Paper Trail to Better Governance IV

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Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia
September 2023 – August 2026

BIRN Kosovo

The aim of the fourth phase of the Paper Trail to Better Governance project is to expose wrongdoings by public institutions, public or private companies and individuals through multimedia investigations, innovative journalism techniques and the establishment of an online database, as well as to train journalists across the Western Balkans, advance the position of female media workers and work closely with relevant stakeholders to advocate the freedom of information in the region.


In the past nine years, BIRN Kosovo and BIRN HUB have successfully managed three phases of the Paper Trail to Better Governance project, training 130 journalists in the Western Balkans, uncovering around 20 lucrative deals and corrupt schemes on a transnational level, and closely examining the work of regional public institutions.

On the grounds of the previous outstanding cooperation as well as external evaluation of the project, BIRN Kosovo (lead partner) and BIRN Hub (local partner) are proposing a transboundary scheme that responds to the European Commission’s membership conditions, aiming to strengthen the rule of law, governance and judiciary in the Western Balkan region.

The proposed project will also directly contribute to SDG targets 16.3, 16.5, 16.6, 16.7 and 16.10 as well as to the South-East Strategy 2030, through advocating a better functioning public sector that abides by the principles of transparency and accountability to its citizens.

Overall, the project will reach about 215 men and women investigative journalists, 40 emerging journalists, 200 researchers, 12 media outlets, as well as around 3 million people in the region who will be exposed to at least 40 cross-border and country-based long-reads, gender and freedom of information reports and interactive maps and a database.


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

Main Objectives

The Project is expected to contribute to advancing democratic governance in the Western Balkan countries through increased transparency, improved conditions for accountability and gender equality.

The overall impact that the project is expected to contribute to is related to substantially reducing corruption and bribery in all forms.

Specific Objectives

During the project duration, BIRN aims to:

  • increase the skills of investigative and young journalists in the Western Balkans;
  • strengthen capacities of local media to use innovative data tools and enter into cross-border collaboration;
  • advance production of long-reads and accompanying multimedia content to uncover malpractices of public institutions and public or private companies and people in power;
  • advocate for freedom of information in the Western Balkans by working closely with relevant stakeholders;
  • upgrade BIRN Investigative Resource Desk (BIRD) and other regional media outlets’ ability to respond to technical and digital challenges that the media community is facing;
  • increase the skills of women journalists and gender sensitive reporting in the Western Balkans.

Main activities

1) Hold trainings for regional journalists, including BIRN Summer School of Investigative Reporting, Regional Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) and Fellowship for Emerging Journalists;

2) Hold training and conduct mentorship for local media outlets to produce stories using the innovative Engaged Citizens Reporting tool, ECR;

3) Produce at least 40 country-based and cross-border long-reads (investigations, analyses and features), multimedia content and an interactive map/database;

4) Produce three annual freedom of information reports and capacity-building activities in the sphere of freedom of information, aimed at journalists and public servants in the Western Balkans;

5) Organise workshops about digital security, develop internal policies and procedures on digital safety for regional media outlets and further upgrade the BIRN Investigative Resource Desk, BIRD;

6) Establish a network of women journalists and address the most pressing gender issues through capacity building and policy recommendations.

Target Groups

Journalists, including investigative journalists; emerging journalists; local media outlets; public institutions; universities.

Main Implementer

BIRN Kosovo