Building Disinformation Resilience in Montenegro

BIRN Hub

Co-applicant:
n/a

Donor:

CFI – Développement Médias

Short Summary:

The ‘Building Disinformation Resilience in Montenegro’ project will empower BIRN Montenegro, the latest addition to BIRN’s network, to establish a fact-checking unit for consistent coverage of disinformation narratives. As well as strengthening BIRN Montenegro’s capabilities, the project will enhance the skills of local media outlets and their journalists in fact-checking, content verification and accessing information of public interest. This initiative aims to strengthen Montenegro’s resilience against disinformation and misinformation, ensuring the public has access to trustworthy news sources.

Long Summary:

The ‘Building Disinformation Resilience in Montenegro’ project is led by BIRN HUB with the support of CFI – Développement Médias. The initiative aims to build resilience to disinformation by building the capacities of journalists in Montenegro.

Media organisations in most countries in the region, including Montenegro, must navigate highly polarised political environments and face increasing economic and financial uncertainty, along with pressure on editorial independence and even threats from criminal groups. Russia’s continuing war against Ukraine has posed an additional set of challenges for countries trying to contain Russian disinformation efforts while balancing this with upholding media freedoms.

The proliferation of cyber-attacks against government servers in Montenegro during the last year has also caused serious financial damage, halting administrative activities and delaying trials. This not only demonstrates weaknesses in prevention mechanisms, but also contributes to an environment that nurtures speculation and spreads unverified information.

The country has experienced strong political polarisation in recent years, which has resulted in media outlets aligning themselves with specific political agendas. This has led to the propagation of biased, incomplete and even false information that serves these agendas. Key areas where such phenomena have been noted are related to Montenegro’s NATO membership and political, ethnic and religious divisions in the society.

Increased challenges related to disinformation, misinformation and malinformation continue to be dominate social media as well as traditional outlets. Domestic media, which generally tend to cover community issues in a professional manner, lack the capacity to identify, debunk and report on disinformation.

This project will enable BIRN’s network’s newest member, BIRN Montenegro, to set up a fact-checking unit and regularly report on disinformation narratives. As well as building the capacities of BIRN Montenegro, BIRN will also build the capacities of domestic local media outlets and their journalists in fact-checking, content verification, access to information of public interest etc, in order to increase their effectiveness in professional and objective reporting. In this way, Montenegro will be more resilient to disinformation and false information narratives, providing the public with more credible news content.

Through this initiative, BIRN aims to improve the standard of journalism in Montenegro, focusing specifically on combatting disinformation. After the intensive programme, BIRN Montenegro will also be able to serve as BIRN’s focal point for all fact-checking activities related to the country, while also enhancing the capabilities of other organisations in this area. This impact will be increased by building the capacities of domestic media to identify, debunk and report on disinformation.

Target Group(s):

  • BIRN Montenegro journalists
  • BIRN Network – up to 10 journalists from the BIRN Network who collaborate with Montenegrin colleagues
  • Montenegrin youth
  • Journalists and local media

Expected Results:

  • Fact-checking unit in BIRN Montenegro is to be set up, skilled and operational.
  • Montenegrin youth to be better informed about disinformation and false information narratives designed to target them.
  • Local media and journalists to be more capable to identify, debunk and report on disinformation and false information.

Main Activities:

Activity 01. Build capacities of BIRN Montenegro journalists and its correspondents on disinformation and false information through intensive training and mentoring.

Activity 02. Purchase equipment, software and subscriptions needed for fact-checking.

Activity 03. Develop and adopt fact-checking procedures for editorial work.

Activity 04. Develop a detailed production plan for disinformation and false information stories targeting youth.

Activity 05. Conduct extensive consultations with civil society organisations dealing with youth, to identify the most problematic disinformation narratives used to target youth, as well as distribution channels.

Activity 06. Develop, publish and promote at least three in-depth analyses on disinformation and false information targeting youth.

Activity 07. Organise training for journalists from domestic media outlets on disinformation and false information.

Activity 08. Provide mentoring to domestic media outlets and journalists on disinformation and false information.

Governing with Integrity: Promoting Accountable Leadership in Kosovo

BIRN Kosovo

In the context of current challenges to transparency and governance integrity within Kosovo’s local municipalities, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) Kosovo will implement the project ‘Governing with Integrity: Promoting Accountable Leadership in Kosovo’ to promote a culture of accountability and integrity. This initiative targets key aspects of governance, from governmental operations to media coverage. Central to this initiative is the detailed examination of official reports, leveraging tools such as the Internal AuditMeter.

Summary:

Kosovo’s ongoing struggle against corruption remains a pressing concern. The European Commission’s 2020 report outlines that while the nation is still in its early stages of preparation to combat corruption, it isn’t devoid of a robust legal framework. The foundation, aligning with international standards, is firmly in place, leading to an intriguing paradox: why is the fight against corruption not making significant strides? At the heart of this dilemma is a gap in the integrity displayed by Kosovo’s municipalities and institutions. Despite the presence of appropriate legislative measures, there’s an evident discord in their practical implementation. Such a discrepancy raises questions about the commitment of these entities to the principles of transparency, accountability, and, most importantly, integrity. For any governance system to thrive, the unwavering integrity of its institutions is paramount. Without this cornerstone, the trust between the government and its citizens begins to erode.

BIRN Kosovo’s assessment has identified that the crux of this issue lies not in the absence of adequate legislation but surrounding the implementation of these laws. One evident gap in this implementation is the systemic oversight when it comes to the auditing processes. The National Audit Office (NAO) provided a stark revelation in this context. Their data from 2018 contrasts with that of 2017, indicating a decline in the number of recommendations made. Even more concerning is the realization that only about 40 percent of these recommendations have seen fruition. Delving deeper, local governance institutions received 586 recommendations in 2018. A mere 37 percent of these were acted upon, with a concerning 34 percent remaining untouched. However, the intricacy extends beyond mere numbers. There’s an evident absence of a structured process of monitoring, evaluating, or even reporting on the progress—or the lack thereof—of these recommendations by Kosovo’s institutions. This void underscores not only a lack of accountability but also illuminates the barriers in identifying and addressing bottlenecks to these implementations. The media landscape in Kosovo provides another facet to this multifaceted issue. While the media landscape is teeming with articles touching upon the challenges in the nation’s municipalities, its approach remains traditional. A significant proportion of the journalistic community in Kosovo adheres to “protocol journalism”, focusing more on event reporting rather than investigative reporting. To bring a fresh perspective it’s not just vital to pinpoint what is wrong, but also to highlight potential resolutions. Given the current state, there’s a compelling need to shift this narrative, equipping journalists with the tools and perspective to adopt this more holistic approach to reporting. Moreover, disciplinary commissions, institutions designed to uphold integrity, often find their actions swayed by external factors, such as political affiliations. This influence often leads to neglecting proper procedures and disregarding crucial recommendations.

In light of these challenges, BIRN Kosovo envisions a multi-pronged approach. By holistically monitoring and analyzing developments within municipal administrations, organizing town-hall debates, spotlighting violations, and broadcasting programs based on tangible findings, BIRN Kosovo seeks to magnify transparency and accountability. Over the course of 9 months, through these actions, the goal is to elicit a more robust response from municipalities and cultivate a more informed, engaged, and proactive civil society, media, and citizenry.

Donor: USAID KMI

Main objectives:

Overall Objective: Strengthen governance integrity in Kosovo’s local municipalities.

Specific Objectives:

  1. Contribute to increased transparency and accountability in executing audit recommendations.
  2. Contribute to the refinement of the operations and procedures of disciplinary commissions in targeted municipalities.
  3. Guide journalists towards investigative and solution-driven journalism.

Main activities:

Activity 1: Conducting a detailed examination of NAO’s Annual Audit Reports from 2022 and 2021, each corresponding to one of the 5 targeted municipalities and BIRN will send letters to the selected municipalities, clearly stating the violations, the parties responsible and requesting information on what measures the municipalities have taken or intend to take as a consequence.

Activity 2: Compiling and publishing comprehensive analysis for each of the 5 municipalities.

Activity 3: Conducting analysis and continuous monitoring of disciplinary commissions and procedures in a select subset of three municipalities.

Uncovering the Truth: Combating Monoethnic Journalism and Advocating for the Missing Persons in Kosovo

BIRN Kosovo

The overall objective of the proposed action is to contribute to transforming the discourse surrounding the missing persons issue, paving the way for reconciliation, resolution and mutual understanding, all while advocating for the rights of their families. This action aims to achieve the overall objective through a combination of methods that seek to educate, inform, and stimulate public discourse.

Summary:

The Kosovo war, a profoundly distressing period during the breakup of Yugoslavia, continues to cast a dark shadow over many families even decades later. An agonising remnant of this period is the issue of missing persons in Kosovo, a matter yet to be fully resolved. Initial approximations suggested between 4,400 to 4,500 individuals vanished during the conflict, which came to an end in June 1999 following a NATO military intervention. As of today, the fate of approximately 1,621 individuals of all ethnic backgrounds remains unknown, a haunting fact that fuels a perpetual sense of loss, fear, and uncertainty among affected families and communities.

However, drawing from the European Commission’s Kosovo 2022 Report, the unresolved fate of persons who are missing from the 1990s conflicts remains a pressing concern in the Western Balkans. Despite the efforts of Kosovo’s authorities, which led to 9 exhumations and the official identification of 21 persons in 2021, the reality is that 1,621 people are still missing as of April 2022. This continuous uncertainty casts a shadow over the region’s reconciliation efforts. Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) posits that the absence of political will and dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia exacerbates this issue. This also often includes bias or ethnic centric reporting from the mainstream media. Therefore, it is imperative for the independent media to shed light on the profound impact this unresolved matter has, particularly on the families of the missing persons, and more broadly, on regional reconciliation.

Although the momentum to address the issue of missing persons exists, 24 years after the conflict, monoethnic narratives by both Albanians and Serbs overshadow the shared experiences of suffering and loss among families of missing persons.

The institutional frameworks in Kosovo, particularly entities like the Special Prosecutor’s Office of Kosovo and the Inter-Ministerial Working Group on with the Past and Reconciliation, are central in the efforts to resolve the fates of missing persons and address war crimes. However, these institutions often grapple with issues of transparency, accountability, and reach, becoming hamstrung by systematic constraints.

In this context, the BIRN and Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC) project presents an opportunity for these institutions. By showcasing their endeavours, we aim to extend their visibility and promote a deeper public comprehension of their roles.

On the other hand, journalists lack the specialised knowledge to handle the topic of missing persons with the sensitivities and care they warrant. Our actions are designed to directly tackle this problem, by offering capacity-building training for journalists, emphasising accurate, impartial, and humane reporting. Furthermore, by targeting journalists from diverse ethnic backgrounds, our action will contribute to a media ecosystem where narratives of forced disappearances and missing persons are inclusive and representative of all affected ethnicities.

Through our initiative, we endeavour to highlight these efforts and the associated challenges, fostering an environment that encourages more proactive policy-making to better support affected families and ensuring a platform for these institutions to demonstrate their commitment and progress.

To ensure a comprehensive approach and a more nuanced understanding of the problem, BIRN is partnering with the Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC), a Serb NGO based in North Mitrovica. This partnership serves to encompass both Albanian and Serbian perspectives, to offer an unbiased and fact-based narrative on the missing persons issue. Together, as project partners we will align all affected communities to create an environment of shared understanding and common pursuit for the truth.

Donor:

European Union Office in Kosovo

Main Objectives:

Objective 1: Equip journalists with the knowledge and tools necessary for effective, impartial, and sensitive reporting on the issue of missing persons.

Objective 2: To enhance accountability and understanding of the investigative and justice processes by fostering dialogue with institutional stakeholders is designed to bridge this information gap.

Objective 3: Youth across Kosovo communities enhanced media literacy and gained the necessary knowledge on fact-checking, ethical constitutes and professional reporting.

Main Activities:

  1. Specialized Training Program for Journalists
  2. Production of Eight (8) TV Documentaries
  3. Post-Premiere Public Debates:
  4. Producing four (4) TV Reports with War Crime Prosecutors
  5. Publication of Web-stories on BIRN’s Kallxo.com Platform

Outputs:

Output 1.1 – Media deliver balanced, effective, and empathetic narratives around the missing persons’ issues

Output 2.1 –  Public discourse is invigorated and comprehension regarding the missing persons deepened

Output 3.1 – Public dialogue initiated, understanding of the missing persons issue deepened and active public involvement stimulated

Output 4.1 – to contribute to an environment where transparency, accountability, and public trust in the justice system’s approach to missing persons cases are strengthened

Output 5.1 – Public’s focus on the issue maintained through offering a continuous stream of informative and compelling content on the experiences of missing persons and their families, and updates on investigations

Target Groups:

  • Families of missing persons
  • Journalists and media outlets
  • Representatives of the Special Prosecutor’s Office
  • Local and Central Level Government Officials
  • Academia and Researchers

Main implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Project partner:

Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC)

Promoting Fact-Based Reporting and Media Literacy in Addressing Mis- and Disinformation

BIRN Kosovo

The overall goal of the project is to help prevent the spread of false news, misinformation, and disinformation on different platforms in Kosovo and to foster the development of a discerning, informed, and ethical media environment, organisations, and professionals, by contributing to setting up of a sustainable model of reliable press in Kosovo that enhances trust among communities and works towards advancing sustained peace and security, political equanimity, and coexistence in the region. Furthermore, the project aims to contribute to the creation of a critical mass of news and information consumers in Kosovo able to identify, prevent further spreading, and protect themselves from false news, misinformation, and disinformation.

Summary:

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 a of the steep rise of online news portals in Kosovo, rumours and manipulated falsehoods can have heightened operational consequences for UNMIK and international partners by undoing or undermining careful and deliberate political work, and directly impacting the safety and security of communities that peacekeeping missions serve.

The proposed project comes at a time when Kosovo continues to witness an upward trend in the spread of mis- and disinformation. Media outlets lack the necessary capacities (resources and skillsets) to report on these 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 polarising and extreme content. This is similarly a problem in the Western Balkans.

BIRN Kosovo, in cooperation with Serbian-language Kosovo portal KoSSev, will identify, analyse and debunk false or misleading news; covering topics relating to, inter alia, security, politics, inter-ethnic relations, tension in northern Kosovo, mis- and disinformation, health, the economy and culture through the publication of fact-checking articles and television programmes, and will help cultivate a fact-checking culture amongst young and future journalists and students through workshops and lectures. All activities will be conducted in line with international human rights frameworks.

Donor:

UNMIK

Main Objectives:

Objective 1: Enhanced knowledge and awareness on fact-checking journalism among young generation.

Objective 2: Increased public awareness about mis- and disinformation relating to areas such as security, health, economy, and culture.

Objective 3: Youth across Kosovo communities enhanced media literacy and gained the necessary knowledge on fact-checking, ethical constitutes and professional reporting.

Main Activities:

  1. Organise 2 training workshops on fact-checking journalism with 40 young journalists and students;
  2. Publish 40 articles that debunk mis- or disinformation circulating across various platforms in Kosovo; provide fact-checked, real-time, accurate reporting during crisis situations;
  3. Establish an anti-disinformation partnership with the local Serbian-language media KoSSev publishing articles debunking false news as a result of this partnership;
  4. Produce and broadcast 4 TV programs featuring members of different communities living in Kosovo to discuss effects of mis- and disinformation on the real-time reporting during crisis situations; and
  5. Translate into Serbian language the existing Albanian language content of the false news and hate speech platform (developed by D+) making it bilingual and available to Serbian-speaking youth in Kosovo, and run a fighting dis- and misinformation course for 200 high school and university students from different communities in Kosovo.

Target Groups:

  • Members of all ethnic communities in Kosovo, particularly Albanians and Serbs
  • Students and journalists of local media from different ethnic backgrounds
  • Media outlets
  • Citizens of Kosovo

Main implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Project partner:

Kossev

Dealing with conflict legacy in Kosovo

BIRN Kosovo

This project aims to enhance Kosovo’s societal cohesion by fostering a deeper understanding of Kosovo’s conflict legacy through nationwide research, capacity-building activities, and the integration of transitional justice into the national education curriculum.  It aims to build the capacities of young students to research matters on transitional justice and to provide the general public with a deeper understanding of the conflict legacy.

Summary

The Kosovo War has deeply affected local communities and the people’s collective memory thus creating biased narratives that continue to divide rather than unify the communities living in Kosovo. Dealing with the conflict legacy in Kosovo aims to address the knowledge gap on the Kosovo War and enhance public understanding through a multifaceted approach involving research, education, and public discourse.  An example is the educational system which perpetuates the war narratives leaving ethnic divisions lingering more than two decades after the conflict.

This project in the first instance aims to deepen the understanding of the war by conducting comprehensive, objective research to challenge one-sided narratives. This objective will be achieved through detailed research and analysis of war discourse by Kosovo’s main institutions and some targeted municipalities to understand more about how they take into account the war and the aftermath of their public discourse, with an emphasis on what they chose to share to the public by analyzing their official websites and social media profiles. The interest of the project is to analyze their discourse and see if transitional justice principles apply to the main institutions and their heads in carrying out the war legacy. In addition to that, the research will emphasize researching the media, monuments, and research narratives of solidarity by individuals coming from different communities during the war. All the research findings will be disseminated through a conference, TV debate, and digital channels.

Dealing with the conflict legacy in Kosovo efforts to address the consequences of the conflict in Kosovo. To achieve this besides having thorough research on war, the project aims to empower the youth by providing them with opportunities to research transitional justice by encouraging them to conduct research, contribute, and promote specific topics of transitional justice. The necessity for meaningful educational reform, particularly in addressing the complexities of the war within the national curriculum will be addressed through a thorough needs assessment for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology placing the focus on the extent to which transitional justice is currently addressed within Kosovo’s educational framework.

This project comes at a time when the public discourse is very quickly heavily loaded with increased doses of mono-ethnic narratives, thus forgetting the multi-ethnic character of Kosovo. Through the research by BIRN Kosovo, it is intended to explain in detail some aspects of the war and to adress the urgency that the new generations begin to learn properly about everything that happened in Kosovo, with transitional justice principles included.

Through research grants for youth, it seeks to give research opportunities to young students to give their contribute to the field of transitional justice by ensuring them a capacity-building workshop and mentorship up to finalization of their research project.

Donors:

UNDP, British Embassy

Main objectives:

Objective 1: To bridge the knowledge gap on the Kosovo War and enhance public understanding through objective, multi-perspective, in-depth research and public discourse

Objective 2: To cultivate a future-oriented approach to transitional justice by engaging youth in research and providing insight into the existing state of transitional justice education within the University of Prishtina.

Main activities:
Activity 1: War Heritage Research and Documentation – Research, draft and finalize the research paper

Activity 2: Organize a conference to disseminate the findings of the research paper

Activity 3: Organize a TV debate

Activity 4: Promoting research on transitional justice through student grants: Drafting, finalizing, and opening the call for the students of the University of Prishtina

Activity 5:  Capacity Building Workshop

Activity 6: Publishing student’s research papers on BIRN’s website

Activity 7: Preparation and Submission of Educational Needs Assessment

Target groups:

The project’s main target audience includes students, educators, researchers, journalists, survivors and witnesses of Kosovo War as well as policymakers.

Implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Unveiling Foreign Influences Behind Disinformation in the Western Balkans

BIRN Kosovo

Lead Applicant’s Name:
BIRN Kosovo

Co-applicant:
BIRN HUB

Donor:

CFI – Développement Médias

Short Summary:

The “Unveiling Foreign Influences Behind Disinformation in the Western Balkans” project addresses the growing challenge of fake news and disinformation campaigns threatening geopolitical landscapes, particularly in the Western Balkans. The project produces a documentary revealing the sources and impacts of malign foreign disinformation campaigns and their pervasiveness in the media ecosystems of Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro.

Long Summary:

The “Unveiling Foreign Influences Behind Disinformation in the Western Balkans” project is led by BIRN Kosovo, in partnership with BIRN HUB and with the support of CFI – Développement Médias. This initiative addresses the growing challenge of fake news and disinformation campaigns that threaten geopolitical landscapes, particularly in the Western Balkans.

In a region vulnerable to Russian interference, disinformation campaigns aim to undermine support for European integration and have been especially active in spreading propaganda on NATO and exploiting divisions regarding accession. The Ukraine conflict has further intensified the spread of misinformation through social networks, inciting separatist influences in the region. Local media in Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina have been particularly active in distorting the EU-led Kosovo-Serbia dialogue.

The project confronts these challenges by producing a documentary that exposes the sources and impacts of disinformation campaigns and their pervasiveness in the media ecosystems of Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Through journalistic investigations in these countries, the project aims to educate and inform the public on this phenomenon, while strengthening local media and journalists’ resilience against misinformation threats.

The project’s ultimate goal is to enhance transparency, encourage critical thinking, and contribute to a more informed and democratic society in the Western Balkans. By highlighting adverse influences, the project aims to bolster the region’s resilience against disinformation, advocate for media freedoms, and promote truth and transparency in public discourse.

Target Group(s):

  • Local Media Outlets
  • Local Journalists
  • Civil Society Organizations
  • Public Institutions
  • Citizens of the Western Balkans

Expected Results:

  • The documentary produced through the collaborative efforts of BIRN Kosovo and BIRN HUB will expose disinformation campaigns in the Western Balkans, bolstering the region’s resilience against malign disinformation efforts.

Main Activities:

Activity 1.1: Research and Interviews

Activity 1.2: Script Writing and Story Development

Activity 1.3: Production and Post-production of the Documentary

Activity 1.4: Translation, Editing, and Subtitling in Three Languages

Activity 1.5: Broadcasting the Documentary

Resilient Community Programme

BIRN Kosovo

BIRN Kosovo through the Resilient Community Programme aims to contribute to enabling the general public to be more informed on the matter of P/VE, R&R, and other forms of violent extremism and also organize different activities for media actors,  for the main level and local level on P/CVE and R&R in the implementation of the National P/CVE Strategy and Action Plan.

Summary
Kosovo’s post-conflict setting is characterized by continued political and social tension and it has been characterized and challenged by various forms of extremism, including ethnonationalism, religious, political, and those driven by extreme right-wing ideologies. Despite political willingness, central and local level institutions have shown a lack of capacity to perform PVE and R&R activities and when it comes to other forms of Violent Extremism there is a lack of knowledge and engagement.

BIRN Kosovo has taken the initiative to organize media campaigns and lobbying actions to promote awareness among the general public regarding P/VE, R&R, and other forms of extremism. As part of this initiative, TV debates will be conducted to disseminate information and provide a platform for discussions on these matters. The aim is to ensure that people are well-informed and equipped to tackle extremism in all its forms.BIRN is committed to providing support to local institutions through expert guidance and training sessions. This project aims to facilitate training programs for municipal assembly members, workshops for municipal staff and multidisciplinary teams, and offer on-ground support to frontline workers. Our efforts at the local level are geared towards strengthening institutions and building capacity, which will ultimately benefit the community at large.

On the national level, part of the implementation of this project is the direct monitoring of the implementation of the National Strategy for Preventing and Countering Terrorism 2023-2028 and its Action Plan which will be achieved by conducting 4 bi-annual analysis. Additionally, a customized curriculum will be designed for training judges and prosecutors on the topics of Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) and Rehabilitation and Reintegration (R&R). This training program aims to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively handle cases related to these issues. To foster a more informed and nuanced discussion on violent extremism, we will be providing training to media actors and awarding 10 fellowships to journalists. By encouraging more journalists to participate in this discourse, we hope to promote a greater understanding of the complex issues surrounding violent extremism and ultimately contribute to a more peaceful and secure world.

Donors

Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF)

Main objectives:

Objective 1: Strengthening central and local level institutional operational and knowledge capacities

Objective 2: Strengthening operational and knowledge capacities of Local CSO-s and nonstate actors to work on PVE and R&R

Objective 3: Reducing youth vulnerability towards violent extremism by increasing a sense of purpose and social cohesion

Objective 4: Raising community awareness to accept the reintegration of returnees and marginalized groups, by conducting systematic awareness raising.

Main activities:

Activity 1: Direct monitoring of National Strategy for Preventing and Countering Terrorism 2023-2028  and writing of four (4) bi-annual analysis, two per year

Activity 2: Twenty (20) days of support to local institutions to implement their activities as outlined in the strategy/action plan

Activity 3: Twelve (12) TV debates to ensure media advocacy and accountability

Activity 4: Forty-two (42) TV reports,  online reporting, news pieces and PSAs to raise awareness amongst the public on what violent extremism and far-right extremism are, how they manifest themselves public can protect themselves

Activity 5: 2×2 days training for judges and prosecutors (8 days) on the P/VE, R&R, and other forms of extremism which include the prior design of tailored curriculum.

Activity 6: One (1) Follow up workshop for judged and prosecutors after one year of completing trainings on P/VE, R&R, and other forms of extremism

Activity 7: Eleven (11) Trainings for municipal assembly members

Activity 8: Eleven (11) Workshops for municipal staff/multidisciplinary teams and frontline workers

Activity 9: One (1) Intensive 5-day training course for media actors (20 participants) on P/VE, R&R and other forms of extremism
Activity 10: Development of online materials to be embedded in BIRN website

Activity 11: 10 fellowships (at least 5 of which are non-majority) journalists

Target groups:

Government and municipal institutions working on P/VE issues and R&R and other forms of extremism;

Local CSOs and nonstate actors

Majority and non-majority communities and local mechanisms, in particular youth;

General public

Implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Western Balkans Media for Change

BIRN HUB

The project focuses on getting more citizens of Western Balkan countries to become engaged with credible sources of information, providing them with narratives that respond to their interests and priorities.

Summary

The Western Balkans Media for Change project is being delivered in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

It aims to support independent media outlets and individual journalists, as well as to engage with women, young and underrepresented journalists and their networks, to help improve their operational capacities and capabilities as well as their business sustainability and innovation potential. It also aims to increase their audience reach and foster local, regional and thematic collaboration across the Western Balkans.

The project will support the strengthening of resilience to threats to media freedom and better equip media to produce more high-quality, fact-checked, engaging and gender-sensitive content that will reach wider audiences, particularly those susceptible to disinformation.

Donor

UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)

Main activities

  1. Engaged Citizens Reporting:
  • Grant funding (audience engagement and content production support)
  • Mentoring support provided for production of audience engagement content.
  1. Mentorship support for production including cross-border production provided to journalists, teams of journalists, particularly women journalists and young journalists.
  2. Pioneering Journalism Excellence Program: Learning circles.
  3. Networking event for media and journalists.

Target groups

Independent media outlets and individual journalists, women, young and underrepresented journalists and their networks from Western Balkan countries.

Main implementer

The British Council

Partners

Thomson Foundation and INTRAC

Sustainable Energy Journalism Award for Western Balkans 2023

BIRN HUB

Summary

The project Sustainable Energy Journalism Award for Western Balkans 2023 aims to make society more aware of climate change, and of the need and role of energy transition in addressing it.

It intends to support the production of news and investigations related to sustainable energy, and provide recognition to journalists working in this field. BIRN believes that if news and journalists investigating topics related to climate and energy are awarded, and if journalists are encouraged to investigate this field, there will be more news covering these topics and society will be more informed about them and increase its awareness.

Towards achieving this objective, changes are expected by awarding media representatives at the same time as increasing awareness among politicians, non-governmental organisations, and communities – ordinary people, academics and students, businesses and startups.

Donor

European Climate Foundation

Main Objectives

To make society more aware of climate change, and of the need and role of energy transition in addressing it, through awarding local journalists for their sustainable energy stories.

Specific Objectives

  1. To support the production of news and investigations related to sustainable energy and
  2. To provide recognition to journalists working in this field through the Sustainable Energy Journalism Award for Western Balkans 2023

Main Activities

  1. Open call to national and regional media outlets and individual journalists for the Sustainable Energy Journalism Award for the Western Balkans
  2. Promotion of the call for the Sustainable Energy Journalism Award for the Western Balkans
  3. Establishment of jury committee.
  4. Evaluation of submitted applications. Three best stories will be selected whose authors will be awarded 3,000 euros (1st prize), 2,000 euros (2nd prize), and 1,000 euros (3rd prize).
  5. Awards ceremony and debate with experts and journalists covering energy and climate.

Target groups

National and regional media outlets and individual journalists from the Western Balkans

Main Implementer

Balkan Investigative Reporting Regional Network (BIRN Hub)

Open Data and Digitalisation in the Western Balkans

BIRN HUB

The project goal is to improve institutional transparency and functionality for citizens and other stakeholders through the provision of reliable and informative content. This will be achieved by engaging stakeholders through regional research on open data and digitalisation; raising awareness about the ongoing consequences of a lack of open data and the challenges of the digitalisation process in relation to corruption, accountability, and the stagnation of functional government services; and mobilising citizens to engage further with the topic of open data and digitalisation by providing accessible information and providing a space to voice their experiences.

Summary

Open data is a key component in promoting government transparency, empowering different groups to hold institutions accountable, and supporting evidence-based decision making and advocacy efforts. In tandem, digitalization in government can improve public services by enhancing efficiency, accessibility and citizens’ engagement. All countries across the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia) have taken steps to engage with these two areas towards better governance.

However, in nearly all of these countries, lack of capacity and resources and even active threats to safety means there is no established civil society mechanism of independent oversight, knowledge sharing, or multi-stakeholder participation of either of these processes. Ongoing monitoring of digitalization, e-services and data access is also lacking on a systemic level. Citizens, CSOs and media only sporadically engage in this topic, despite being some of the most important beneficiaries and active stakeholders. There is thus a vital need to build upon and support existing initiatives, analyse challenges from a regional perspective, broaden the involvement of different stakeholder and beneficiary groups, and amplify the perspectives and experiences of citizens.

This 12-month project seeks to both inform and engage audiences across the region through the creation of original, informative and accessible content on the topics of open data and digitalisation. Using existing resources and building on BIRN’s extensive track record on freedom of information, a research paper will additionally inform stakeholders of the present circumstances while suggesting actions to address and improve current processes and legislation. All content will be supported by a range of infographics and short video explainers, while events in each of the West Balkans Six, WB6, countries will gather together key individuals from across the media, civil society and governance spheres to discuss the findings and create a platform for the generation of additional ideas and activities.

Donor

Open Society Fund Bosnia and Herzegovina

Main Objectives

Improve institutional transparency and functionality for citizens and other stakeholders through reliable and informative content.

Specific Objectives

1: Engage stakeholders through regional research on open data and digitalisation.

2: Raise awareness about the ongoing consequences of a lack of open data and the challenges of the digitalisation process in relation to corruption, accountability, and the stagnation of functional government services.

3: Mobilise citizens to engage further with the topic of open data and digitalisation by providing accessible information and highlighting their experiences.

Main activities

1. Research paper

Existing research on the status of open data and digitalisation conducted by civil society remains disjointed and often is focused only on a country level. By taking a regional approach, commonalities, successes and weaknesses, external and internal threats, and the challenges facing institutions can be highlighted. The research paper will seek to consolidate and build upon current findings while supplementing information with additional interviews with identified stakeholders. BIRN will additionally file open data requests regionally for certain key documentation to see whether this can be provided in machine-readable or open data compliant formats, providing an overview on existing data in this area. In addition, further insights can be gained on the format and completion documentation that is received and can be tracked across the Network’s existing FOI requests. Policy recommendations will then be provided as a basis for additional actions moving forward and points of discussion at each of the six in-country events.

2. Fifteen editorial outputs

Through BIRN’s ability to produce both in-depth country reporting and cross-border stories, a series of editorial outputs will explore regional and country-level stories on open data and digitalisation. It is anticipated that two articles per country will be produced (12 in total) and three in-depth long reads capturing cross-border perspectives, to be published on BIRN’s flagship website Balkan Insight (BI).

3. Fifteen infographics and five short video explainers

These can break down information and key terminology either embedded within articles or act as standalone pieces, making engagement easier for the public. Topics could be connected to EU GDPR, the specifics of EU DMA and DSA, relevant local government action plans, artificial intelligence, digitalisation, how people are affected by it, and why it is important to engage with.

4. Six in-country events

The events will gather identified stakeholders across civil society, media, and government to present and discuss regional findings, while providing a platform for actionable recommendations and activities.

5. One regional focus page on Balkan Insight

A regional focus page will consolidate BIRN’s editorial outputs across the Network on digitalisation and open data for easy accessibility in multiple languages, as well as provide a space for any new content produced. The research paper will also be accessible on this site.

Target Groups

Journalists and media outlets, citizens across the Western Balkans, CSO organisations, those within the policy and governance spheres who are in a position either to be held accountable or make change to existing legislation or modes of operation

Main Implementer

BIRN Kosovo

Partners

BIRN Albania

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina

BIRN Kosovo

BIRN Montenegro

BIRN Serbia