BIRN Wins Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Award

To mark World Press Freedom Day on Sunday, campaign group Reporters Without Borders Austria awarded the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network with its annual Press Freedom Award – A Signal for Europe.

The Vienna office of the Reporters Without Borders announced that the BIRN Network has been awarded for its courageous investigative journalism in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, and for its dedication to the fight for human rights, democracy and justice for the victims of war crimes.

The award also honours BIRN’s founder, Gordana Igric, who served as the organisation’s regional director until May 2018, for her pioneering work in establishing the network.

“We are honoured by this acknowledgment from our Austrian colleagues. It comes at a critical time for our region, where media are often hampered by political or business influences and lack the resources to report beyond their own country’s borders,” said BIRN’s network director, Marija Ristic.

“The award gives us more motivation to continue with our uncompromising reporting despite continuous attacks on our journalists,” Ristic added.

“We are also thankful for the honour given to our founder, Gordana Igric, who had a vision of a free regional media network and paved the way for a new generation of journalists and editors who continue to champion the values of human rights and democracy,” she said.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network was established in 2004 as a network of organisations across the Balkans promoting freedom of speech, human rights and democratic values.

BIRN has country-based organisations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. It also works editorially in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine.

BIRN’s structure has the advantage of combining local expertise with unique regional cooperation.

The Press Freedom Award – A Signal for Europe is given every year by the Austrian branch of Reporters Without Borders, a leading international non-profit and non-governmental organisation that safeguards the right to freedom of information. Its mandate is to promote free, independent and pluralistic journalism and to defend media workers.

Albania: Call for Stories on COVID-19 and the Earthquake

BIRN Albania is opening a call for story proposals that shed light on how the authorities and society are responding to the COVID-19 epidemic and the aftermath of the deadly November 26th earthquake in Albania.

Proposals are accepted for various journalistic formats, including features, in-depth news analysis, investigations and video features. Successful applications will receive an honorary ranging from 15,000 to 120,000 lek (minus personal income tax), depending on the genre and complexity of the reported story, the costs, etc.

There is no aspect of life in Albania that has not been affected by the coronavirus epidemic. We invite journalists to report the stories that are not being reported at the moment: in-depth features on how different communities or individuals are reacting to the crisis, in-depth news analysis with multiple sources explaining what is happening behind the scenes, and research that follows the money the government is spending on its response to the crisis.

Although the COVID-19 epidemic has pushed the earthquake of November 26th 2019 from newspaper headlines and newsreels, we invite journalists to apply with ideas that report in depth on the response of the authorities and the human angle of the quake that left behind a wave of destruction and affected thousands of people.

Each journalist or group of journalists can submit more than one application. Successful candidates will be notified within  two weeks. Applications will be evaluated continuously on a rolling basis during the period May to June 2020. BIRN Albania will provide successful candidates with editorial support and on-the-job mentoring. The articles will be published in its online publication, Reporter.al.

Successful candidates will have from 15 days to three months to report and write their article, depending on the difficulty of reporting and its complexity. Applicants should take care that their proposals do not overlap with previously published stories on Reporter.al or other media outlets.

All journalists in Albania, employed by other media or freelancers, have the right to apply. This call is financially supported by the Swedish government and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Candidates should submit the online APPLICATION FORM

For an Albanian copy of this call, click here.

For questions or further details, please contact though email at: office.albania@birn.eu.com

Raising Critical Awareness on Internet Governance in Albania

BIRN Albania

This initiative is a part of the project “Towards Improved Labour Relations and Professionalism in the Albanian Media”, funded by the European Commission, represented by Delegation of the European Union to Albania and implemented by the partnership of the Albanian Media Institute (AMI) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Summary

Through this project, BIRN Albania aims to involve the media stakeholders in the public debate on the place of the media in new Internet governance policies. Digitization and the Internet have a strong influence on the media because, on the one hand, they are powerful drivers of development, on the other hand, social networks and similar platforms endanger their survival, making them less socially relevant and endangering their business model and economic survival. Nevertheless, these substantive changes are little discussed in professional media circles, and in particular lack systematic data and thorough research to trigger debate. This initiative is part of the project “Towards improved labour relations and professionalism in the Albanian media”, funded by the European Commission, represented by Delegation of the European Union to Albania and implemented by the partnership of the Albanian Media Institute (AMI) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

Information Sheet

Main Objective:

Through this project, BIRN Albania objective is to contribute to a new reflection on media policies and media development related to internet governance in the country.

Specific Objective:

Reviewing the current landscape of Internet governance in Albania, including various existing legal, technical, corporate, and human rights initiatives relevant to journalism and media, and explore the primary issues and processes that overlap between media development and Internet governance;

Increasing critical understanding and public debate on how internet governance related policies and practices can influence media professionalism and development.

Donor:

European Commission/ Delegation of the European Union to Albania

BIRN Albania Holds Workshop on Political Party Finances

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania, together with the Albanian Center of Quality Journalism, held a workshop on February 6 on political party financing.

The workshop, supported by the British embassy in Tirana through the National Democratic Institute, was attended by 28 journalists and aimed to introduce reporters to best practices on campaign financing and regulation.

The workshop was led by Lolita Cigane, an international expert from Latvia on issues of campaign and political party financing. Cigane has worked on campaign finance reform since 2001, when she was first the project director of a campaign finance monitoring project co-run by Transparency International Latvia and the Soros Foundation Latvia. From 2010-2018 she was a member of Latvia’s parliament.

Cigane presented the Latvian example to the Albanian reporters, explaining how the Baltic country went from an unregulated ‘jungle’ to a well-functioning system of political party campaign financing, and the role that civil society and media played in the process.

The participants then held a brainstorming session for possible investigations into campaign finance issues.

BIRN Albania Launches ‘Urban Renaissance’ Database

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania on December 19 published its comprehensive database of the Urban Renaissance projects financed from 2014 until 2017 by the country’s centre-left government through the Fund for the Development of Regions.

Urban Renaissance was a pet project of Prime Minister Edi Rama to renew the image of local towns and squares across Albania after years of neglect. Its critics maintain the project was aimed at extensively funding municipalities controlled by Rama’s Socialist Party in order to guarantee its success at the polls.

The database contains the records of 573 projects with a total value of 359.8 million euros, as well as the documents and photos of the projects taken by a network of 12 reporters across the country.

Using the data collected in the database, BIRN Albania was able to publish over the past year dozens of pieces of news, features and investigative stories focusing on the Urban Renaissance project, offering a critical perspective and informing public opinion.

The database contains hundreds of contracts signed by contractors, subcontractors and overseeing companies for each project, as well as data on their completion status, obtained over a period of one year through freedom of information requests from 61 municipalities.

The database is accessible online in Albanian and English at: rilindjaurbane.reporter.al

BIRN Albania Holds Mobile Journalism Training for Students

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania held a three-day mobile video journalism training course in the city of Durres from November 14-16

The course was attended by 22 journalism students from the University of Tirana Department of Journalism, the Luigj Gurakuqi University of Shkodra and the Aleksander Xhuvani University in Elbasan.

The training was designed and delivered by Alen Mlatisuma, managing editor of the internet and EuroAsia division at Voice of America.

The course provided the students with hands-on experience of the techniques of shooting, visual storytelling and editing video using mobile phones, as well as information on the key apps, handles and rigs used to stabilise their shots.

The participants were trained to use their mobile phones to shoot video and narrate stories, gaining valuable experience of innovative journalistic techniques.

The training was supported by Swedish International Development Agency, SIDA.

BIRN Albania Marks Five-Year Anniversary of Reporter.al

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania marked the five-year anniversary of its online award-winning publication Reporter.al on October 24.

To celebrate Reporter.al’s fifth birthday, BIRN Albania held a reception at the Destil Co-Working Space in Tirana, which was attended by journalists who have contributed to the publication over the past five years, as well as civil society activists and donors.

BIRN Albania Editor-in-Chief Besar Likmeta said that when the publication was launched in 2014 with the aim to create a space to cultivate independent, hard-hitting, investigative journalism, “many were skeptical”.

“Five years on, with more than 250 investigative stories published, which have defined the news agenda, I am glad we have proved the sceptics wrong,” he said.

Since it was established in September 2014, Reporter.al has become a prominent force in investigative journalism in Albania, primarily covering the war against corruption and impunity in the country.

Over the past five years, it has earned a number of awards for its journalists and stories, including the CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism, the EU Award for Investigative Journalism in Albania, and the Free Speech Award by the South East Europe Coalition of Whistleblower Protection.

“We are proud to have collaborated with dozens of reporters in the four corners of the country, creating an enabling environment for excellence in journalism,” Likmeta said.

The online publication was accompanied one year after its launch by a monthly print version in Albanian and English, distributed to more than 400 institutions in Albania, including foreign embassies, government departments, ministries, media house and civil society organisations.

Also to mark the anniversary, BIRN Albania published a book featuring a collection of more than 250 hard-hitting investigations published on Reporter.al over the last five years.

Reporter.al is part of BIRN Albania’s programme ‘Exposing Corruption in Albania’, supported by the Open Society Foundation in Albania (OSFA), National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD).

BIRN Albania Launches Judicial Vetting Database

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Albania launched a new online database on October 29 that compiles and classifies its coverage of the vetting process of judges and prosecutors in Albania.

The database (reporter.al/vetingu), which is updated daily, contains news, analysis and asset evaluation reports of all the judges and prosecutors who have undergo through the vetting process from January 2018 to the present, in the vetting commission and the College of Appeals – the special chamber of the Constitutional Court.

The database compiles daily and in-depth reporting from BIRN Albania journalists focusing on all the three vetting institutions, organised in an easily accessible database, searchable based on the institution or the assessee who has undergone the vetting process.

The database aims to become an historical archive of the vetting process, which will be used now and in the future by journalists, researchers and academics interested to study and report on this key reform for Albania’s justice system.

Apart from the reports on the vetting process, the webpage also includes six studies published by BIRN Albania on the assets declarations of judges and prosecutors at all the levels of the judiciary in Albanian and English.

The database has been funded by the Swedish International Development Agency, SIDA and USAID’s Justice for All Project and the Open Society Foundation in Albania, OSFA.

BIRN Albania Opens Call for Investigations into Education

BIRN Albania launched a call for investigative stories on education on October 21, offering grants for three journalists to cover education stories, with mentoring by experienced editors.

The call is being held as part of a project entitled ‘Raising Awareness about Accountability and Transparency through Investigative Reporting’, financed by the National Endowment for Democracy.

The project aims to boost the fight against the culture of impunity in Albania through investigative journalism, bridging the gap between civil society organisations and journalists, building their capacities and creating common ground for joint action in exposing corruption cases in the country.

Three journalists will be awarded grants to cover their expenses while conducting investigations and writing their stories on the education system in Albania.

The journalists will have around three months to dig deeper and research their ideas, and will also have the opportunity to work with experienced editors as mentors to guide them through the process of writing in accordance with BIRN’s standards.

The call only applies to journalists from Albania and closes on November 10, 2019.

Click here for more information (in Albanian) about the application procedure.

Click here to download the application form (in Albanian).

BIRN Albania Holds Roundtable on Education

BIRN Albania held a roundtable on October 15, bringing together journalists, civil society representatives and activists working to improve the education system in Albania.

The event was held as part of the project “Raising Awareness about Accountability and Transparency through Investigative Reporting”, financed by the National Endowment for Democracy.

The project aims to boost the fight against the culture of impunity in Albania through investigative journalism, bridging the gap between civil society organisations and journalists, building their capacities and creating common ground for their joint action in exposing corruption cases in the country.

Rigels Xhemollari, the executive director of Civic Resistance, an organisation working to improve the quality of higher education in Albania, moderated the roundtable.

At the roundtable, participants suggested a number of key topics worth investigating.

They ranged from public-private partnerships for the construction of news schools to poor investments made in the infrastructure of university dormitories, the management of university dorms, students IDs and benefits, the quality of higher educational publications, elections to student councils, the education budget, the curricula for pre-college education, teacher recruitment, segregated schools, the quality of schools texts, school infrastructure, teacher transportation and other topics.

The goal of the roundtable was to draw attention to an upcoming call for grant proposals to fund investigative reporting on education.

BIRN Albania will make the call in the near future. Three journalists will be selected by an independent jury and then mentored by BIRN editors for three months, as they produce hard-hitting investigative reports on this important topic.