Spheres of Influence Uncovered

BIRN Hub

This project aims to contribute to a better understanding of the roles that three key international players – the EU, Russia and China – have on the seven project countries’ economies. In the course of this, journalists from the seven countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – will map Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), coming from these three players and identify the main challenges and consequences for their countries. They will also produce investigative country-based and cross-border reports while their skills will be upgraded with a series of capacity-building activities.

Summary:

At the core of the project is the struggle for spheres of influence on the Eurasian continent, which has been going on between Russia, China and the EU for around a decade. Among other things, the project aims to identify Russian, Chinese and EU economic activities in these two broad regions, expose their consequences and downsides and inform the general public about its findings.

Political, economic and cultural ties with Russia, “inherited” from the Cold War, are still operative to varying degrees in these countries. However, the binding and integrating power of an economically weak, revisionist Russia, which relies above all on military strength, is clearly declining – and even driving away some former partners (Georgia).

The EU meanwhile is struggling to maintain its attractiveness because the demands that Brussels places on recipients of its financial support are high and often involve lengthy reform and adjustment processes that often cause frustration and disappointment among partners (Western Balkans, Georgia).

The main beneficiary of this frustration is China. By offering to finance large investments in long-awaited infrastructure projects, quickly and easily, it has found a willing audience in all the project countries. Although capital from China entails considerable risks and disadvantages for the recipient countries, the potential ecological, social and political consequences of cooperation with China in the recipient countries is barely publicly discussed.

Donor:

German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

Main objectives:

 Objective 1: Strengthen the capacities of independent and public media in the project countries, as they are the main pillars of a critical public discourse on the effects of economic cooperation with China, Russia and the EU.

Objective 2: Increase skills and strengthen the capacities of independent and public media in the project countries to continuously inform a broad public with high-quality reporting about the background and consequences of international economic cooperation.

Objective 3: Increase the capacities of participating journalists to join cross-border projects and engage in data journalism.

Objective 4: Advance the reporting and publishing of complex investigative stories achieved through interesting and understandable preparation and a strategic public relations campaigns with a wide audience.

Objective 5: Increase the capacities of the participating journalists to become parts of international networks whose members support each other in researching and analysing global economic relationships.

Main Activities:

  • Hold several meetings and trainings throughout the project duration (in Tbilisi, Belgrade, Tashkent, Podgorica, and Sarajevo).
  • Organise and conduct online capacity-building workshops and sessions.
  • Work on a database and an interactive map to present the spread of FDIs in the project countries.
  • Produce country-based and cross-border long reads and investigative reports.
  • Develop curricula for self-study.

Target Groups:

  • The direct target group includes 25 journalists from the seven project countries who deal with questions of international economic cooperation either as freelancers or as permanent employees.
  • The indirect target group consists of two subgroups:
  • group of experts from diverse Non-Governmental Organizations (around 150 people involved in the project through trainings, researches and publications)
  • general audience in the participating countries.

Main implementer:

n-ost

Partners:

BIRN Hub

Anhor.uz, Uzbekistan

JAM News, Georgia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Society against Corruption in Montenegro

BIRN Hub

The aim of this project is to increase the accountability to citizens of Montenegro’s national and local governments, as well as public institutions, and empower the justice system and the rule of law.

Summary:

Corruption is the main obstacle towards establishing the rule of law in Montenegro and is significantly undermining its economy and appreciation of human rights. This has been outlined by many reports and policy papers, including the annual European Union reports that measure the country’s progress towards EU integration.

In 2020 the government was changed after three decades of one party in power, with the new majority making the fight against corruption a key priority.

But, more than a year since those elections, the results in the field of anti-corruption are either poor or missing, while political instability is affecting each segment of society. Citizens are more divided then ever, based on national, religious, political and other preferences. Trust in institutions is dropping.

Participation of civil society organizations (CSOs), especially community groups working at local level, in assessing the impact of gaps in reforms is lacking. Citizens are either poorly consulted by the government or excluded from designing and implementing anti-corruption activities. Public consultations are often organised in a way to discourage participation and recommendations made by CSOs are often rejected. Although on paper and in speeches the government supports civil society and its participation in policy development, in reality CSOs’ contribution is neglected. Media also have limited knowledge and skills to report on corruption and do not have developed relations with primary stakeholders – citizens and local CSOs.

This project will bring Montenegrin citizens closer to civil society and local media, and vice-versa. It will empower them to work together on identifying and reporting corruption, holding institutions accountable and demanding results, at the same time raising awareness of the damage of corruption, especially in the strategic areas of healthcare, education and the environment.

The project will also build the capacities of CSOs and local media to be active players in their communities, which will allow them to influence policies, laws and anti-corruption practices and so create a society with an empowered justice system and rule of law.

It aims to foster this collaboration through a multi-stacker approach but also through the active use of technology. The project will nurture a bottom-up approach – and empower those at local level on advocacy and, at an informative level – through CSOs and media – help citizens to demand change, influence politics, monitor and act as change-bringers in their communities.

Donor:

United States Department of State – Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Main objectives:

  1. Empower local media, civil society and citizens to be able to identify corruption in their communities, report it to responsible authorities and hold institutions accountable.
  2. Strengthen civil society’s and media’s capacities to report and counter corruption at national and local level to influence changes, with a special emphasis on the environment, education and healthcare
  3. Improve policies and/or laws through constructive engagement between civil society, government(s) and/or the private sector

Main Activities:

1.1: Conduct needs assessments of local CSOs and media;

1.2: Implement tailor-made trainings and mentoring sessions;

1.3: Develop and implement a digital tool for citizens’ reporting corruption.

2.1: Provide sub-grants to six local CSOs and six local media (12 in total);

2.2: Develop and publish anti-corruption stories based on inputs from citizens;

2.3: Develop and publish anti-corruption policy papers based on the needs of local communities;

2.4: Promote anti-corruption campaigns via mainstream and social media.

3.1: Organize workshops between media and local CSOs every five months;

3.2: Organize anti-corruption forums and gather at least 50 representatives of CSOs, media, private sector once per year, followed by adoption of joint recommendations for improvements, and at least 50 follow-up meetings with the decision makers;

3.3: Implement 18 community events related to concrete anti-corruption project activities, each reaching at least 10,000 citizens, or 200,000 in total;

Target Groups:

  • Civil society organizations, media outlets, journalists, local and central institutions and citizens of Montenegro

Main implementer:

BIRN HUB

Partners:

Civic Alliance and Eos Tech Trust

 

 

 

 

Enhancing accountability and memorialization processes in the Balkans by exploring war crimes archives and promoting fact-based narrative

BIRN Hub

The project aims to strengthen transitional justice mechanisms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Kosovo through enhanced usage of courts’ archives and professional reporting on war crimes. Specifically, the project is intended to reinforce the role of local artists, journalists, researchers, and historians in becoming drivers of change in reconciliation processes in the Balkan region; also, to improve intercultural dialogue and guarantees of non-recurrence through enhanced usage of court archives for the creation of multimedia fact-based content, combating the disinformation and denial that are encouraged by mainstream nationalistic narratives.

Summary:

Although more than 20 years have passed since military conflicts in the Balkans ended, former Yugoslav countries have been slow to implement transitional justice mechanisms regarding human rights violations. In the past, stakeholders in the field of transitional justice in the Balkans were mainly focused on criminal justice, which had its foothold in the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ITCY, and its successor, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. On completion of the work of the tribunals, domestic courts were to take over the prosecution of war crimes suspects.

However, the number of such trials is declining, and new indictments remain focused on low-ranking perpetrators. Although the few existing trials are noteworthy, and BIRN is closely monitoring and reporting on them, it is important to focus on other segments of transitional justice and link it with criminal justice efforts. In this context, when regional cooperation among local judicial institutions remains key to advancing accountability and ending impunity, BIRN aims to increase the awareness of the key stakeholders and the public about these processes.

Aside from ongoing trials, court archives are a repository of testimonies and evidence presented at earlier trials, which should be used to create fact-based narratives about wartime past. Archives from the ICTY and local courts in all former Yugoslav republics make this conflict one of the best documented in history. Unfortunately, however, most of the archives are not easily accessible; a considerable amount of essential material does not see the light of day.

BIRN has already implemented two projects supported by the Matra Regional Rule of Law Program. The first, “Accountability and regional cooperation in prosecuting war crimes in former Yugoslavia”, focused on criminal justice efforts and regional cooperation among local prosecutors’ offices. The second, “Shaping and promoting war crime trial narratives in the Western Balkans”, aimed to promote and strengthen criminal justice and guarantees of non-recurrence through regular, in-depth, high standard reporting on war crime trials, but also to promote and disseminate the archives of the international and local courts.

This project is a follow-up to these previous actions, expanding the work on court archives and memorialisation processes but also providing interested individuals with the opportunity to research archives from different and often complementary perspectives. This way, overall reconciliation processes are being reinforced by broadening the scope of independent professionals interested in becoming active in securing guarantees of non-recurrence.

Donor:

Matra Regional Rule of Law, The Netherlands

Main objectives:

Overall objective – Strengthen transitional justice mechanisms in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo through enhanced usage of courts’ archives and professional reporting on war crimes.

Specific objective 1 – Reinforce the role of local artists, journalists, researchers and historians in becoming drivers of change in the overall reconciliation processes in the Balkan region.

Specific objective 2 – Improve intercultural dialogue and guarantees of non-recurrence through enhanced usage of court archives for the creation of multimedia fact-based content combating disinformation and denial caused by mainstream nationalistic narratives.

 Main Activities:

  1. Produce and publish online 1,500 daily reports and analyses of war crime trials’ monitoring and transitional justice processes at all levels of the judiciary. The most important ones will be translated into BCMS and Albanian.
  2. More than 3,000 republications in local, regional and international media outlets.
  3. Publish at least five data-driven multimedia investigations into war crime cases.
  4. Artists, journalists and historians to produce at least 10 small projects using international and local court archives.
  5. Upload up to 20 multimedia pieces (essays, articles, photographs, video materials and archaeological research papers) to the Mass Graves Database.
  6. Update Mass Grave Database with small-size mass graves locations
  7. Hold one regional conference with up to 100 participants.
  8. Hold one archive workshop for youth, mentor 10 young people to produce 20 oral history videos and hold five exchange programmes.
  9. Develop tool for journalists, researchers, historians to more easily search court archives.

Target Groups:

Journalists, media, victims of war, researchers, historians, artists, academia

Main implementer:

BIRN Hub

Partners:

BIRN BiH

Project associates:

n/a

 

 

Spheres of Influence Uncovered

BIRN Hub

This project aims to contribute to a better understanding of the roles that three key international players – the EU, Russia and China – have on the seven project countries’ economies. In the course of this, journalists from the seven countries – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – will map Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, coming from these three players and identify the main challenges and consequences for their countries. They will also produce investigative country-based and cross-border reports while their skills will be upgraded with a series of capacity-building activities.

Summary: 

At the core of the project is the struggle for spheres of influence on the Eurasian continent, which has been going on between Russia, China and the EU for around a decade. Among other things, the project aims to identify Russian, Chinese and EU economic activities in these two broad regions, expose their consequences and downsides and inform the general public about its findings.

Political, economic and cultural ties with Russia, “inherited” from the Cold War, are still operative to varying degrees in these countries. However, the binding and integrating power of an economically weak, revisionist Russia, which relies above all on military strength, is clearly declining – or even driving away some former partners (Georgia).

The EU is meanwhile struggling to maintain its attractiveness because the demands that Brussels places on recipients of its financial support are high, and often involve lengthy reform and adjustment processes that often cause frustration and disappointment among partners (Western Balkans, Georgia).

China is the main beneficiary of this frustration. By offering to finance large investments in long-awaited infrastructure projects quickly and easily, it has found a willing audience in all the project countries. Although capital from China entails considerable risks and disadvantages for the recipient countries, the potential ecological, social and political consequences of cooperation with China in the recipient countries is barely publicly discussed.

Donor:

German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

Main objectives:

Objective 1: Strengthen the capacities of independent and public media in project countries, as they are the main pillars of a critical public discourse on the effects of economic cooperation with China, Russia and the EU.

Objective 2: Increase skills and strengthen the capacities of independent and public media in project countries to continuously inform a broad public with high-quality reporting about the background and consequences of international economic cooperation.

Objective 3: Increase the capacities of the participating journalists to join cross-border projects and engage in data journalism.

Objective 4: Advance the reporting and publication of complex and data-heavy stories achieved through interesting and understandable preparation and strategic public relations campaigns with a wide audience.

Objective 5: Increase the capacities of participating journalists to become parts of international networks whose members support each other in researching and analysing global economic relationships.

Main Activities:

  • Several offline meetings and trainings throughout the project’s duration (in Tbilisi, Belgrade, Tashkent, Podgorica, Sarajevo).
  • Capacity-building measures/workshops online.
  • Work on the database and an interactive map to present the spread of FDIs in the project countries.
  • Production of country-based and cross-border long reads and investigative reports.
  • Development of curricula for self-study.

 Target Groups:

  • The direct target group includes 25 journalists from the seven project countries who deal with questions of international economic cooperation either as freelancers or as permanent employees.
  • The indirect target group consists of two subgroups:
  • group of experts and multipliers from NGOs and science(around 150 people involved in the project through further training measures, research and publications)
  • general audience in the participating countries.

Main implementer:

n-ost

Partners:

BIRN Hub

Anhor.uz, Uzbekistan

JAM News, Georgia

 

 

 

 

Greater Internet Freedom

BIRN Hub

The project aims to contribute to the overall exposure and mainstreaming of issues of Internet freedom and digital rights through partnering with local organizations from the Balkans and Moldova in monitoring and analyzing trends pertaining to freedom of expression, privacy and freedoms online. It involves organizing regional events/workshops for key stakeholders and supporting region-wide capacity to address and respond to technical and policy-level attacks on Internet freedom.

Summary:

The Greater Internet Freedom (GIF) program is a three-year, global program that works to preserve an open, interoperable, reliable and secure Internet – and by extension, protect individuals, civil society organizations, media outlets and vulnerable groups who rely on it to realize fundamental freedoms. Through its dual objective of enhancing digital security for civil society and media and increasing citizen engagement in Internet government, GIF supports a diverse range of elements that impact Internet freedom.

The core of GIF’s approach centres on putting regional and local organizations at the forefront of this work. By enabling local and regional partners to lead this work, GIF helps local actors to build stronger trusted networks with peer organizations in their regions and around the world – and gain technical expertise from expert international organizations and share lessons learned.

Donor:

USAid

Main objectives:

 Increased Citizen Engagement in Internet Governance.

 Main Activities:

  1. Working with local advocacy partners, to promote and advance policies to protect an open, interoperable, reliable, and secure Internet
  2. Identify and build relationship with key stakeholders to safeguard internet freedom, IF, at regional and national levels
  3. Expand and mainstream IF issues regionally, by training and mentoring human rights CSOs to integrate internet freedom advocacy into their advocacy programs.
  4. Coordinating with local advocacy partners to analyze and respond to policies that risk closing civic space
  5. Raise awareness among regulators, policy makers, service providers / private sector, and government actors on challenges and opportunities to uphold internet freedoms
  6. Pursue locally and regionally relevant innovative approaches to spreading digital rights awareness, including working with universities to expand curricula; documentation of violations by both private and public sectors, etc.
  7. Sharing best practice responses to the above approaches
  8. Play a leading role in regional and international Internet governance forums

Target Groups:

  • General public
  • CSOs
  • Journalists
  • Human rights defenders

Main implementer:

BIRN Hub

Partners:

Internews

Project associates:

Da se zna! (Serbia), Kvart (Bosnia and Herzegovina), the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (North Macedonia), Open Data Kosovo (Kosovo)

Going Environmental: Strengthening Local and Regional Media in the Western Balkans Through Reporting on Climate Change

BIRN Hub

This project aims to contribute to improving the public debate on climate change and environmental protection in the Balkans through strengthening journalists and media to produce high-quality, independent and systematic climate reporting. Journalists and media will work together so that, instead of isolated reports on environmental problems, systematic and cross-border reporting is done that can convey the national and global character of this phenomenon to the public in an understandable way.

Summary:

Media play an important role in the fragile balance of a post-conflict situation in a region characterized by linguistic and ethnic diversity: media can break down issues of regional, national and international significance into local contexts and idioms. They represent the most effective tool for holding local institutions to account. They also enjoy a potentially high level of trust in their local target group. However, when it comes to environmental and climate reporting in the media in the Balkans, systematic and competent reporting is not being done as yet.

 Journalists need more background knowledge on complex environmental and climate issues, especially related to EU regulations, which are relevant for the Balkans. Journalists need additional skills in research, data analysis and fact-checking as well as financial resources. Finally, as a result of a lack of resources, journalists lack opportunities for networking and cross-border cooperation with colleagues investigating similar topics in other countries. Connections to regional and pan-European networks would bring new perspectives and more sustainability for the journalists interested in these topics.

In response to these needs, the project is intended to carry out capacity on three levels:

  • Participating journalists and media are aware of the importance of climate issues, in particular the cross-border nature of a problem that needs to be addressed collectively in the region. Through two workshops and a final event, their skills to investigate these topics will be strengthened and their networking possibilities improved. Finally, resources will be provided for the production of their stories during the project.
  • Participating journalists and media will network with colleagues from other countries so that they can access a wealth of experience and know-how in the field of climate reporting.
  • Participating journalists and media may better understand the special responsibility they have in raising public awareness on climate change. 

Donor:

Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

Main objectives: 

  • To achieve more quality reporting on climate change and environmental issues through tailored workshops, production of stories, peer-to-peer learning and cross-border cooperation. Participating journalists and media will gain knowledge and resources to investigate different environmental issues.
  • To integrate participants into different journalistic networks. Through their integration into the n-ost and BIRN network, participants will be better networked throughout Europe and enabled to produce transnational, collaborative work.
  • To raise public awareness on climate change and the environment.

Main Activities:

  • Project start, central strategy development
  • Call for participation and selection of participants
  • Kick-off meeting with all participants
  • Selection of topics and trainers, planning workshops
  • First workshop
  • Follow-up workshop and development of stories
  • Second workshop
  • Follow-up second workshop and finalization of stories
  • Publication of stories and videos about the stories
  • Final event

Target Groups:

  • 18 climate/environmental journalists
  • 18 local/regional media
  • Visitors to the final event
  • Audience of publications/stories published within the project
  • Viewers of the videos related to the publications/stories

Main implementer:

n-ost, Germany

 

 

 

 

European Focus

BIRN Hub

The project “European Focus” promotes a diverse, independent and pluralistic media environment and fosters intercultural dialogue. The “European Focus” newsletter will strengthen European reporting (its quality and quantity) and journalistic partnerships by establishing regular and long-term cross-border collaborative practices between European newsrooms, media and journalists.

Summary:

Despite its clear economic advantages and desirable political effects, collaborative cross-border journalism has not so far become a widespread form of foreign reporting – at least not in Europe. Although a range of European news publications, as well as services, collectively aggregate a “European” perspective from existing national news outlets, few European media actually produce content together, in so doing, developing a practice of collaboration and a common understanding of each other.

Although awareness of the need and the potential of more integrated productions and cooperation on European level is growing, regular and institutionalised cooperation between European news media is still too weak and underdeveloped to bring about structural change. The thresholds for many newsrooms to experiment with collaborative cross-border production methods and content formats, and establish permanent and lasting cross-border processes, are still too high.

Considering these challenges, the “European Focus” project is designed to bring together journalists (editors, reporters, correspondents) from ten news media outlets from across Europe to collaboratively create a weekly published newsletter, producing a total of 80 editions over the course of two years.

It will thereby promote a more diverse, independent and pluralistic media environment and foster intercultural dialogue. It aims to showcase and open a path for this “new normal” in European reporting practices in the everyday editorial routines of European newsrooms. The newsletter will be a truly European production, about topics that concern Europeans, written by authors from all over the continent, complementing and differentiating readers’ media consumption with multi-perspective, plural discourses that depict and shed light on a dynamic and integrated European reality.

It will strengthen European reporting by adding original European content to the media’s publication. It will contribute to the build-up of a European public sphere by reaching a European audience using the combined reach and expertise of the media consortium and building awareness of the value of plural and connected European perspectives.

It will also increase the value of journalistic work in the public eye, strengthening its perception as an essential pillar of European civil society.

Finally, the newsletter is a means to creating a resilient network of European media organisations, starting with the initial media partners in the consortium, but with the aim of continually expanding over time, and including more European media. This network will enable cross-border media partnerships and cultivate a new type of European reporting – one where news media work together to create international dialogue.

Donor:

European Union

Main objectives:

With its focus on collaborative journalism, the project pursues the following objectives:

  1. Consolidate a pan-European network of ten European news media and build their capacity to work together on this new method and format of collaborative cross-border European reporting.
  2. Increase the demand for collaborative cross-border methods, formats and contents of European reporting.
  3. Publish 80 newsletters with segments in English, with at least 200 segments translated and republished into a minimum of nine languages by journalists from ten-plus countries, on 80 European topics, within 24 months.
  4. Disseminate the newsletters via at least nine media platforms to reach a minimum of 10,000 subscribers, reaching 200,000 online article views via the newsletter’s website, with 1,000,000 indirectly reached via the republishing of content and 500,000 people reached with promoted newsletter content via the combined social media accounts of the consortium, within 24 months. 

Main Activities:  

  1. Newsletter production
    • Hold European Topic Conference
    • Hold European authors’ meeting
    • Content production, editorial
  2. Knowledge transfer
    • Organize kick-off meeting
    • Hold online roundtable
    • Hold workshops
  3. Dissemination & follow-up
    • Produce and publish the weekly newsletter
    • Maintain regular communications and project promotion
    • External communication of lessons learned
    • Secure funding for continuation of the project

Target Groups:

  • The consortium: Delfi (EST), Domani (ITA), Gazeta Wyborcza (POL), El Confidencial (ESP), hvg (HUN), Libération (FRA), n-ost (GER), Balkan Insight (BiH), Tagesspiegel (GER) and their 80 editors.
  • The primary target audience of the newsletter – those all over Europe who are eager to widen their focus on European topics, are curious and open for a plurality of perspectives and are confident in English.
  • The secondary target audience consists of the audiences of the media of the partner consortium that will be reached indirectly through the translation, re-use and republication of the newsletter content in the national publications in their respective languages.

Main implementer:

 N-OST – Netzwerk Fur Osteuropa-Berichterstattung EV (DE)

Partners: 

  • Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – Balkan Insight (BiH)
  • AS Ekspress Meedia – Delfi (EST),
  • Editoriale Domani S.P.A. Domani (ITA),
  • SA Agora, Gazeta Wyborcza (POL),
  • El Confidencial – Titania Compania Editorial SL (ESP),
  • Heti Vilaggazdasag Kiadoi Zartkoruen Mukodo Reszvenytarsasag – HVG Kiado (HUN),
  • Libération (FRA),
  • Verlag Der Tagesspiegel GMBH – Tagesspiegel (GER).

 

 

 

 

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 audiences with a more diverse range of content, so encouraging open, informed and active discussion amongst audiences in the six Balkans countries.

Summary:

Local media outlets in six Balkan countries provide news, information and entertainment to over 13 million people who live outside the capital cities. These outlets face a number of threats to their independence and existence. As project research has shown, local media outlets, both online, broadcast and in print continue to be an important source of information for large numbers of people, as well as providing a mechanism for holding local government accountable.

The researchers identified a vibrant and crowded media scene with a wide variety of media outlets serving different communities. Some outlets have strong links with local NGOs and produce content focused on particular issues, including LGBTI rights, gender equality and rights for the Roma community. Others have a specific focus on local issues, such as environmental protection or protection of local archaeological sites. A number of outlets share information and news on local, cultural and social events, either for particular ethnic groups, or with the aim of supporting community cohesion. Some are very small scale, driven by the passion and commitment of a handful of individuals.

However, research also revealed their fundamental weakness. Advertising revenues overwhelmingly go to national news organisations, and local media are often left having to choose between accepting funding which undermines their independence and maintaining editorial independence but risking financial security. Funding from municipalities, individual owners and even advertising all come with the risk of clientelism, and there are examples where advertising revenue has been withdrawn as a result of certain content being published.

Other challenges, such as capacity, quality and resourcing are all related to this core issue of financial instability. Journalists are poorly paid, and many of the smaller outlets are run on a voluntary basis. This affects the pipeline of young journalists coming through, as young people choose more lucrative careers. Capacity issues mean that editorial choices are sometimes made in line with funder requirements and timelines rather than need. This diverts resources away from more complex stories that require more in-depth research and investigation.

Furthermore, women and men working in these local outlets perform a number of different roles and functions. This has an impact on quality, capacity and morale. In a context in which “fake news” and disinformation are widespread, independent local media provide a critical avenue for citizens to hold local government to account and to address issues in their local community. Many of the outlets surveyed already have some mechanism for interacting with their audiences and see this as an important means for ensuring their relevance and building trust.

Research reveals both a gender gap and a youth gap in terms of representation and visibility. Despite the majority of journalists in the region being women, media content continues to be highly gendered. Interviews with outlets has indicated that gender equality is not a priority issue for them. This gender-blind approach to reporting and management means that women will remain systemically disadvantaged in the workplace as well as in media content.

Young people consume media in a different way to the older generation. Accessing news through social media on smartphones, they are increasingly vulnerable to fake news and disinformation. Improving their engagement with independent media will help increase their resilience to harmful narratives, and could provide an outlet for more positive narratives, such as creating demand for more gender sensitive content. Engaged citizen reporting will give local news outlets an opportunity to better respond to the needs and concerns of young people, and youth media outlets can form mutually beneficial partnerships with young people who have a following on social media.

Considering these challenges, Supporting Greater Media Independence in six Balkan countries 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:

UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office – Conflict, Stability and Security Fund

Main objective:

Audiences in six WB countries to engage with a diversified, independent and balanced media.

Main Activities:

  1. Media accelerator
    • Technical assistance support to media outlets
    • Grants for implementation of business development plans
    • Improvement of media outlets’ digital tools and capacities
    • E-learning
  2. Engaged Citizens Reporting
    • Grant funding
    • Capacity building (training and mentoring)
    • Promotion
  1. Media incubator
    • Provision of technical and legal assistance
    • Capacity Building
    • Public debate and knowledge exchange
    • Emergency Fund
  1. Youth media and young journalists
    • Support to youth media outlets
    • Young journalists’ traineeship
    • Summer school scholarships
  1. Gender and media
    • Capacity building and training on gender sensitivity for men and women media professionals
    • Capacity building and training on safety for men and women journalists
    • Assessment of media outlets against a selection of UNESCO indicators
    • Strengthening networks and sharing good practice
    • Capacity building for men and women journalists and editors on gender sensitive reporting
    • Database of sector experts disaggregated by gender
  1. Country specific interventions

Target Groups:

  • Local media outlets and journalists in the Balkan countries

Main implementer:

The British Council

Partners:

Thomson Foundation and INTRAC

 

 

 

 

Reporting Democracy

BIRN Hub

Reporting Democracy is a cross-border journalistic platform dedicated to exploring where democracy is headed across large parts of Europe. Besides generating a steady stream of features, interviews and analytical pieces done by our own correspondents, we support local journalists by commissioning stories and providing grants for in-depth features and investigations. We translate many of our articles into local languages and make them available for republication through a growing network of local media partners. We also provide a forum for a broad range of expert commentary from leaders in policy, civil society and academia.

Summary:

Across Europe, populist movements are changing the political landscape and eroding faith in democratic institutions. In some countries, governments are cracking down on independent media, the judiciary and civil society. They are rolling back progressive social policies and demonising minorities and migrants. Amid rising nationalism, Euroscepticism, far-right extremism, inequality and disenchantment with globalism, they have brushed aside values at the heart of the European project: pluralism, multilateralism, respect for the rule of law.

The result is Europe’s biggest political transformation since the end of the Cold War. At stake are not only the liberal democratic foundations of the Western postwar order. Many fear for democracy itself, as authoritarian alternatives enter the mainstream.

Our goal is to unleash the power of independent journalism to scrutinise the issues, trends and events shaping the future of democracy in Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe.

Our geographical focus spans Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, from the Baltic Sea to the Aegean. We have correspondents in the Visegrad Four countries of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary as well as in the Balkan states of Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia. Our coverage also touches on Greece, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia.

Donor:

ERSTE Foundation, Nicholas Puech Foundation

Main objectives:

The specific objective is to create a networking and granting scheme for journalists from the V4 and WB regions and set up a system of financial and editorial support that enable them to explore in-depth trends and phenomena, locally or through cross-border collaboration, and communicate this to the widest possible audience through multiple channels.

The overall goal of the initiative is to establish an international journalism network and distribution platform aimed at strengthening the capacity of journalists to report systemically on populist, authoritarian, and other illiberal trends in the V4 and WB countries and so contribute to public understanding of these trends and their consequences.

 Main Activities:

 There are two main activity streams:

  1. Strengthening journalistic production of public-interest content:

–           Prominent correspondents’ network in V4 to provide regular coverage and be a focal point in the targeted countries.

–           Fellowships for Journalistic Excellence – 10 fellows will be selected each year to participate in the renewed professional development program.

–             Grants for journalists – up to 20 grants awarded annually through open calls on topics of digital rights and democracy trends

–           Fund for collaboration with authors and outlets, to foster quality coverage of topics related to democratic developments

–           Outreach of stories produced to be secured through social media and syndication to media partners on a national, regional, and international level.

  1. Networking and outreach opportunities:

–       Working visits and newsroom placements for journalists from the Visegrad region who want to do research and field reporting in Balkan countries,

–      Annual networking event, featuring an annual round-up report, marking key trends, actors and developments, gathering fellows, contributors and partners.

Target Groups:

  • Journalists and media
  • Public at large

Main Implementer:

BIRN HUB

 

 

 

Media Innovation Europe: Energizing the European Media Ecosystem

BIRN Hub

The aim of this project is to strengthen the capacities and independence of media outlets across the Visegrád and Balkan regions. The project will focus on diversifying skills of journalists to build more competitive and independent media and create opportunities to establish collaborative networks across borders. This will be achieved by using tools and techniques which will connect newsrooms with audiences, developing new business models and encouraging collaboration and innovation.

Summary:

The media industry in the region has been developing slowly and gradually, which has contributed to a lack of response to contemporary challenges such as the advertising collapse, fake news, digital innovation and other challenges.

Threat to free speech and democracy have grown, as populist governments took power in parts of Europe. Increasingly, these governments employ “media capture” tactics to control the press, abusing state administrative and regulatory competencies and creating a bias in the media market against independent outlets and artificially strengthening propaganda voices.

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated disruptions in the media environment but has also pointed out a need for urgent innovation in the sector. Only by empowering journalists and media outlets can quality journalism be produced and public trust in media and democracy restored.

Citizens are also becoming more vulnerable to fake news and disinformation, which is why improving their engagement with independent media will help increase their resilience to harmful narratives and equip outlets with new and more creative content.

Researchers say news media within Europe have an urgent need for transition support infrastructure, to work with communities, media and journalists both to carry existing media through the digital transition and kick-start new media voices. Specifically, research has identified that the transition infrastructure existing in Europe is fragmented and narrowly focused. This means there is little sector- or continent-wide sense of all being in this together or frameworks for sharing. This is particularly true in Central and Eastern Europe, in countries under political pressure and in different language communities.

There is also a gap in representation of different communities in the media, such as youth, women, sexual or national minorities and other underrepresented groups, meaning there is a need to make journalism more inclusive and accessible to different communities. Only by inclusion of different communities can long-term goals of making newsrooms more resilient to contemporary challenges be achieved.

Considering these factors, the project Media Innovation Europe: Energizing the European Media Ecosystem will:

Support local media outlets in creating sustainable models of trusted journalism;

Grow the wealth of knowledge and experience that the International Press Institute , IPI, network offers;

Build a community of practice and support and learn from alumni and project participants;

Build new and engaging ways to interact with audiences;

Build diversified revenue models that allow media companies to be sustainable and independent;

Pivot business and technology to remain relevant and meet long-term goals;

Support news media to better serve existing audiences and increase trust in media.

Donor:

European Union

Main objectives:

1: Implementation of engaged citizen reporting and the B-engaged tool, which will enable newsrooms to crowdsource information from citizens for the production of stories of local importance and content that attract new and diverse audiences, including women, young people and marginalized groups, so strengthening relationships of trust between news media and audiences.

2: Level up the business capacities of middle-sized, regional and local print and online media outlets that need strategic guidance to set a path towards business viability.

3: Organise two three-day focused creative media events aimed at establishing cross-border and cross-company ties in the media sector and generating and developing new ideas and innovative solutions into working models and/or prototypes for the pan-European media market.

4: Mentorship will build lasting systemic cooperation, regional networks, journalism partnerships and collaborations, journalism viability and competitiveness.

5: Accelerate media outlets’ digital transition of journalism, products, business models or revenues (or a combination of these) to become viable and competitive.

 

 Main Activities:

  1. Transition Accelerator

1.1. Accelerator Bootcamp

1.2. Online training

1.3. Online content production – promotion

1.4. Structured learning

1.5. 1:1 Coaching

2. Deep Dive Business Consultancies

2.1. Business strategies’ implementation

2.2. Evaluation of results and impact

2.3. Tailored business-mentoring program

2.4. Development of business roadmaps

3. Audience-Engaged Journalism Grants

3.1. Online training and mentoring

3.2. Implementation of B-engaged tool and engagement journalism

3.4. Upgrade of B-engaged tool

3.5. Promotion

4. Hackathon

4.1. Organisation of Hackathon

4.2. Promotion

4.3. Reporting

Target Groups:

Media outlets and journalists from Balkans and Visegrad countries.

Main Implementer:
International Press Institute (IPI).

Partners: 
Thomson Foundation and Media Development Foundation.