Meet the People Behind BIRN: Sofija Todorovic

Posted on

Each month, BIRN introduces you to its people. For July, meet Sofija Todorovic, Project Manager.

Sofija, 29, is responsible for BIRN’s projects that deal with monitoring human rights. Today, she introduces us to BIRN’s new programme: Reporting on gender-based violence in the Balkans.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, incidents of domestic violence and online abuses have risen more than ever in the region. At the same time, the voices of the victims of gender-based violence are beginning to resonate within societies.

This summer, with the support of The Balkan Trust for Democracy, a Project of the German Marshall Fund, BIRN took the initiative and partnered up with ATINA NGO and launched a new specialized programme for journalists and writers to counter the trend of violence based on victims’ gender.

Why now? Sofija explains that through its ongoing monitoring process, BIRN has mapped numerous cases of digital rights violations directly linked to gender-based violence.

“Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, women were exposed to increased violence both offline and online. Based on the evidence, BIRN reported that the rates of domestic abuse went up, since states in the Balkans began imposing strict limitations on movement in the fight against COVID-19,” Sofija says.

The collaboration with ATINA NGO came about as a result of the creation of BIRN’s SEE Digital Rights Network, a network of 19 organisations across the Balkans that aim to advance the protection of digital rights and address the growing challenges posed by the widespread use of advanced technologies in society.

“With ATINA NGO, we realized that there are so many practices we can exchange in order to improve the quality of reporting about gender-based violence in the region,” says Sofija.

“Moreover, victims of gender-based violence rarely trust journalists due to the mainstream media landscape, where media disregard the trauma of the victim in the search for sensationalistic coverage. In addition, the societal stigma that haunts the victims is very powerful in the Balkans, so we aim to contribute to building a more sensitised public space for the survivors and victims,” she adds.

Journalists, writers and reporters from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia are invited to apply for this unique opportunity to examine and expose different aspects of the trend towards offline and online gender-based violence in the region. Applications close on August 21.

“People working in the media usually lack resources to work on substantial topics that require time and patience. With this programme, we aim to give them a chance to report on a burning issue in the region, by providing them with editorial support, funds, contacts and new set of skills,” Sofija concludes.

Read more about the programme here.