BIRN Serbia Awards Small Grants for Reporting on Artificial Intelligence and Surveillance

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After BIRN Serbia trained ten journalists to report on the development and use of surveillance technology and artificial intelligence, AI, half of the participants have been provided with funding to work on stories on this topic.

The training was held on April 28 in Belgrade as part of the programe “Artificial Intelligence and Surveillance Technologies – Challenges of Media Reporting”.

Journalists learned how to recognise and monitor use of artificial intelligence and surveillance technologies. Following the training, five participants were awarded small grants of $480 US to report on this topic.

Grants were awarded to: Bojana Vlajović Savić (Res Publica), Slađana Majdak (BETA agency), Slaviša Milenković (Kruševacpress), Filip Mirilović (weekly Vreme), and Mila Tomić (Ozon press).

Surveillance is gaining more and more importance and while journalists should contribute to the transparency and accountability of the government’s use of these technologies, they often lack the skills needed to report on this topic.

That is why the training was aimed at strengthening the capacities of newsrooms to recognize and follow trends in the development and application of these technologies. Participants also received practical advice on how to improve reporting on the effects of surveillance on citizens’ rights.

“People often complain that the state and its institutions do not keep up with modern technology and the opportunities it provides us. Unfortunately, there are indications that they are keeping up, but they are not using these possibilities in the best interest of citizens,” says Radmilo Marković, one of the lecturers.

“Instead, these technologies are being used for who knows whose personal or group interests. That’s why it is important to draw attention to this and this workshop gave us some concrete tools and guidelines on how such things should be investigated,” he added.

Journalists were introduced to the concept of using algorithmic tools for automating decisions, surveillance equipment and other monitoring and profiling technologies, the consequences of their use for the rights of citizens, and how to follow the money trail and procurement of equipment and software for the aforementioned technologies.

The training leaders were experts in the field of the use of surveillance technologies and their impact on the realization of guaranteed rights: Ana Toskić Cvetinović, executive director of the organisation Partners Serbia, Danilo Ćučić, program coordinator of the A11 Initiative and Filip Milošević, from the SHARE Foundation.

Part of the training reflected the experience of BIRN’s newsroom. BIRN editor Milorad Ivanović and journalists Aleksa Tešić and Radmilo Marković shared the knowledge and techniques they applied while working on stories such as procurement of surveillance equipment by Serbian public energy company EPS and use of a software for espionage in Serbia.