UNICEF Gives BIRN BiH Journalists Special Recognition for Contribution to Children’s Rights

Two journalists of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network of Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, Emina Dizdarevic and Jasmin Begic, received special recognition for media contribution to the promotion and protection of children’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2022.

Dizdarevic received special recognition for her analysis, Experts Warn that New History Textbook in Tuzla Deepens Divisions”. In it, she explained that, as of April, elementary school pupils in the Tuzla Canton have learned about the 1992-5 war in more detail for the first time through a new appendix to the history textbook for grade nine, which experts call one-sided.

They say it contains a publication by a convicted war criminal as a reference, and fails to respect the guidelines for writing textbooks and mention the suffering of all peoples, thus additionally deepening divisions.

Dizdarevic, who has been a journalist with BIRN for nearly ten years, says the recognition of her contribution to child’s rights in 2022 is very meaningful; the UNICEF award speaks about the educational system in her country and points to the problems of unadjusted school curricula.

“I’m glad if I have contributed, at least at the micro level, to changing the situation in the Bosnian educational system. I believe children should learn and study history and the 1992-95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina precisely from judicially determined facts,” she said. Dizdarevic previously also won the Srdjan Aleksic and other awards.

Begic joined BIRN’s team in July 2021. He received UNICEF’s special recognition for an analysis, “Central Bosnia Canton Does not Respect Verdict on Abolishing Segregation in Schools”, about the failure to respect court verdicts due to which pupils throughout Bosnia spent yet another school year in a segregated system.

“I’m grateful for the recognition which is, at the same time, an incentive and obligation for even more devoted and professional work in the future,” he said.

UNICEF’s contest for best media contribution to the promotion and protection of child’s rights in Bosnia was open for all journalists who published articles on this topic in Bosnian media this year.

An award for overall contribution to promotion and protection of children’s rights during 2022 through journalistic pieces, articles on portals, blogs, TV or radio footage, vlogs or documentary, was given to Istinomjer journalist Minel Abaz again this year.

Jury member Boro Kontic said that 23 pieces on various topics, including emotional difficulties, influencers, religious teaching, child migrants, talented children, violence in schools, segregation in schools and curricula content, were submitted for the competition; all of them were of good quality.

UNICEF’s representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rownak Khan, gave credit to those media that cover children’s rights through their channels, adding that the award was a recognition of journalists who cover these important topics in a courageous manner.

She said the public can be informed about children’s rights through the media more than in any other way, adding that on International Children’s Day, every November 20, it is important to recall the promise states made by adopting the Convention on the Rights of the Child more than 30 years ago, Fokus reported.

In 2020, BIRN BiH journalist Azra Husaric-Omerovic received UNICEF’s recognition for contribution to promotion and protection of child’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the “internet piece” category for her story on the challenges children with learning disabilities and their parents faced while attending online classes during the pandemic.

 

BIRN, n-ost, Hold Workshop in Kolasin on Data Visualization and Environmental and Climate Reporting

BIRN Hub and partner organization n-ost held a workshop from November 21-24 in Kolasin, Montenegro, on data visualization and cross-border environmental and climate reporting for 18 journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

After forming cross-border teams at the workshop in Ohrid in September, participating journalists reunited to continue their investigations related to topics such as river pollution, waste management and consequences of climate change in the region.

During the first day, they learned about data visualization and data storytelling from Uros Krcadinac, digital artist, technologist, writer, and educator.

Uros explained how to present visual data and information clearly and in an emotionally engaging way, with a special focus on ecological and climate data. He also introduced them to tools they can use while working on their own datasets, such as Raw Graphs, Pictochart, Canva, Google Spreadsheets, Tableau Public, etc.

“It’s important to have openness towards new tools. Allow yourself to play with them, with any data that you have, because it will make your stories more compelling,” Krcadinac said.

Participants also had the chance to discuss the local environmental issues related to the devastation of Tara River with highway construction with Lazar Grdinic, from the NGO MANS.

“We asked the environmental inspection many times to carry out regular on-site visits to separate locations. I was there on-site with inspectors, but even during those visits they didn’t show any willingness to stop the devastation of this river,” Grdinic said.

On the second day, participants refreshed their knowledge on story structure and storytelling, while continuing group work on their cross-border stories with the assistance of their mentors, Besar Likmeta and Dragan Gmizic. By the end of the workshop, they had drafted the structure of their stories, which will be finalized and published in the following months.

This was the second workshop organized as part of the project “Going Environmental”, which is financed by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development.

 

BIRN Trains Journalists from 46 Outlets in Fact-Checking

Journalists from 46 media outlets in the Balkans were given online training in fact-checking skills intended to combat misinformation and boost independent reporting.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network organised three online training sessions entitled ‘Fact-checking for the resilience of the independent media’ from November 7 to 22 as part of the Media for All project.

Journalists from 46 media outlets from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia learned about the differences between misinformation, disinformation and malicious information.

They also learned about specific tools that can be used for the checking and verification of sources and facts when producing media articles.

They had the opportunity to look into case studies and fact-checking examples used in producing content for BIRN’s news website Balkan Insight.

Ivana Jeremic, an experienced fact-checker and Balkan Insight editor, taught journalists the most important contemporary tools used for fact-checking and verification.

Jeremic guided participants in creating fact-checked investigations, news, and reports. The participants had a chance to discuss specific ideas for creating accurate content and got familiar with precise sources to use in their production.

“Fact-checking is the process of checking the accuracy of the information before publishing the story followed by checking the statements of certain actor,” said Jeremic.

“Fact-checking is part of journalists’ work. You as a journalist can be a fact-checker and a fact-checker can be a journalist. But the process of fact-checking is constantly trying to question the information that you have received or that you have heard and trying to find relevant sources either to confirm or debunk that information,” she added.

The skills learnt during the training session are intended to be used in the journalists’ daily work and shared with their colleagues in their newsrooms as part of the fight against fake news and disinformation.

The Media for All project is being implemented in six countries in the region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. BIRN is working in partnership with the British Council, Thompson Foundation and Intrac on the project, which is funded by the UK government, with special attention to engaging the public in reporting and fighting fake news.

BIRN Conference Warns of Far-Right Groups’ Influence in Balkans

Far-right and extremist groups are a major threat in the Balkans as they have deep roots in society and exert a significant influence, a BIRN conference in Sarajevo concluded.

By Azem Kurtic

The influence of far-right and extremist groups on societies in the Balkans is much greater than immediately visible, a two-day conference in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo concluded on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, far-right movements have taken the government in some Balkan countries,” Semsudin Mehmedovic, a member of the House of Representatives of Bosnian state-level parliament, told the conference.

More than 80 journalists, activists, government officials and international and local experts attended the conference, ‘Far-Right Extremism in the Balkans: Groups, Trends and Political Support’, which aimed to discuss the influence that such groups exert.

During the conference, BIRN launched an interactive map giving detailed information about 71 far-right and extremist groups and organisations operating in six countries in the Western Balkans, created by researchers and journalists.

Their findings showed that these groups are often connected, and are active online and in the public arena. They communicate and organize nationally and internationally, and are increasing their presence in politics, not only in the Balkans, but also in European Union countries, it was also found.

“Even in the context of Europe, we have seen far-right parties increasing their presence in parliaments. Democratic values are a threat to their ideas,” said Barbara Molas, a researcher with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism.

Many of the groups that are active in the Western Balkans are pro-Russian, which became increasingly noticeable after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“During Russia’s attack on Ukraine, we discovered pro-Russian groups on Telegram whose content was copied into Serbian groups, spreading misinformation and photos that incite violence,” said Maja Zivanovic, head of Radio Free Europe’s bureau in the Serbian capital Belgrade.

Many panelists and participants warned that the struggle against far-right and extremist groups in the Balkans and the rest of the Europe is only just beginning.

The second day of the conference was dedicated to the topic of political support for the far right.

Marko Milosavljevic, programme coordinator at the Serbian branch of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, noted the presence of extremist political party Dveri in the Serbian government.

“An example that I would like to present, which shows that there is extremism in the government and authorities of Serbia, is that at the suggestion of the extremist party Dveri, the part of biology textbooks that deals with gender and sex was redacted,” Milosavljevic said.

The interactive map and the conference were a part of a project entitled ‘The Future of Extremism in the Western Balkans’. During the course of the project, several studies and analysis pieces about far-right and extremist groups in the region have been published, as well a number of articles about terrorism trials in Western Balkan countries.

BIRN Launches Interactive Map of Far-Right and Extremist Groups

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has published an interactive map providing detailed information about scores of far-right and extremist organisations in six countries in the Balkans.

By Enes Hodzic

BIRN on Wednesday launched an interactive map giving detailed information about 71 far-right and extremist groups and organisations operating in six countries in the Western Balkans.

The map, a joint effort between BIRN and independent investigative journalists and researchers, was launched at a conference in Sarajevo entitled ‘Far-Right Extremism in the Balkans: Groups, Trends and Political Support’.

The map’s database documents both formal and informal extremist and far-right groups and organisations, including 21 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 20 in Serbia, 11 in North Macedonia, eight in Kosovo, seven in Montenegro and four in Albania.

It includes details about their members, including names and aliases, as well as their official status and activities, sources of funding and affiliations with other organisations. It also includes details of court cases in which members of the organisations have appeared.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s director Denis Dzidic said that the information presented in the interactive map provides the public with more information about far-right and extremist organisations and the potential threats that they pose.

“For the first time ever, we have a map that collects relevant information on far-right and extremist groups in the entire region,” said Dzidic.

“Their actions distort the process of building a stable and healthy society which we are fighting for every day. It is therefore important to us that this map be a source of information that will recognise all the threats that such organisations and groups may create,” he added.

Dzidic explained that Bosnia and Herzegovina has finally recognised the threat from far-right and extremist groups through its national Strategy for Prevention and Fight against Terrorism. This makes reporting on such organisations and groups’ activities of even more important, he said.

The map’s database took several months to collate – a process that was complicated by the fact that the majority of these organisations and groups are not registered and their activities can only be monitored online.

The map is currently available in English, but will soon be published in the local languages of the countries included. It will also be updated when new organisations and groups are established and when new far-right or extremist activists emerge.

“One of our permanent missions is to contribute to a freer and safer world. By creating a thoroughly checked and researched tool for fighting the constant threat from far-right and extremist groups, especially in the Balkans, we want to contribute to those efforts as much as possible,” Dzidic explained.

The interactive map was created as part of a project entitled ‘The Future of Extremism in the Western Balkans’, which is funded by the government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. During the course of the project, several studies and analysis pieces about far-right and extremist groups in the region have been published, as well a number of articles about terrorism trials in Western Balkan countries.

BIRN Seeks IT Enthusiasts, Coders to Help Investigative Reporters

In a bid to help journalists improve their tech skills to work on investigative stories, BIRN is forming a network of IT experts willing to provide assistance to reporters across the South East and Central Europe

Many journalists across the SEE and CE are still struggling with emerging technologies that could help them dig deeper and tell their stories better.

Reporters and media workers are also vulnerable to digital threats, and need to be properly equipped with basic tips and tools on how to combat them.

Responding to these needs, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, is calling on coders, programmers and other tech experts to become part of an informal network CODE4SEE (SEE is an acronym for the South-East Europe region).

The aim of the CODE4SEE network is to assist journalists with time and expertise. Engagement is on a voluntary basis, aiming to support stories that are in the public interest. CODE4SEE network members will to contribute pro bono, although in exceptional cases journalists might be asked to pay small fees.

BIRN is seeking to bring together IT experts from South-East and Central Europe, and students are also encouraged to join the network.

According to BIRN’s assessments, journalists are having specific issues with navigating online databases, scraping, exploiting open source programmes, big data analytics, data visualisation, finding and verifying data on social media and staying safe online.

BIRN aims to promote the CODE4SEE network on its various platforms, social media channels and mailing lists, and to encourage regional journalists – both freelancers and those working for media outlets or public broadcasters –  to reach out to its members whenever they need a hand with incorporating technical expertise into their journalistic work.

Network members will also be strongly encouraged to reach out to journalists and propose ideas or suggest a story/topic to be further explored.

Since its inception – in addition to its work in investigative journalism – BIRN has positioned itself as a leading regional organisation providing capacity-building support to journalists and editors in the Balkans and beyond.

BIRN provides training, editorial and mentoring support through various projects, including its flagship programmes, the Summer School of Investigative Reporting and the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence.

The BIRN network has organised more than 540 different training courses and awarded around 700 grants to both media organisations and individual journalists, changing the media landscape in the region.

Establishing this informal network of coders and IT experts is the latest addition to BIRN’s efforts to help journalists and media professionals bridge the gap between their work and emerging technologies.

In 2020, BIRN launched the BIRN Investigative Resource Desk, BIRD, which provides journalists and researchers with tips, tools, resources and technical services they can use in their daily work, as well as information about the latest developments in the sphere of media freedom, freedom of information, digital rights, social media, surveillance and censorship.

A year later, in 2021, BIRN launched BIRD Community, which hosts BIRD Directory – a database of contacts of experts in different fields – and BIRD Source, a comprehensive database of more than three million documents that the BIRN team has scraped, obtained through Freedom of Information laws and collected from sources for its groundbreaking investigations.

All these platforms further serve to connect journalists reporting on South-East and Central Europe and provide them with a safe space where they can interact and exchange ideas, data and information, collaborate on existing projects, or start new ones.

If you want to become part of the CODE4SEE network, please fill out this form on the Link.

(BIRN will not share your contact and other details without your consent)

Deadline for applying: December 15, 2022.

If you have any questions about the CODE4SEE network, feel free to contact Ivana Nikolic at [email protected]

BIRN will reach out to interested individuals to arrange their engagement in the initiative.

 

Kosovo Albanian, Serb Journalists Trained in Fact-Checking, Media Literacy

BIRN Kosovo held a training course on November 12 entitled ‘Fact-Based Journalism and Media Literacy’, organised in cooperation with Gracanica Online.

The training brought together 15 Albanian and Serb journalists representing media such as Radio Television of Mitrovica, Gracanica Online, Kossev, Veriu Info and Radio Gorazdevac, and students from the Isa Boletini University of Mitrovica’s Faculty of Law and from North Mitrovica.

Participants had the opportunity to learn about topics such as advanced international fact-checking standards, techniques for fact-checking current affairs, reporting discrimination and promoting media literacy through traditional and online media.

The training was delivered by BIRN editors Kreshnik Gashi and Visar Prebreza, who have extensive experience in carrying out investigations and reporting, as well as providing training for media and relevant stakeholders.

Professor Islam Qerimi, acting dean of the Isa Boletini University of Mitrovica’s Faculty of Law, was a guest speaker.

In his presentation, Qerimi said that such training sessions are an important tool for law students to gain practical experience in researching current affairs from a legal perspective.

The training was organised as part of the ‘Addressing Misinformation Through Fact-Based Journalism’ project, which is implemented by BIRN Kosovo and supported by UNMIK.

The aim of the project is to contribute to combating the spread of fake news and disinformation in Kosovo by raising the general public’s awareness of these phenomena, while promoting and supporting fact-checking journalism.

 

EU Investigative Journalism Award Winners for 2022 announced during EU Western Balkans Media Conference in Tirana

Established in 2015, the EU Investigative Journalism Awards in the Western Balkans and Turkey, continues to celebrate and promote the outstanding achievements of investigative journalists as well as the visibility of quality journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

The call was opened during mid-April to mid-March 2022 for awards for investigative stories published during 2021 related to freedom of expression, rule of law, transparency, abuse of power and fundamental rights, corruption and organised crime.

Individuals or groups of journalists were invited to apply with their stories, eligible in any journalism forms (print, online, radio and TV), published or broadcast in the media in each country in official, minority or international languages.

The award fund in each of the six Western Balkans countries and Turkey amounted to €5,000 for the first prize, €3,000 for the second and €2,000 for the third prize.

On Thursday, 10 November, during the EU Western Balkans Media Conference in Tirana, award winners were announced. The jury comprised media experts, some of them from the project consortia and others from the extensive network that the project consortium members have, such as editors, members of academia and journalists with merits.

The following individuals and groups of journalists were awarded:

Albania

  • 1st prize, Klodiana Lala, “Albanian Crime Story: Hostage to the Cocaine Supply Chain”.
  • 2nd prize, Dorian Kodra, How is Rilindja Monitoring Phone and ID Numbers, Workplaces and Other Confidential Data of 910,000 Voters of Tirana”.
  • 3rd prize, Ola Mitre, “Chromium in Bulqiza is Extracted Without an Environmental Permit”.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

  • 1st prize, Mubarek Asani and Jelena Jevtić, “The Boss and Her ‘Black Shirt’ Mob”.
  • 2nd prize, Amarildo Gutić, “Battle for the Political Commissioner”.
  • 3rd prize, Adna Zilić, “Police Uniform Requirements Tailored For Private Businessmen”.

Kosovo

  • 1st prize, Kreshnik Gashi, Visar Prebreza and Bahar Mustafa with a series of stories: ”The Justice on the Market”, “‘The North File”, The Link Between the Company Which is on US Blacklist and the Investments in Ulcinj” and “Racketeers File: The Judge Negotiates the Case”.
  • 2nd prize, Besnik Krasniqi with a series of stories: “Let’s ‘Clean’ the Budget”, “’Cleaning’ of Hundreds and Thousands of Euros With Gloves and Masks”, and “Garbage in Kosovo, Wages in Pockets”.
  • 3rd prize, Besnik Boletini and Xhavit Drenori, with “Daily Contamination”.

Montenegro

  • 1st prize, Mihailo Jovović, “A Series of Stories on Secret Flights of the President of Montenegro, Milo Đukanović”.
  • 2nd prize, Đurđa Radulović, “A Series of Stories on Wildfire Season in Montenegro”.
  • 3rd prize, Vladimir Otašević and Marko Vešović, “Secrets of Crime – The Murder of Duško Jovanović”.

North Macedonia

  • 1st prize, Irena Karevska, “Raškovski Bought Software for Traffic Fines, Which the Ministry of Interior Does not Know About and Certainly Does not Plan to Use”.
  • 2nd prize, Miroslava Byrns, “Case of Jaldz Veaposka, Woman in Labour Who Lost Her Uterus, Ovary and Kidney in Struga Hospital”.
  • 3rd prize, Snežana Lupevska Sozen, Miomir Serafinović, Biljana Nikolovska and Emilija Misirljevski, “Penalties for Traffic Accidents With Fatal Consequences by Necessity, Not by Law”.

Serbia

  • 1st prize, Stevan Dojčinović, Milica Vojinović, Bojana Pavlović, and Bojana Jovanović, “Series of Articles on Serbian Gang Led by Veljko Belivuk”.
  • 2nd prize, Jovana Gligorijević, “Conspiracy of Silence Lasted for a Long Time – Sexual Harassment at the Petnica Science Centre”.
  • 3rd prize, Saša Dragojlo, “People Smuggling: Money, Violence, and Ties to the Security Services”, and Aleksandar Đorđević and Miodrag Marković, “A Series of Stories on Corrupt Mechanism in the Electric Power Industry of Serbia”.

The awards are a continuation of the ongoing regional EU Investigative Journalism Awards in the Western Balkans and Turkey and part of the ongoing project, “Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey“, funded by the European Union and administered by BIRN Hub and its partners: Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers in the North Macedonia, Center for Investigative Journalism in Montenegro, MASE, BIRN Albania, BIRN Serbia and the Association of Journalists from Ankara, Turkey.

Since its launch, including this year, a total of 147 prizes were awarded to outstanding journalistic efforts in six Western Balkan countries and Turkey, promoting media freedom and importance of investigative work and exposing wrongdoings in countries where independent media is more important than ever.

 

EXTENSION: Open Call for Audience-Engaged Journalism Grants

Media outlets from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Serbia and Slovakia that want to engage the public in their investigative reporting are invited to apply for Audience-Engaged Journalism Grants.

Balkan Investigative Network (BIRN) is extending a call for applications. BIRN is inviting media outlets interested in connecting with their audiences and reporting on original stories that will make an impact to apply for Audience-Engaged Journalism Grants.

Individual grants will be awarded to selected media outlets that wish to cover national/regional/local topics on their own. Collaborative grants will be awarded to selected media outlets that want to investigate cross-border issues with a media partner.

Audience-engaged reporting, in which ordinary people’s voices are heard and unresolved issues are tackled, has proven a game-changer. Using it helps media outlets to listen to these voices and report on essential topics for their communities while bringing innovation to their investigative reporting and newsrooms.

Audience-Engaged Journalism Grants support media outlets that want to engage their audiences in reporting by providing them with training and mentorship in engagement journalism and usage of the B-Engaged tool, developed by BIRN.

Audience-Engaged Journalism Grants are part of the Media Innovation Europe project managed by a consortium led by the Vienna-based International Press Institute. The consortium includes the Kyiv-based Media Development Foundation, the Berlin-based Thomson Foundation and BIRN.

Ten (10) successful applicants will receive grants based on this call.

BIRN will grant €4,000 to five (5) successful applicants interested in making an individual audience-engaged story.

BIRN will grant €5,000 to five (5) successful applicants interested in making a cross-border collaborative story.

If you already know a media partner with whom you want to work on a cross-border story, you will receive €10,000 to cover expenses for both partners involved. If you are interested in investigating a cross-border story but don’t have a partner, BIRN can find you a matching media outlet.

Content may include news, analysis, investigations etc, and can be in any form – text, audio, video. The content must be promoted through the outlets’ social media channels.

The selected grantees will undergo a four-day training programme that will be offered online, as well as on-the-job mentoring by BIRN editors on how to use and implement innovative, effective audience-engagement tools for investigative community-based reporting.

The participating media will receive training in the use of the B-Engaged tool, an online tool developed by BIRN that enables the direct engagement of members of the public who are interested in sharing information and evidence related to issues they are facing.

Through training and mentoring, media outlets will also learn:

how to select engaging topics;

what is important to the audience;

how to develop a callout;

how to analyse crowdsourced data;

how to incorporate data in stories,

and how to shape a story according to engagement journalism standards.

The call is open until November 4, 2022, midnight CET.

To read the full call for application click here.

To apply for a grant, use the online application form and send us a proposal for a story and the required documents.

Follow BIRN on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to get more notifications.

 

 

 

Meet the People Behind BIRN: Sinisa-Jakov Marusic

Each month, BIRN introduces you to a different member of its team. For October, meet Sinisa-Jakov Marusic Editor and North Macedonia Correspondent at BIRN’s flagship English-language website Balkan Insight.

Sinisa, 42, is half Croat and half Macedonian. He studied literature and anthropology but finished journalism. He has worked as a journalist for 17 years and this year celebrates his 15 years’ anniversary in BIRN.

Sinisa told us about his work and Balkan Insight’s virtual newsroom where differences become familiar commonalities, his favorite BIRN’s “Happy Friday” mantra, his noisy keyboard and BIRN’s new endeavor “European Focus” – a weekly newsletter published by Balkan Insight and nine European Media such as Domani, Delfi, Tagesspiegel, Hvg.hu, El Confidential, Gazeta Wyborcza, Liberation, and N-ost.

Let’s meet him:

  1. What do you like most in your job, and what is the most challenging thing?

Coming from a small country, born before the internet was a thing, who experienced first-hand as a teenager the breakup of former Yugoslavia and the isolation of the country that followed during the 1990s, not only from Europe, but from the immediate neighbors as well, to this day I consider it as my biggest achievement that through my work I have expanded my horizons and managed to keep the door with the outside world open.

Nothing makes me happier than the notion that I get to share and communicate daily with a group of talented people from so many different countries who work at BIRN, and realizing how many commonalities we actually share, both personal and societal. And whenever we  meet in person, it’s a joy. It is a great asset to have in my career, sure, but it also makes me genuinely grateful.

As for the most challenging aspect, it is connected to the most joyous one. It is hat I work from home, or from a corner at my home that I’ve transformed into an office.

It is a blessing for some and a curse for others. For me it is a bit of both. Any journalist would tell you that it could be very challenging at times not sharing an actual physical space with your colleagues.

It helps a lot when you share your worries, laughs and “buying” or “selling” ideas with people in person. It eases up the day, nudges you in the right direction and motivates you to be better than yesterday. It is a base where you go to and you return to after each battle, to replenish your energy and motivation. If nothing else, it helps a person writing for a living, not getting stuck too much in his or her own head. Sadly, that natural human interaction that we all crave for is a little bit lost on the internet.

  1. Can you share a good memory of when you were on duty?

Being a duty editor in Balkan Insight sometimes resembles being a flight controller at the airport. You have to sort each article that flies your way, find its angle and place on the website and make it land well with the readers, while always multitasking and having the bigger picture in mind.

Having said that, I am happy to say that I have one good memory that reoccurrs each week. It is the “Happy Friday” exclamation each Friday at the morning editorial meeting that our Editor-in –Chief, Dusica Tomovic makes. I am fully aware that to an outsider this may sound totally lame. That’s OK. But for me it is a stress relief pill, acknowledgement that we are still here, we have almost made it through the stresses of the working week and a reminder to look forward to turning the “autopilot” at least for a while during the weekend.

  1. Besides your work, you are mostly known among people in BIRN as the editor with the noisy keyboard. Are you planning to change your keyboard?

I recently decided to look for a better keyboard. I figured out that for a person that spends so much time in front of the PC, a nicer keyboarded experience may be worth it. But to my horror, after paying an arm and a leg for a very expensive mechanical keyboard, I found out that the same soothing clicky sounds that my keyboard makes are the very sounds that annoy my colleagues when on a call.

I have to be honest. I have already spent my allowance for keyboards for the foreseeable future, and going back to the generic membrane keys of the old one is out of the question. So, sorry guys but no. I am not planning to change it.

I hope, though, that an ambient noise canceling software may help, and I pledge to look into it.

  1. Balkan Insight together with nine European media outlets publish together a weekly newsletter called “European Focus”. Tell us more about this cross-border initiative and its main scope

We started with the premise that Europe is not just Brussels, and surely not just the European Union nations, and that through cooperation with some of the best informative outlets across the continent, we can try to understand our common home a bit better.

We felt that while our nations share common challenges, national media alone are often not enough to offer European audiences the bigger European picture and often not able to connect the topics and discussions that are moving Europeans.

So we set up to try and offer this wider perspective that we feel our readers deserve. Thus, together with Tagesspiegel, El Confidencial, Liberation, Domani, Delfi, HVG.hu, Gazeta Wyborcza and N-OST we launched our joint weekly free of charge newsletter to cover topics that connect or affect us all and to exchange our different perspectives on them.

Our newsletter has five brief original pieces, which we also republish in the local languages of our different print and online publications to bring a variety of perspectives to our readers. And our hope is that this will enrich the essential debate in our joint European space.

  1. Each week journalists from nine different European newsrooms meet and decide European Focus’s context; how easy or difficult is this?

In professional terms, it is never easy to produce a good, well thought of, digestible yet informative and helpful newsletter. But we are not short of professional and enthusiastic colleagues from all corners of Europe, and not just from the aforementioned media outlets and organizations. So this enthusiasm and will to collaborate showed right from the start at our editorial meetings.

We are never short of ideas either. One colleague inspires another to try to look for similarities or differences in his or her own country, different angles, positive or negative examples. And just as we are thrilled, finding out new things and connecting the dots, we are sure that our readers will find the product of our work equally interesting and informative.

At the end of the entire process, of course, we have to decide on the topic of the week so we simply vote. It is plain and simple and as democratic as can be. Then we produce each newsletter jointly with a weekly rotating a team of five journalists and editors-in-chief.

  1. What kind of stories do you choose to present to the readers? How can you make multicultural readers be interested in these stories?

I must say, at the beginning of our cooperation, when we were still at the planning stage, we never imagined that the launch of our newsletter would coincide with the serious effects of the Russia aggression of Ukraine that has affected us all, from concerns about our security, to soaring fuel, electricity and food prices, all the way to how all these things fuel social and political movements in our countries.

And while at the beginning we felt, and still feel, compelled to tackle some of these issues that are undoubtedly shared among us all, causing great headaches but also inspiring great feats, we never feared that a European-focused newsletter could run out of topics, crisis or no crisis.

Be it the debate on EU enlargement, or the climate challenges or the worrying spread of wildfires this summer that showed that even countries like the UK are not unfazed by it, our Europe is simply too interesting to ignore, for good or for ill.

So we see the multiculturalism, multi-ethnicity and multi-confessionalism of our readers not as an obstacle but as our advantage. That is the whole point and our distinct European advantage, being able to compare, pinpoint the similarities, acknowledge the differences and simply try to learn from each other.

That was the thing that made us launch this newsletter and I believe that will be the thing that will keep our readers interested.