Reporting Qualitative and Reliable Information on the Coronavirus COVID-19 – Continuation

BIRN Kosovo

Fake news has vastly increased since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic and, as a result, has led to the panic of the citizens. Fake news and disinformation entered the cycle of the increased flow of information during the pandemic, which further perplex and obscure the collective action on the prevention of Covid-19. Therefore, through this project, Internews Kosova will continue to provide reliable information, improve the quality of authorities by keeping them accountable for their statements and raise awareness to the general audience regarding the facts related to the virus.

Summary:

It is with no doubt that the vast effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kosovo continue to hit each sphere of what composes our society. Firstly, the health sector is day-by-day experiencing lack of human and technological capacities in order to treat infected cases and diminish the further spread of the virus. Moreover, the confinement measures and travel restrictions are instigating an economic recession given that the country’s economy is heavily reliant on remittances and increased levels on unemployment. Additionally, because the security institutions have shifted their focus and forces on the implementation of COVID-19 regulations, the justice sector has created a fertile ground for criminal activities. Lastly, the education sector is also bearing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, given that students have been engaged on distanced-learning, which remains a global challenge.

Furthermore, with the spread of COVID-19, citizens continue to be more encouraged to stay up to date more frequently with news and information from the government of Kosovo, health institutions and other health organizations. Many media outlets misused this situation for profiting and began sharing false information, which unfortunately led to an increased panic amongst the population of Kosovo.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Internews Kosova, under the scope of the project granted by the Balkan Trust, titled “Reporting Qualitative and Reliable Information on the Coronavirus COVID-19”, implemented from April to July 2020, has continuously monitored the work of institutions on combating the virus, reported on violations of the measures implemented, and committed to identifying and reporting fake news circulated in the media and on social networking sites. This was done through the production and broadcasting of 32 live interviews with municipal mayors, doctors, health experts, representatives from the National Public Health Institute of Kosovo, production of 797 daily fact-checking updates and 6 in-depth articles regarding the Covid-19 situation in Kosovo. Internews Kosovo with its partner BIRN Kosovo continuously provided the public with reliable information and kept public officials accountable for their statement, while in the meantime raised the awareness of the general audience regarding facts related to the virus.

Therefore, Internews Kosova will continue its action by providing the public with reliable information, improving the quality of authorities by keeping them accountable for their statements, and by raising the awareness of the general audience regarding the facts related to the virus. Internews Kosova and BIRN Kosovo will ensure to achieve their goal by broadcasting thirty (30) live interviews with municipal mayors, doctors, health experts, representatives from the National Public Health Institute of Kosovo, relevant stake holders, patients who recovered from the virus, and patients currently being treated, publishing fact-checking updates, and by publishing five (5) in-depth articles from different doctors and relevant stakeholders.

 Donor:

Balkan Trust for Democracy

Main Objective:

The overall objective of the action is to increase reliable information, improve the quality of authorities by keeping them accountable for their statements and raise awareness to the general audience regarding the facts related to the virus. Through this action, Internews Kosova and BIRN Kosovo will target Kosovo citizens from all communities around the country, including the youth, middle-aged people and the elderly, public authorities and health institutions, among others.

Main Activities:

  1. Broadcast thirty (30) live interviews with municipal mayors, doctors, health experts, representatives from the National Public Health Institute of Kosovo, among other relevant stakeholders;
  2. Utilize a sub-section on KALXO.com regarding COVID-19 by publishing fact-checking daily updates, and
  3. Publish five (5) in-depth articles from different doctors on the tips to be taken during quarantine and in case of suspicious symptoms.

Target Groups:

  • Youth, young adults and middle-aged people;
  • Elderly;
  • Public authorities/institutions;
  • Health institutions;
  • Minority communities;
  • Press Council of Kosovo,
  • Independent Media Commission;
  • Association of Journalists of Kosovo.

Main implementer:

Internews Kosova

Partners:

BIRN Kosovo

Exposing malpractices of public institutions in Kosovo’s health sector

BIRN Kosovo

The project intends to address issues that have arisen with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, akin the limited capacity of hospitals, corruption growth and the spread of fake news. This will be achieved through identifying, fact-checking and reporting investments in the health sector, accurately reporting from the hospitals, monitoring and reporting on public and private laboratories and reporting of the wrongdoings in the overall health sector in Kosovo.

Summary:

Although Kosovo’s health sector has improved significantly in the last decade, the COVID-19 pandemic has proved that there are still loads of challenges in the health sector in Kosovo. The number of new COVID-19 cases has been increasing day by day and the situation has not been stable in Kosovo ever since the beginning of the pandemic. A major concern besides the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases in Kosovo remain the high number of infected medical workers, high prices for PCR testing in private laboratories, high number of people in need for testing yet insufficient tests at the Kosovo National Institute for Public Health, amongst others. Since March 2020, Kosovo recorded the highest number of daily and active COVID-19 cases in November of 2020 [1]and has continued so until present date. Hospitals are reported on daily basis to be out of capacity and healthcare workers have been rapidly infected with the virus hence, pressuring Kosovo’s healthcare system.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has left space for corruption to grow. Since the beginning of the pandemic, corrupt practices have been seen in policymaking, overall governance, education and health sector, management of health funds and procurement practices.[2] Practices of corruption leave the most affected communities behind, i.e., the impoverished and vulnerable people who do not have full access to e.g., health and medical facilities and equipment. It is widely known that the major areas of corruption during the health crisis, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, include procurement, service delivery in the health sector, emergency funds and policymaking. [3]

Additionally, in the last ten months of COVID-19 pandemic, the media has been heavily invested in news and reports on the pandemic and being safe in a health crisis. Having consistent access to the latest information on COVID-19 on the internet is just as harmful as beneficial. That is, many media around the world, including Kosovo have used the opportunity to produce misinformation and fake news for their personal, financial interests. Not only is misinformation on a health crisis unethical and panicking but news on (traditional) remedies to cure the virus have even worsened the situation.[4]

Taking into consideration these issues, BIRN Kosovo, through this project, will address the above mentioned issues through fact-checking of investments in the health sector, accurately reporting from the hospitals, monitoring and reporting on public and private laboratories and reporting of the wrongdoings in the overall health sector in Kosovo.

Donor:

Balkan Trust for Democracy

Main Objective:

The overall objective of the action is to contribute to the development of a more accountable and transparent public health sector in Kosovo through monitoring, fact checking and reporting on developments related to the COVID-19 in the health sector.

Specific Objectives:

Specific objective 1: Accountable and transparent public health sector;

Specific objective 2: Increased reliable and accurate information, and

Specific objective 3: Responsive health and other state institutions.

Main Activities:

  1. Produce and broadcast ten (10) televised investigations on BIRN Kosovo’s programs;
  2. Draft and publish at least ten (10) articles yielding directly from the abovementioned televised investigations;
  3. Draft and submit at least ten (10) legal letters as a follow-up of the treated above mentioned cases to relevant institutions.

Target Groups:

  • Youth, young adults and middle-aged people;
  • Elderly;
  • Public authorities/institutions;
  • Health institutions;
  • Minority communities.

Main implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Partners:

N/A

[1] https://www.oecd.org/south-east-europe/COVID-19-Crisis-in-Kosovo.pdf

[2] https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/gpn-governance-Transparency_Accountability_and_Anti-Corruption_Service_Offer_for_COVID-19.pdf

[3] https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/gpn-governance-Transparency_Accountability_and_Anti-Corruption_Service_Offer_for_COVID-19.pdf

[4] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01834-3

E-learning: Improve Teachers ‘Presenting and Speaking Skills During E – Learning Process’

BIRN Kosovo

Through this project, BIRN Kosovo intends to provide public speaking trainings, online assistance and technical support to teachers prior to e-learning unit filming thus, contributing to the development of the education sector in Kosovo regardless of the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summary:

The spread of COVID-19 has interrupted schooling, which disturbs not only the life of pupils but many of their parents and teachers too. On March 11, 2020, the Ministry of Health decided to close all education institutions in Kosovo until March 27, among other preventive measures undertaken by the ministry against the pandemic. Consequently, given the lack of technological equipment possessed by schools in Kosovo and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology required to film, edit and publish online learning units, BIRN Kosovo and its partner Internews Kosova started voluntarily filming and edited teaching units for elementary school in March and April. Subsequently these lessons were then broadcast on public TV and archived online in the Ministry of Education and KALLXO website.

Sixteen (16) BIRN Kosovo and I/KS staff (including producers, camera operators, audio and lights operators, editors and graphic designers) started filming e-lesson teaching units.  Beginning on March 17, they successfully filmed and edited more than 1,800 e-learning units in Albanian, Serbian/Bosnian and Turkish in only five (5) weeks, collaborating with more than 200 teachers and assisted by more than thirty (30) volunteers. The lessons began broadcasting on March 23, 2020 on the public Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK), in Albanian, Serbian/Bosnian and Turkish while our teams were involved in the production of Albanian language units primarily. Considering the pandemic continues, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said that it needs technical and human capacities to produce more learning units before the end of June 2020. Therefore, BIRN Kosovo and I/KS asked US Embassy for help in continuing to support the extra 1287 e-learning units, which were filmed, edited and broadcast during May and June 2020. A part of this work was also done pro-bono in support of the education of Kosovo pupils.

Given the worsened situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, as of the last week of July 2020, the Ministry of Education is preparing several scenarios including partial reopening of the schools in September, not reopening at all or closing and then reopening. In any given scenario, the Ministry will need to have e-lessons filmed from 1-9th grade for all the months that have not been filmed so far. Having filmed and broadcasted over 2000 lessons so far, the feedback that KALLXO team has received is also highly based on the necessity for assistance to the teaching staff in Kosovo.

The Ministry of Education has requested the KALLXO team to provide training on public speaking to Kosovo teachers as well as to provide online assistance and technical support to 25,000 teachers of Kosovo. Many teachers have claimed that they do not know how to use applications like Zoom, Google Meets, Google Classroom etc. The Ministry has requested KALLXO’s help to build manuals in Albanian on how to use these applications. The teachers of Kosovo have confessed that they have not been able to use these online tools to communicate with students as the Ministry or the municipal departments have not offered them this training ever before.

Considering the feedback received and lessons learnt during the March-June 2020 period, KALLXO will provide public speaking trainings to teachers prior to e-learning unit filming.

Donor:

The US Embassy in Kosovo

Main Objective:

The overall goal request for support is to provide Kosovo teachers with public speaking training and technical support on using online tools/platforms during the e-learning process for school year 2020-2021.

Main Activities:

  1. Training of fifty (50) teachers on public speaking and presenting in front of the camera;
  2. Advanced mentorship to teachers for issues identified during the e-learning process and mentorship to teachers provided, and
  3. Creating manuals in Albanian in how to use ZOOM, Google classroom, Google meet and establishing and maintaining a technical support help line to provide ad-hoc assistance to teachers during the e-learning process.

Target Groups:

  • Teachers of primary schools across Kosovo;
  • The Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation;
  • 230,000 pupils around the country and their parents or guardians.

Main implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Partners:

Internews Kosova, MESTI

Town Hall Solutions

BIRN Kosovo

The project intends to promote and strengthen accountability and transparency from governmental institutions by addressing political, economic and social issues through a collaborative engaging format, in which members of different communities come together and engage in dialogue with each other. Moreover, it aims to bring together Kosovo’s different communities together through intercommunity dialogue in order to support peace and stability in Kosovo.

Summary:

This project aims to identify and promote the common threads that bring Kosovo’s different communities together through intercommunity dialogue in order to support peace and stability in Kosovo. The project also aims at seeking accountability and transparency from governmental institutions by addressing political, economic and social issues through a collaborative engaging format, in which members of different communities come together and engage in dialogue with each other and with the panellists. In order to achieve this, UNMIK, in collaboration with the implementing partner Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) in Kosovo, seeks to produce a series of televised programmes titled “Town Hall Solutions”, thereby engaging different communities in dialogue on pressing issues faced by Kosovo inhabitants in their daily lives, and to promote shared solutions.

The proposal is in line with UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999) which mandates UNMIK to “promote security, stability and respect for human rights through engagement with all communities in Kosovo”, including the equal engagement of women and men.

The project also aligns with United Nations Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security and Youth, Peace and Security, promoting active and meaningful participation of women and youth on issues that have impact on decision making and prevention and resolution of conflict.

The proposed efforts are furthermore in line with priorities set out under the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) agenda, putting people at the centre and contribute to prevention of conflict, through providing a space for dialogue, cross community engagement and building trust.

Furthermore, several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) affecting the livelihood and future of the people in Kosovo, which requires close collaboration of all communities and special attention to the living conditions of the minorities and their access to services and resources (as further reinforced in recommendations of the United Nations Trust-Building Forum) will also be advanced through implementation of this project through various episodes of the debates (SDGs 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 15 and 16).

Donor:

UNMIK

Main Objective:

The overall objective of the action is to bring together the wider community of journalists and media professionals, media outlets, civil society, young media talent and the public to increase awareness, recognition and support for professional journalism as a means of solidifying the foundations of a sustainable democracy in Kosovo.

Specific Objectives:

Specific objective 1: Develop incentives for increase in qualitative multi-ethnic reporting;

Specific objective 2: Increase the presence of non-political topics of mutual concern, such as artistic and cultural events and environmental issues in public media in all official languages, while simultaneously insisting upon professional (objective, impartial and unbiased) reporting;

Specific objective 3: Donors should consider media as a priority area, thus enabling joint coverage of issues of mutual concern;

Specific objective 4: Encourage the public broadcaster to continue having qualitative programs in the languages of the communities, thus increasing the access to information and exchanges between the communities and regional public broadcasters.

Specific objective 5: Strengthen partnership between youth-led initiatives and media actors in order to amplify the positive role of youth in building sustainable peace in their communities through building inter-ethnic trust, promotion of responsible citizenship and awareness-raising on diverse human-rights related issues;

Specific objective 6: Provide incentives for involvement of young people in awareness raising campaigns offline and online on societal issues, including as key actors in disseminating information;

Specific objective 7: Undertake efforts to provide media coverage and space for youth-led activities at the key public broadcaster and other media in order to raise the attention of local and central institutions to the problems that Kosovo youth face on a daily basis (education-related issues, bullying in schools, prevention of peer-to-peer violence, employment opportunities and socio-economic empowerment, air pollution, etc.) and empower youth by giving them a stronger voice in their communities.

Specific objective 8: To present women as leaders and role models and avoid portrayals that reinforce discriminatory and patriarchal attitudes and social norms about the role of women (especially before and after elections);

Specific objective 9: Include gender-related issues in the media and do more to reflect gender equality within reporting.

Main Activities:

Key activities of the project include producing five longform TV programmes (approximately 120 minutes each) on social, infrastructural, environmental, health and educational issues. Each programme will include the following segments:

  1. Multiethnic televised debates, connecting via video conferencing a large number of participants from across Kosovo communities with panellists consisting of authorities, civil society leaders and experts.
  2. Investigative reportages presenting a community which has come up with a solution to a problem in their community and explore whether the solution can be replicated in other communities.
  3. A series of ‘Community Heroes’ reportages, featuring Kosovo communities’ grassroots champions who have supported their communities during the challenging period of the pandemic.

Target Groups:

N/A

Main implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Partners:

N/A

Digital Rights Action: Enabling Free Flow of Information and Media Integrity

BIRN Serbia
The main goal of the project is to contribute to creating an enabling online environment for the free flow of information, in line with the standards of digital rights and media freedoms.

Summary

Donors: Balkans Trust for Democracy, MATRA Programme.

Information Sheet

Main Objective

The project’s overall goal is to contribute to creating an enabling online environment for the free flow of information, in line with the standards of digital rights and media freedoms.

Specific Objectives

  1. Public knowledge and understanding of the nature and impact of breaches of digital rights and freedoms are improved.
  2. Media policy framework advanced with new legislative solutions, responding to risks for media freedom and rights in the digital environment.
  3. Media improve standards of security, integrity and privacy protection in the digital environment.

Main Activities

  1. Providing the public with new information to instigate follow-up actions (including reactions, republications, and quotations) by relevant institutions, CSOs, other media outlets, and the public at large. Activities within this cluster include journalistic research, production, and publishing of in-depth articles, accompanied by data and document sets and multimedia material (visuals, video, audio). Based on the gathered material and findings ongoing public informing campaign will be implemented, including production, publishing, boosting and moderating a debate on social media channels
  2. Advocating and sustaining policy changes in domestic media regulatory framework includes the following activities: monitoring, consultations with beneficiaries and stakeholders, productions of policy solutions and amendments, participation in working groups, and other fora where media or related policies are discussed to advocate for its implementation.
  3. Raising capacities of media to implement standards of safety and integrity in the digital environment and their awareness of the potential risks – includes direct support to media outlets and journalists through service centre which will provide on-demand support in order to increase standards of privacy protection and the resilience of media and journalists in cases of digital rights violations and online attacks. In addition, a set of tools and internal procedures will be produced and promoted within the media community.

Target Groups

  1. Media community – Journalists, media outlets and media organisations.
  2. Independent institutions – Commissioner for Information of public importance, Ombudsman, Commissioner for Equality, RATEL/ National CERT.
  3. Civil sector – CSO dealing with human rights and data protection.
  4. Institutions – Ministry of Culture and Information and other relevant ministries and institutions in charge of various aspects of digital infrastructure and services (such as Ministry of Telecommunications, IKT office etc.)
  5. Public at large, especially computer literate.

Lead implementer

BIRN Serbia

Partner / Associate implementer:

SHARE Foundation

Are the Public Budgets Misused? Monitoring of State Financing Media Projects

BIRN Serbia
Non-transparent, uncontrolled, and arbitrary allocation of state funds is recognised as one of the most efficient mechanisms of ’soft-censorship’ harming media economic sustainability and, consequently, its independence.

Summary

The long-term objective of the project is transparency and accountability of state financing of media projects and ensuring the quality of public informing. Developed mechanisms of monitoring state budget spending on media will have a positive impact on a manner how the financial resources are allocated ad spent.

Donors: Open Society Foundation Serbia.

Information Sheet

Objectives

BIRN’s advocacy activities focus on public money spending in the media sector and potential corruption and state budgets misuses. Non-transparent, uncontrolled, and arbitrary allocation of state funds is recognised as one of the most efficient mechanisms of ’soft-censorship’ harming media economic sustainability and, consequently, its independence. BIRN, in partnership with IJAS and Slavko Curuvija Foundation implemented the project Public Money for Public Interest and monitored public money spending indicating occurred funds’ misuse. The consortium identified problems which require additional analysis: numerous abuses in the state funding media process (arbitrary selection of commission members, funds allocated to tabloids and media supporting the ruling party, lack of citizens’ participation and scrutiny), accompanied with a low-quality media production; inadequate regulations for individual fund allocations, lack of market and finance analysis before public procurement procedures, increase direct contracts allocation for various media and promotional services directly influencing editorial independence.

Activities

1) Monitoring of public money spending on media production;
2) Report production;
3) Advocacy campaign.

Target Groups

1) Local self-government
2) Ministry of Culture and Information
3) Citizens
4) Media outlets and media associations
5) Civil Society Organisations

Partners

Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia

Fellowship for Journalistic Exellence

BIRN Hub

Fellows’ stories are published by BIRN’s Balkan Insight and
Reporting Democracy platforms and disseminated widely through our network of media partners in all local languages as well as in
English and German.

Summary

Fellowship for Journalistic Exellence provides financial means and editorial mentoring to journalists in order to produce cross-border long form articles with regional relevance.

As of 2020 programme is expanded to journalists from Visegrad countries, in addition to journalists from the Balkans where this flagship initiative exists since 2007. It is keeping the key elements of the previous Balkan Fellowhip for Journalistic Excellence concept (initial seminar, mentoring support, editorial sessions promotion and publishing), which has been globally recognized as a highly successful media development programme.

Each year, 10 journalists are chosen through open competition to receive a €3,000 bursary, close editorial supervision and mentoring, and the chance to attend international career development seminars and be published in the most influential regional and international media. In addition, the top three articles chosen by an international jury will receive awards.

Fellows’ stories are published by BIRN’s Balkan Insight and Reporting Democracy platforms and disseminated widely through our network of media partners in all local languages as well as in English and German.

After the successful completion of the programme fellows are becoming part of the Alumni network of  journalists across the region committed to excellence in their profession.

Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence now covers 14 countries. In addition to the Central European nations above, we still welcome applications from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Greece and Serbia.


Donor

ERSTE Foundation

Main Objective

To foster quality reporting and create a strong alumni network devoted to promoting standards of excellence in journalisam across the region.


Specific Objectives

  • To produce 10 investigative or analytical articles with regional relevance
  • To raise professional capacities of journalists participating in the programme
  • To promote journalists and their work, securing public recognition for excellence in journalisam
  • To strengthen the existing alumni network


Main Activities

  • Training and mentoring for journalists
  • Research, production and publishing of quality content
  • Strengthening regional network of journalists
  • Promotion of programme findings through dissemination of articles through the network of media partners

Target Groups

Journalists


Main Implementer

BIRN Hub


Partners

Erste Foundation

Paper Trail to Better Governance III

BIRN Hub

Exposing wrongdoings of public institutions, public or private companies, and individuals, through multimedia investigations, in-depth analysis of institutions’ openness to freedom of information requests, and the establishment of an online database.

Summary

The Paper Trail for Better Governance is a project by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – BIRN Kosovo and BIRN HUB – to promote the rule of law, accountability, and transparency in the Balkans.

It is the continuation of the Paper Trail for Better Governance I and II.


Donor

Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of the Austrian Development Cooperation

Main Objective

The Project is expected to contribute to better functioning of the public sector that abides by the principles of transparency and accountability to its citizens. This is expected to happen, on the one hand, by exerting direct pressure to key public institutions through exposing wrongdoings and their level of transparency practices in relation to FoI laws and on the other hand, by exerting indirect public pressure to key public institutions through raising awareness of the broader public about mismanagement of public resources and competencies.


Specific Objectives

Exposing wrongdoings of public institutions, public or private companies, and individuals, through multimedia investigations, in-depth analysis of institutions’ openness to freedom of information requests, and the establishment of an online database.


Main Activities

  1. Journalistic trainings, including on gender equality, internships for young journalists in BIRN offices.
  2. Production of 25 investigations, interviews, analysis and news pieces on cross-border and country-based issues, as well as video production.
  3. Production of Annual Regional Reviews on freedom of information.
  4. Upgrade and further development of the BIRN’s Investigative Resource Desk (BIRD)

Target Groups

The main target groups are male and female investigative journalists as well as young journalists, researchers, media outlets and the general public that will be exposed to published material resulting from investigative reporting, monitoring of public institutions compliance with legislation and annual review reports published.

Highlights

More than 200 journalists have been trained in investigative skills and given special, in-depth knowledge of the particular field they are researching. Through the extensive use of public documents, the investigations are exposing wrongdoing in government and public and private companies and among powerful individuals.

The project also addresses the transparency of public institutions in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

As part of our drive to promote open data governance, earlier this year we established BIRN’s Investigative Resource Desk (BIRD), a digital platform with tools stimulating cross-border cooperation among journalists, civil society and technology experts. The platform serves as a hub for all BIRN data gathered through investigative journalistic work. BIRD also includes BIRN Source, a database which currently has close to one million searchable public documents uploaded and available for further use.


Main Implementer

BIRN Kosovo


Partners

BIRN Hub

Supporting Greater Media Independence in the Western Balkans

BIRN Hub

The aim of this project is to strengthen the editorial independence of the media, enabling them to provide citizens with a more diverse range of content, thus encouraging open, informed and active discussion amongst audiences in the six Western Balkans countries.

Summary

Supporting Greater Media Independence in the Western Balkans will support outlets to be more financially and structurally resilient, including improving gender quality in the workplace, and will enable them to produce more quality, relevant, gender-sensitive content that attracts and engages new audiences, including women, young people and marginalized groups. The project aims to achieve a level of relationships and standards in which media outlets and journalists report together with citizens, and not only about them.


Donor

FCO – CSSF

Main Objective

The project’s overall vision is to enable a positive shift in citizens’ engagement with independent media in the Western Balkans.


Specific Objectives

The aim of this project is to strengthen the editorial independence of the media, enabling them to provide citizens with a more diverse range of content, thus encouraging open, informed and active discussion amongst target audiences in the six Western Balkans countries.


Main Activities

The implementation of the Engaged Citizens Reporting (ECR) concept with the aim of enabling the production of quality, relevant, gender-sensitive content, which includes, inter alia, more diverse, representative (of different citizens/groups), gender-sensitive, conflict-sensitive, more informative, more scrutinised, facts-based content as well as encompassing standards such as the right to reply.

Training of young journalists with the aim to provide them with intensive learning and editorial support and mentoring in the field of investigative and quality journalism.

Series of legal, technical and organisational assistance and support, to strengthen the media and journalists of WB6 countries, help them become more professional, independent and effective in performing their duties. Only such empowered journalists and media can strive for quality journalism and restore public trust.

Target Groups

Local media outlets and journalists in the Western Balkan countries


Main Implementer

The British Council


Partners

Thomson Foundation, INTRAC.

COVID-19 in Serbia: Information Resilience

BIRN Serbia
In the current situation, there is a great demand for punctual, accurate and objective information among citizens. The crisis disclosed the negative impact of disinformation and its influence on spreading panic among citizens.

Summary

The COVID-19 global crisis reveals the need for and essential role of independent, objective journalism. Serbian society is additionally burdened by the fact that democratic institutions are weak and independent media are marginalized. The Serbian government introduced the state of emergency in an early stage to combat the crisis coronavirus caused. Yet, as much as this measure seemed justified to stop spreading the virus and protect the healthcare system, it opened a space for potential abuses.

In the current situation, there is a great demand for punctual, accurate and objective information among citizens. The crisis disclosed the negative impact of disinformation and its influence on spreading panic among citizens. In addition, the restrictive measures of the Serbian government demand public attention and serious journalistic work in order to keep them transparent and accountable and to prevent deterioration of democratic values and institutions once the crisis is over. Thus, BIRN will go beyond daily reports in order to offer in-depth analysis and data articles that can provide the context, analyze causes and consequences, as well as trends regarding the COVID – 19 crisis and its implications on the public services, work of institutions and society at large.

While mainstream media extensively cover the Covid-19 crisis through daily informative production there is a lack of analysis of the trends, wider context, and the effects of the pandemic on different aspects of our society. Furthermore, most of the media cover the cases and updates in major cities (Belgrade, Nis, Novi Sad, etc.) while the effects of the pandemic in smaller places are even more striking and are paradigmatic of the systemic response flaws. Lack of in-depth articles and relevant analysis causes the greater negative influence of fake news and disinformation hindering efforts to mitigate the consequences of the crisis. Society is dealing, with the pandemic, but also with infodemic, and the best course of the action is to rely on fact-based, reliable, and objective journalism.

Donors: The Balkan Trust for Democracy and USAID.

Information Sheet

Objective

Increasing the quality of media coverage and public understanding of the current COVID-19 crisis and its consequences.

Activities

1) Production (data and in-depth articles and journalistic reports on a daily basis);

2) Work with local journalists;

3) Online campaign.

Target Groups

Journalists, decision-makers, citizens