In 2021, through public procurement, 160 different institutions in Kosovo signed 9,892 contracts worth over €429.6 million. The main source of funding for public tenders was the state budget, which accounted for about 80 per cent of them. The value of the signed contracts was about 17 per cent of Kosovo’s total budget. The European Commission’s 2022 report on Kosovo said the country remains in the early stages of preparation for the fight against corruption. Yet there is little media coverage of irregularities in public procurement procedures, even though it is one of the fields most vulnerable to corruption.
Local media in Kosovo mostly stay in their comfort zones, using traditional reporting methods and resisting adaptation to new technological trends. Most local journalists continue to engage almost exclusively in protocol journalism and reporting from events rather than conducting publicly beneficial or investigative journalism.
A lack of subject specialisation also hinders journalists. A report published by the National Democratic Institute in July 2022 said limited resources at news outlets mean journalists are obliged to cover a wide range of topics and areas, often without knowledge or expertise. A journalist might cover the economy and national security one week and justice affairs the following week. International reports and journalists in Kosovo have identified the overextension of journalists as a significant challenge to their professionalism.
The project “Contribute to Strengthening Independent, Investigative and Publicly Beneficial Journalism and Freedom of Expression in Kosovo”, which BIRN implemented in 2018-20, mentored and financed 20 individual journalists through fellowships. A sub-granting scheme also provided support to 48 grantees, including 26 individual journalists (of whom 12 were women) and 22 media organisations (16 of which were based in non-majority communities).
The project’s beneficiaries produced around 440 pieces of journalism that were republished in media across Kosovo and the region, often resulting in behavioural change from authorities. In an era where Russian-produced propaganda is affecting the entire Western Balkans — a phenomenon that has intensified since the invasion of Ukraine — BIRN Kosovo will build on this previous experience to further improve the resilience of Albanian and Serbian media in Kosovo to resist fake news and fight for a journalism that does not only report on the world but fights for a better one.
The people involved in this project will be learning from the best. In 2021 alone, BIRN’s investigative journalists and camera operators won eight awards for their stories on corruption, public procurement and the environment. In its 2021 Investment Climate Statement on Kosovo, the US State Department listed BIRN as a resource for reporting corruption for the second time in a row.
BIRN Kosovo has an experienced team of editors, journalists, legal advisors, procurement and financial experts, camera operators, audio and video editors, designers and producers, who work tirelessly to produce impactful written journalism and televised programmes.
Objective 1: Contribute to an increase in transparency and accountability from local governance institutions by producing and publishing stories on public spending abuses, institutional wrongdoings and corrupt affairs.
Objective 2: Build the capacity of journalists and journalism students in monitoring and reporting about corruption, public procurement and public expenditure.
Activity 1. Draft and compile an investigative journalism handbook.
Activity 2. Organise one (1) Public Procurement School with journalists and journalism students, and publish 20 stories.
Activity 3. Publish four (4) investigative analyses on best practice in public finances and public procurement.
Activity 4. Organise three (3) Chatham House-style community meetings
Citizens of Kosovo