The main challenges facing the media in the Western Balkans include poor professional skills of journalists, limited training opportunities, lack of resources, reluctance to publish investigative stories and limited penetration of these stories. The fight against corruption and organised crime, rule of law, the environment and media freedoms are repeatedly highlighted in European Commission progress reports for most Western Balkan countries. According to other international reports, governments in these countries have resorted to excessive surveillance and have curtailed freedom of expression. Investigative journalists face threats and attacks. The COVID-19 pandemic further curbed media freedoms in the region, leading to a decline in media pluralism and freedom of expression. According to the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published in May 2022, all Western Balkan countries are in the category of countries with “problematic” press freedom. The scores the countries achieved are lower than the previous year, yet paradoxically their rankings are higher.
These challenges highlight the need for comprehensive and systemic support for the media in the Western Balkans and Türkiye, to raise their capacities, safeguard media freedom and promote freedom of expression. The project will work with journalists and future journalists to increase their skills in the European Year of Skills, supporting them to practise their skills in the production of quality news, TV and cross-border stories, including support received from an investigative resource desk. High-quality and professional journalism will be awarded through the EU awards scheme. At the same time, the project will work with mainstream and public service media, aiming to enhance the production and publishing of quality news and investigative stories. With the aim of supporting the sustainability of the journalism as profession, but also to promote professionalism and quality production, the project will also work with universities.
This project is built on experiences and best practices gathered from its first phase, implemented in the past four years, during the world pandemic caused by COVID-19 and marked as the most challenging period in the world.
The overall objective of the project is to provide systemic support to improve the quality and professionalism of journalism in the Western Balkans and Türkiye.
The specific objective of the action is to strengthen trust-based engagement of citizens and media, provide resources and establish the conditions for media and journalists to produce high-quality content through education, training, mentoring and editorial support, technical and financial support, publishing and promoting outstanding achievements in quality and investigative journalism.
The main outcome of the project is boosted skills of young and mid-career journalists in quality news and investigative reporting, through increased opportunities for journalism training, funds for content production and awards for merits in investigative reporting.
- Administrate and Coordinate the Action
- Organise National and Regional Training Scheme:
2.1. National Workshops (e-courses, offline and online training and workshops);
2.2. Training Camps for young journalists;
- Organize Regional Training Scheme:
3.1. Regional training on investigative journalism/ fact-checking;
3.2. Mentorship for journalists to produce at least 20 fact-checking stories;
3.3. Two Summer School of Investigative Reporting;
3.4. Three regional training camps on different topics, including legally safe reporting and crisis reporting.
- Conduct Regional Exchange Programme:
4.1. Development of one exchange curriculum;
4.2. Two regional exchange programmes;
4.3. Development and publishing of 24 in-depth stories;
- Organize Digital Security Scheme:
5.1. Up to 500 journalists participate in the Digital Security Scheme;
5.2. Technical assistance to 100 journalists;
- Produce and publish quality news and investigative stories:
6.1. Development and publishing of 600 articles;
6.2. Development and publication of 12 TV stories;
6.3. Production and publishing of cross-border documentary;
- Production of cross-border investigations:
7.1. On-the-job mentoring and editorial support;
7.2. 15 cross-regional multimedia content published in English and local languages;
- Development of pilot programme for investigative journalism academic training:
8.1. Systemic consultations with universities and journalism schools in the region established;
8.2. Development of curriculum for the pilot training programme for investigative journalism;
8.3. Piloting of the Investigative journalism academic training programme;
8.4. Development of a roadmap for formal accreditation at MA level;
- EU Award Scheme
9.1 63 national + 9 regional EU Prizes Awarded.
Journalists (young and mid-career) from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Türkiye and Serbia; mainstream media outlets; public service media and universities.
Balkan Investigative Reporting Regional Network – BIRN Hub
Central European University (CEU), Budapest, Hungary
Association of Journalists (AJ), Ankara, Turkey
Thomson Media (TM), Berlin, Germany
University Goce Delcev Stip (UGD), North Macedonia
The Independent Union of Journalists and Media Workers (SSNM), Skopje, North Macedonia
Media Association of South-East Europe (MASE), Podgorica, Montenegro
Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – BIRN Kosovo, Prishtina, Kosovo