Media Point 2020 is a virtual conference for journalists, media professionals, and scholars taking place on December 1-11, 2020 with workshops on December 12-13.

“This year’s program, under the theme ‘What’s Working’, will again take stock of success stories in the media industry – so important amid all the normal doom and gloom in the profession and society at large,” the organisers said.

“Held exclusively online, this year’s event presents a unique opportunity to learn from and engage with media leaders, no matter where you are,” they added.

The online conference will tackle issues of media freedom, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, diversity issues, organised crime, China’s influence, and engaging audiences in long-term investigations.

Angelovski will speak at the session entitled: “How to Expose an Illegal Arms Business in Your Pajamas” on Friday December 11 at 5.25pm CET.

Angelovski was a member of a team of reporters that won the 2017 Global Investigative Journalism Conference’s citation of excellence 2017 Investigative Reporting Award with the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia, and won second prize with the EU investigative journalism award in the Western Balkans and Turkey in 2016.

BIRN Kosovo Exposé of Hospital Security Issues Draws Criticism

A BIRN TV report, highlighting the lack of controls on who can enter COVID-19 hospitals wards in Kosovo, has angered politicians and hospitals alike.

BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra has been criticised after she and a camera crew visited the Infectious Disease Clinic on Prishtina in Tuesday, where dozens of COVID-19 patients were being treated, to see if it was possible to gain access.

On November 16, Health Minister Armend Zemaj told BIRN that there was “no chance” of anyone who had not been tested for COVID-19 entering the clinic, and that police had been deployed and were operating a zero-tolerance policy on unauthorised entry.

However, Xharra and her camera crew encountered no police and were able to enter multiple clinics treating patients with COVID-19, including the Infectious Disease Clinic, where no security guards were stationed outside.

There, BIRN discovered rooms filled with visitors, some of whom told BIRN that they had not been tested for the coronavirus. Rooms with COVID-19 patients also contained relatives asleep next to them.

The leader of the ruling Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, Isa Mustafa, and the Central University Clinic of Kosovo, CUCK, reacted strongly on Wednesday, accusing BIRN Kosovo of gaining unauthorised entrance to the hospital.

Mustafa said COVID-19 patients were treated well in Pristina and regional hospitals and praise the work of healthcare staff. It was “a miracle” that despite the lack of facilities and human resources, the flow of patients was being managed, he added.

“When you speak to our doctors, they say they have had no private life for nine months. They have no time to take care of their own families. It is therefore low for someone from the media and the politics to try to undermine this titanic work,” Mustafa continued.

“They have no moral right, either, because some of them receive several times higher salaries than doctors, live freely, far from the responsibilities for the sick and their families – and dare to sow defeatism in the name of free speech.”

CUCK, in an earlier statement, accused BIRN Kosovo of entering the institution without official permission and without personal protective equipment, endangering their health of persons with whom they had contact and hindering the work of staff.

“Groundless allegations against health personnel were used during the ]BIRN TV] show, abusing the emotional state of people who lost their relatives in the fight against COVID-19,” CUCK claimed adding that “our institution was not given the opportunity to present the official version on all the issues raised, which is a principle of professional journalism”.

Answering CUCK’s statement, BIRN Kosovo requested an explanation on the disputed issues it had reported on in the Life in Kosovo show on Tuesday evening. However, no explanation had arrived by the time of publication.

EU Investigative Journalism Awards Announced in Bosnia

In an online event, the jury said all three stories from Bosnia are of utmost importance as “they point to many anomalies our society suffers, and that the government persistently ignores.”

The EU Awards for Investigative Journalism for Bosnia and Herzegovina were presented on Thursday in an online event on Zoom.

The three winners, who were awarded a total of 10,000 euros for the stories published over 2019, exposed links between the authorities and extremist groups, told a story about the robbery of a former state arms industry company and shed light on officials illegally appropriating the real estate of Sarajevo’s Jews, killed in the Holocaust.

The head of the EU delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Johan Sattler, said that “investigative journalism is necessary for a healthy democratic society,” and urged the Bosnian authorities to find systemic solutions to protect journalists from attacks and threats.

The jury was composed of jury head Zlatan Music, the OSCE Mission to BiH’s Media Freedom officer, Davor Glavas, a journalist and media expert, and Slavoljub Scekic, editor-in-chief of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Montenegro, CIN-CG.

They had a hard task choosing between 14 shortlisted applications. The jury said that all three stories had something in common, which is a “journalists’ complete commitment to the topic itself, which is reflected in the amount of details, data and information”.

“Each of them [the awarded investigations] is socially responsible and points to many anomalies that our society suffers, and the government persistently ignores,” Music told the online audience.

First prize went to Semir Mujkic from BIRN BiH, for a series of articles on Russian influence in the country presenting an original and comprehensive overview of pro-Russian actors, associations and groups and their local political supporters. Mujkic’s colleagues, Lamija Grebo and Emina Dizdarevic, contributed to the investigation.

Mujkic said that the EU award was very important as it is among only a few such awards in Bosnia, where the state itself does not attach importance to investigative journalism.

“Awards like this are not only a recognition but also an obligation for investigative journalists to continue their work,” Mujkic said.

In second place was Amarildo Gutic, of Zurnal, whose short documentary “Prsten oko Vitezita” peaked under the economic lid of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, and the [Bosniak] Party of Democratic Action, SDA, over the past 25 years.

Azhar Kalamujic, from the Centre for investigative journalism BiH, won the third prize for his story on Sarajevo judges, lawyers and government officials who illegally appropriated abandoned apartments and houses in the Sarajevo that had belonged to Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

The EU awards have the overall goal of celebrating and promoting the outstanding achievements of investigative journalists from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, as well as improving the visibility of quality investigative journalism in these countries among the public.

The prizes are awarded through the EU-funded project, “Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey”, in 2019, 2020, 2021 in EU candidate and potential candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, for investigative stories published between 2018 and 2020. In total, 63 awards will be awarded through a three-year period.

The awards in Bosnia and Herzegovina are coordinated by Balkan Investigative Regional Reporting Network, BIRN Hub, which also runs a regional consortium.

BIRN Albania Faces Lawsuit from Politically Connected Businessman

Businessman Mirel Mertiri has started a lawsuit against BIRN Albania, seeking damages and the retraction of an investigation that revealed his links to politicians and lucrative Public Private Partnerships, PPS, for the construction of three waste incinerators in Albania.

Mertiri claims BIRN Albania’s reporting of his links to public contracts for waste treatment caused him “serious moral and existential damage”.

In the defamation lawsuit filed with the Tirana District Court, Mertiri requests the retraction of the article, “Politika pas plehrave: Kush është biznesmeni në hije i monopolit të inceneratorëve,” as well as 300,000 lek in damages, equal to 2,700 euros. [click here for English translation]

The article, by Aleksandra Bogdani and Besar Likmeta, was published on September 17  2020 and deals with Mertiri’s relationship with the former Minister of Finance and current Minister of Reconstruction, Arben Ahmetaj, as well as his close relationship to the shareholders and administrators of waste treatment companies that were awarded lucrative public contracts – his life partner, Stela Gugallja and a business associate, Klodian Zoto.

BIRN Albania stands the published story and says it is ready to face the claims brought by the plaintiff in court.

BIRN Albania’s Executive Director, Kristina Voko, said that “BIRN’s reporting is in the public interest and fulfils the highest ethical and professional standards, shedding light on concessionary contracts worth hundreds of millions of euros, which taxpayers’ money pays for.”

She added: “It is our assessment that this is a SLAPP Lawsuit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), which aims to intimidate and censor.

“We stand by the facts we published and will continue to publish journalism in the public interest, whether it is related to the incinerators or to any other concessionary business in Albania,” she concluded.

BIRN Albania and Together for Life Open Call for Investigations on Healthcare

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania and the Tirana-based human rights organisation Together for Life launched a call for investigative stories on December 1, offering grants for five journalists to produce articles on the health sector.

The call is part of the project “Fighting Disinformation and Raising Transparency and Accountability in the Health Sector”, which is supported by the British Embassy in Tirana.

The goal of this project is to contribute to a transparent and accountable healthcare system, particularly in the way institutions and the government face up to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the key objectives of this project is to raise transparency and accountability in the health sector by raising the capacities of civil society, journalists and independent media.

The call is based on topics suggested by civil society activists and journalists during a joint workshop held on November 24 via online platforms.  The workshop was attended by two dozen civil society activists and journalists, who debated about how to better cover the healthcare sector, particularly now in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The journalists will have around three months to dig deeper and research their ideas, and will also have the opportunity to work with experienced editors as mentors to guide them through the process of writing in accordance with BIRN standards.

The call only applies to journalists from Albania and closes on December 15.

Click here for more information (in Albanian) about the application procedure.

Click here to download the application (in Albanian).

BIRN Kosovo Holds Debate on Audit Report in Rahovec/ Orahovac

On Monday November 30, BIRN Kosovo held the fourth of its series of debates discussing the findings of its audit monitoring project, which analyses reports on Kosovo’s municipalities published by the National Audit Office, NAO. The debate was held in the municipality of Rahovec/Orahovac.

The results of BIRN’s monitoring and analysis were published and discussed in an open debate. Due to the circumstances caused by COVID-19, the debate was followed by a limited number of participants from the municipality, the National Audit Office and civil society organisations. The debate was also streamed live on BIRN’s anti-corruption platform KALLXO.com.

KALLXO.com’s Managing Editor, Visar Prebreza, gave a brief presentation on the project and its findings, stating that there progress was made at the Municipality of Rahovec/Orahovac in terms of implementing the NAO’s recommendations, especially compared to the 2018 audit report. However, there were still weaknesses found, mainly in the field of procurement.

According to Smajl Latifi, the Mayor of Rahovec/Orahovac, weaknesses in procurement will not be found in the Audit report for 2020. “We have made an action plan for the implementation of the recommendations, and a working group,” Latifi said.

Meanwhile, Bujar Bajraktari, from the National Audit Office, stated that the Municipality of Rahovec/Orahovac had made progress in implementing recommendations and the focus should now be on asset management, specifically creating an asset register and inventory, among other things.

“Comparing financial reports over the years, it can be seen that the Municipality of Rahovec has shown improvement,” he said. “However, in important areas, such as in the field of procurement, there are still findings to be addressed and the focus should be there. Asset management activities should also be improved, as there are some findings that have been presented for years, including asset management, establishing an asset register, inventory, etc.”

In terms of the implementation of recommendations, Bajraktari said that out of 17 recommendations provided last year, only seven have been fully implemented, while one has been partially implemented, four have not been implemented and five are considered closed.

Alongside providing an avenue to discuss the implementation of recommendations by the NAO, these debates also give BIRN the opportunity to record promises made both by National Audit Office officials and the Municipality of Rahovec, which can later be followed up through KALLXO.com’s fact-checking platform, Krypometer.

The debate was organised within the framework of the Supporting Civil Society to Increase Public Oversight and Accountability of Kosovo Public Institutions project, which is funded by the British Embassy in Pristina. This specific activity is organised as a part of the component looking into the compliance of targeted institutions with recommendations from the Auditor General’s reports.

Similar debates will be held in municipalities across Kosovo, with the aim of presenting BIRN Kosovo’s analysis of the progress made in implementing recommendations made by the Auditor. Every debate will be live streamed by BIRN Kosovo.

BIRN Probe Exposed Corruption in Kosovo’s Private Solar Power Incentives

On April 30, 2020, BIRN Kosovo broadcast a debate on its “Life in Kosovo” show – on its in-depth investigation, conducted by BIRN Kosovo country director Jeta Xharra and Visar Prebreza, an editor at BIRN.

The investigation, titled “Unclean Energy: The Kosovar who would own the sun”, revealed that the near monopoly of a single company on clean energy had violated Kosovo’s anti-monopoly rules.

Blerim Devolli, a businessman in Kosovo behind six companies, stood to gain millions of euros from state-funded incentives in the solar power field.

The rules in Kosovo stipulate that no single investor can produce more than three megawatts, MW, of solar energy.

But the BIRN probe revealed that Devolli stood behind no less than six other companies awarded rights to produce a total of 16.7 MW – more than half of Kosovo’s total solar power production.

Each of these companies would receive a guaranteed price from the state between two and three times higher than the market price.

The decision was made possible thanks to the Energy Regulatory Office, ERO.

But BIRN had uncovered also that an ERO board member, Selman Hoti, had lobbied persistently for these tariffs, and was also a shareholder of an energy company, Electra, which was contracted to install cables at Devolli’s solar park, launched in October 2018.

Electra received the contract before Hoti was appointed to the board of the ERO in March 2018.

After BIRN broadcast the program, Kosovo’s Anti-Corruption Agency began to investigate whether Hoti’s involvement in the scheme constituted a conflict of interest.

After its investigation, BIRN Kosovo sent questions to the Kosovo Competition Authority, KCA, asking whether the rules of open competition had been broken with the setting of the incentive tariffs for an additional 20 MW.

On May 5, 2020, the KCA informed BIRN Kosovo that an investigation had now begun, along with an analysis of the energy market, the second impact of this investigation.

The State Aid Commission, SAC, has also started procedures against ERO decision to set an additional 20 MWs incentive tariff for solar energy – another result of the BIRN investigation.

According the SAC, at its regular meeting, it urged the State Aid Department, DNSH, in the Ministry of Finance and Transfers to ask the ERO to submit all data on the decision on the incentive tariff for the production of 20 additional MWs of solar energy.

The SAC also expressed concern about the evasion of legal obligations by the ERO with the decision it took, and underlined that under Article 11 (1) of the Law on State Aid the aid measure subject to this decision was illegal, as the ERO had not notified the mandated authorities to ascertain compliance with the law.

On May 14, BIRN Kosovo published an article informing readers that, since its investigation, the State Prosecutor had announced that the Special Prosecution would investigate the ERO decision.

On May 19, 2020, the BIRN investigation was discussed at the Commission for Economy, Employment, Trade, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Investments in the Kosovo Assembly. As a result, an MP, Mimoza Kusari, had said a parliamentary commission of inquiry should be established.

On May 26, 2020, BIRN Kosovo published an article on how Kosovo’s biggest party, Vetevendosje, was demanding a commission of inquiry into the board of ERO, focusing on the issue of solar energy monopolies in Kosovo.

The biggest result of all of this investigation came on November 27, when the SAC deemed the ERO decision that had allowed companies to benefit from state-funded incentive tariffs in solar energy illegal. That decision obliged ERO to halt further implementation of the scheme.

Lastly, in November, the BIRN team was awarded the 2020 Prize for Economic Journalism awarded by the Association of Journalists of Kosovo.

UNICEF Awards BIRN BiH Journalist for Contribution to Children’s Rights

Azra Husaric, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has received UNICEF’s award for contribution to the promotion and protection of children’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the “Internet Work” category for her story on the challenges facing children with developmental difficulties and their parents in online classes during the current pandemic.

The awards were given to journalists on the occasion marking World Children’s Day on November 20 at a ceremony held online this year.

Her article titled “Parents Bear Biggest Burden of Online Classes for Children with Developmental Difficulties” told of a boy with Downs syndrome, Harun Tanovic, who did not have a teaching assistant for several months after the start of the school year.

The six-member jury awarded this article in the “Internet Work” category.

“We really had several works worthy of receiving the award, but the one that stands out as the most complete one, encompassing several angles, is the story about Harun, a boy with Downs syndrome, and problems he and his family are facing in the educational system during the pandemic,” jury member Katarina Marjanovic said during the awards ceremony.

Besides problems caused by delays in assigning him a teaching assistant while following the online classes, Harun did not have adjusted lessons, so his parents had to take the burden of this on themselves.

“Journalist Azra Husaric spent several days of online classes with the boy who says: ‘I can do everything on my own, I don’t need anybody’. This resulted in a truly engaging story about the fight for the rights advocated for by UNICEF. So, we, as the jury, recognized and selected this article worthy of this award,” Marjanovic said.

UNICEF in Bosnia also awarded media professionals for their contribution to children’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the “Television” category, awarding TV N1 reporter Ivana Eric. In the “Blog” category an award was given to journalist Natasa Lazukic. A special award for media contribution to the promotion and protection of children’s rights was given to Otisak portal journalist Zeljko Lazarevic.

This year’s jury, consisting of Zoran Catic, Nineta Popović, Sandra Gojkovic Arbutina, Katarina Marijanovic, Lamija Silajdzic and Benjamin Omerbegovic, also commended Amina Bijelonja and Tahir Zustra for a TV footage, Hana Kazazovic, Brankica Smiljanic, Ivona Grgic, Ilma Kurtovic and Nejra Dzananovic for blogs, and Snjezana Anicic and Anamarija Zadro for internet work, for their contribution in the media to the promotion and protection of children’s rights.

To show support for World Children’s Day the city of Banja Luka and the city of Mostar will “paint” their best known landmarks, namely the Banski Dvor and the Old Bridge, in blue on Friday night. Sarajevo city centre will also be lit up in blue.

UNICEF representative in Bosnia Rownak Khan said during the ceremony to mark World Children’s Day that the pandemic had had a particularly heavy impact on children and their education.

“In tandem, we must do more to ensure that all children have equal access to quality learning. Governments must prioritize keeping schools open and safe for students, teachers and parents. This needs to go hand in hand with improving online learning options, ensuring equal opportunities for marginalized children. As parents worldwide struggle to maintain their livelihoods, governments must scale up social protection measures through programmes and policies that provide life-saving cash benefits, health care, nutrition and education for families,” Khan said.