BIRN BiH to Build Database of Judicially Established Facts About Bosnia War

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has begun to create an interactive educational database of judicially established facts about the 1992-5 war with the aim of confronting revisionist narratives and war crimes denial.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has begun to create an interactive educational database of judicially established facts about the 1992-5 war with the aim of confronting revisionist narratives and war crimes denial.

The goal of the project, launched in early April this year, is to raise the level of public understanding, ensure support for coming to terms with the past by developing a tool for teaching and learning about the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and challenge revisionist narratives.

BIRN BiH executive director Denis Dzidic said the project will present a unique approach to war crime judgments. Instead of focusing on individuals, he said, BIRN BiH will investigate and report judicially established facts about the things that happened in certain areas of the country during the war.

“The idea of the project is to create a source of fact-based data, which can be used for educational and informational purposes and which will contribute to combating disinformation and improving media literacy,” Dzidic said.

As a result of the project activities, BIRN BiH will create a multimedia database enriched with short documentaries, as well as educational tools for teachers that will help them prepare a methodology for teaching and learning about the Bosnian war.

“The database, documentaries and teaching tools will be developed in a unique manner, leaving no space for interpretations and misuse of established facts,” Dzidic said.

The project is supported by the UN Democracy Fund.

 

BIRN Bosnia’s Nermina Kuloglija Longlisted for One World Media Award

Nermina Kuloglija, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has been longlisted for the One World Media award in the New Voice category for young journalists who have made a substantial contribution to international journalism during the year.

Nermina Kuloglija, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has been longlisted for the One World Media award in the New Voice category for young journalists who have made a substantial contribution to international journalism during the year.

She has been listed alongside ten other journalists in one of the categories of the One World Media international awards for her series of articles on far-right organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kuloglija was the first journalist to investigate the links between right-wing groups in Bosnia and extreme right organisations in the USA Europe, Russia and Ukraine. She is the only journalist from Bosnia put up for this year’s award.

The nomination refers to these published investigations: In Bosnian River Town, Far-Right Symbols and a Link to Ukraine, Ultra-Right Groups Show Their Face in Bosnian Town as well as a TV Justice episode, Nationalism Festers in Srebrenica, 25 Years after Genocide.

A total of 150 journalists and media workers are competing in 15 categories. The short list of three nominees in each category will be announced in May. The winners will be announced during an online ceremony on June 17.

Kulogija joined BIRN BiH in August 2019. She began journalism after graduating from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo in 2017. As a member of BIRN BiH team, she has won the European Press Prize award for reporting on transitional justice and war crimes processes in Bosnia for many years, as well as a special plaque of the Srdjan Aleksic award for reporting about marginalized groups.

BIRN Bosnia Journalist Awarded for Balkan Cossack Army Report

Bosnian winner of prize for reporting on issues of regional dialogue and cohesion praised for tackling topical issue of foreign influences on Balkans.

Mladen Obrenovic, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has won an award for his article on the Balkan Cossack army.

The journalistic awards were given at an online ceremony during a regional conference of the Dialogue for the Future, DFF: Fostering Dialogue and Social Cohesion in, and between, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia.

This year the jury consisted of three members, Kristina Ljevak from Bosnia, Lidija Vujacic from Montenegro and Galeb Nikacevic from Serbia.

Vujacic, an anthropology professor at the University of Montenegro, said Obrenovic had explored a topical issue from the political and ideological, and broader cultural, aspect, with his feature about foreign influences and their effects.

“Under Cossack Banner, Russian Ties with Balkan Fighters Strengthened” followed a group of pro-Russian Cossacks who call themselves an army and gather veterans of the wars in Bosnia and the eastern Ukraine in Balkan countries.

Obrenovic investigated the operations of this group in the Balkans, whose central organization in Russia  has the Russian President Vladimir Putin as its honorary chair.

Obrenovic said that he worked on this story for three months, adding it was a very demanding in some areas as it involved “a very deep digging through numerous secrets and many things whose actors did not want to see discovered”.

“Now, I somehow see this as an award for my work so far,” Obrenovic said.

The journalistic award for Serbia was given to Una Sabljakovic, whose story was the on institutional invisibility of women victims of sexual violence during the past wars, who, having experienced the traumas of war, have faced secondary intimidation and stigmatization during the subsequent time of peace.

Svetlana Djokic, the award winner for Montenegro, wrote her story about the transnational problem of organised crime with a focus on trafficking in human beings.

“Dialogue for the Future, DFF: Fostering Dialogue and Social Cohesion in, and between, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia,” is a joint regional programme implemented by the UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO with the support of the UN Peacebuilding Fund.

The initiative was launched in Bosnia in 2014 following discussions between the UN Secretary General and the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In 2015, at the Brdo-Brijuni Summit in Budva, Montenegro, the leaders of the region recognised the project and encouraged its expansion to Southeast Europe.

The joint DFF regional programme contributes to the realization of Agenda 2030 and particularly to the realization of four goals listed among the sustainable development goals; quality education; gender equality; sustainable citizens and communit and peace, justice and strong institutions.

The programme aims to offer support on the collective identification of issues affecting all citizens in the region and contributing to improved interaction and cooperation between groups.

BIRN BiH Journalist Wins Srdjan Aleksic Award

Emina Dizdarevic, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has won the Srdjan Aleksic Journalist Award in the category of nominations by journalists, for her three articles on the challenges facing marginalized groups in Bosnian society.

“Dizdarevic has won the award for shedding light, in a special, analytic and creative manner, on topics already addressed by many other journalists, but she did it in a different way and from a different angle.

“The judges were most impressed with her article on the special ‘obstacles’ placed before the Sarajevo Pride Parade organizers, to prevent the LGBT population from realizing its right to hold peaceful protests,” the announcement said.

Her first awarded article dealt with the rights of LGBT persons in Bosnia. Dizdarevic noted systemic shortcomings that force those citizens to pay a higher price than other Sarajevo citizens to exercise their freedom of assembly.

In the second awarded article, Dizdarevic addressed online radicalization through the example of a 23-year-old man, and the systemic problems of online content, which leads to radicalization. This topic does not receive much attention in Bosnia but is of great importance in its post-conflict society.

The third award-winning story pointed to problem of holding trials during the coronavirus pandemic. Many crime victims have been awaiting justice for years, but Dizdarevic warned of the extent to which COVID safeguards will further slow down the prosecution of complex cases.

Second prize in the category of nominations by journalists went to Hilma Unkic and Ajdin Kamber of Diskriminacija.ba portal, while third prize went to Alema Kazazic of Federation TV.

In the category of nominations made by civil society organisations first prize for professional reporting went to Minela Jasar-Opardija of N1 TV. Second prize went to freelance journalist Kristina Ljevak, while Lidija Pisker of Media.ba portal was awarded a special plaque.

Dizdarevic has worked with BIRN BiH since 2014. Over more than six years she has published over 1,600 researches, analyses, interviews, footages and news on judicial topics, war crimes, corruption and terrorism on Detektor.ba portal.

She graduated from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, where she also obtained her master’s degree.

In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Fetisov international journalist award for articles on transitional justice processes and rights of war crime victims, as well as their families in Bosnia.

As a member of BIRN BiH team, she won a special award of the European Press Prize for 2020 for “efforts and success in securing justice for war crimes victims” and for continuous professional reporting on sensitive issues over many years.

Last year, BIRN BiH’s director, Denis Dzidic, was honoured with a special plaque at the Srdjan Aleksic Journalist Award ceremony for continuous professional reporting on sensitive issues by BIRN BiH over many years.

Dizdarevic’s award-winning articles can be found on the following links: Pride Parade Put in Unequal Position by Additional Security RequestsNo Response by Authorities to Online Radicalization, Coronavirus Safeguards Stop Large-Scale Bosnian War Trials Resuming.

The journalist award is presented for professional and continuous reporting on marginalized and vulnerable groups in Bosnian society and development of socially responsible journalism.

This year’s presentation was organised by the Helsinki Parliament of Citizens of Banja Luka and Peace Building Network with support from Civil Right Defenders. The official ceremony will be held in spring next year.

EU Investigative Journalism Awards Announced in Bosnia

In an online event, the jury said all three stories from Bosnia are of utmost importance as “they point to many anomalies our society suffers, and that the government persistently ignores.”

The EU Awards for Investigative Journalism for Bosnia and Herzegovina were presented on Thursday in an online event on Zoom.

The three winners, who were awarded a total of 10,000 euros for the stories published over 2019, exposed links between the authorities and extremist groups, told a story about the robbery of a former state arms industry company and shed light on officials illegally appropriating the real estate of Sarajevo’s Jews, killed in the Holocaust.

The head of the EU delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Johan Sattler, said that “investigative journalism is necessary for a healthy democratic society,” and urged the Bosnian authorities to find systemic solutions to protect journalists from attacks and threats.

The jury was composed of jury head Zlatan Music, the OSCE Mission to BiH’s Media Freedom officer, Davor Glavas, a journalist and media expert, and Slavoljub Scekic, editor-in-chief of the Center for Investigative Reporting in Montenegro, CIN-CG.

They had a hard task choosing between 14 shortlisted applications. The jury said that all three stories had something in common, which is a “journalists’ complete commitment to the topic itself, which is reflected in the amount of details, data and information”.

“Each of them [the awarded investigations] is socially responsible and points to many anomalies that our society suffers, and the government persistently ignores,” Music told the online audience.

First prize went to Semir Mujkic from BIRN BiH, for a series of articles on Russian influence in the country presenting an original and comprehensive overview of pro-Russian actors, associations and groups and their local political supporters. Mujkic’s colleagues, Lamija Grebo and Emina Dizdarevic, contributed to the investigation.

Mujkic said that the EU award was very important as it is among only a few such awards in Bosnia, where the state itself does not attach importance to investigative journalism.

“Awards like this are not only a recognition but also an obligation for investigative journalists to continue their work,” Mujkic said.

In second place was Amarildo Gutic, of Zurnal, whose short documentary “Prsten oko Vitezita” peaked under the economic lid of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, and the [Bosniak] Party of Democratic Action, SDA, over the past 25 years.

Azhar Kalamujic, from the Centre for investigative journalism BiH, won the third prize for his story on Sarajevo judges, lawyers and government officials who illegally appropriated abandoned apartments and houses in the Sarajevo that had belonged to Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

The EU awards have the overall goal of celebrating and promoting the outstanding achievements of investigative journalists from the Western Balkan countries and Turkey, as well as improving the visibility of quality investigative journalism in these countries among the public.

The prizes are awarded through the EU-funded project, “Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey”, in 2019, 2020, 2021 in EU candidate and potential candidate countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey, for investigative stories published between 2018 and 2020. In total, 63 awards will be awarded through a three-year period.

The awards in Bosnia and Herzegovina are coordinated by Balkan Investigative Regional Reporting Network, BIRN Hub, which also runs a regional consortium.

UNICEF Awards BIRN BiH Journalist for Contribution to Children’s Rights

Azra Husaric, a journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, has received UNICEF’s award for contribution to the promotion and protection of children’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the “Internet Work” category for her story on the challenges facing children with developmental difficulties and their parents in online classes during the current pandemic.

The awards were given to journalists on the occasion marking World Children’s Day on November 20 at a ceremony held online this year.

Her article titled “Parents Bear Biggest Burden of Online Classes for Children with Developmental Difficulties” told of a boy with Downs syndrome, Harun Tanovic, who did not have a teaching assistant for several months after the start of the school year.

The six-member jury awarded this article in the “Internet Work” category.

“We really had several works worthy of receiving the award, but the one that stands out as the most complete one, encompassing several angles, is the story about Harun, a boy with Downs syndrome, and problems he and his family are facing in the educational system during the pandemic,” jury member Katarina Marjanovic said during the awards ceremony.

Besides problems caused by delays in assigning him a teaching assistant while following the online classes, Harun did not have adjusted lessons, so his parents had to take the burden of this on themselves.

“Journalist Azra Husaric spent several days of online classes with the boy who says: ‘I can do everything on my own, I don’t need anybody’. This resulted in a truly engaging story about the fight for the rights advocated for by UNICEF. So, we, as the jury, recognized and selected this article worthy of this award,” Marjanovic said.

UNICEF in Bosnia also awarded media professionals for their contribution to children’s rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the “Television” category, awarding TV N1 reporter Ivana Eric. In the “Blog” category an award was given to journalist Natasa Lazukic. A special award for media contribution to the promotion and protection of children’s rights was given to Otisak portal journalist Zeljko Lazarevic.

This year’s jury, consisting of Zoran Catic, Nineta Popović, Sandra Gojkovic Arbutina, Katarina Marijanovic, Lamija Silajdzic and Benjamin Omerbegovic, also commended Amina Bijelonja and Tahir Zustra for a TV footage, Hana Kazazovic, Brankica Smiljanic, Ivona Grgic, Ilma Kurtovic and Nejra Dzananovic for blogs, and Snjezana Anicic and Anamarija Zadro for internet work, for their contribution in the media to the promotion and protection of children’s rights.

To show support for World Children’s Day the city of Banja Luka and the city of Mostar will “paint” their best known landmarks, namely the Banski Dvor and the Old Bridge, in blue on Friday night. Sarajevo city centre will also be lit up in blue.

UNICEF representative in Bosnia Rownak Khan said during the ceremony to mark World Children’s Day that the pandemic had had a particularly heavy impact on children and their education.

“In tandem, we must do more to ensure that all children have equal access to quality learning. Governments must prioritize keeping schools open and safe for students, teachers and parents. This needs to go hand in hand with improving online learning options, ensuring equal opportunities for marginalized children. As parents worldwide struggle to maintain their livelihoods, governments must scale up social protection measures through programmes and policies that provide life-saving cash benefits, health care, nutrition and education for families,” Khan said.

Srebrenica Memorial Centre and BIRN Launch Genocide Testimony Project

The memorial centre in Srebrenica and BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina have set out to film 100 testimonies of surviving witnesses of the 1995 genocide to create an oral history which will become part of a permanent exhibition.

The Srebrenica Memorial Centre and BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina have begun a project entitled ‘The Lives Behind the Fields of Death’ which aims to create an oral history by filming 100 interviews with surviving witnesses of the July 1995 genocide of Bosniaks from Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces.

“The primary target group in this project is genocide victims, their families and people directly or indirectly affected by the crime, as well as [post-war] returnees to Srebrenica and the broader surroundings,” said BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s director, Denis Dzidic.

“Through this project, BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina will give the victims a much-needed voice and space in the public arena, enabling them to share their stories, while the Memorial Centre will collect and keep victims’ personal belongings that were found in mass graves and use them as exhibits to accompany stories about real lives that were disrupted by the 1995 genocide,” he added.

The Srebrenica Memorial Centre is calling on survivors to share their stories and to donate any items that belonged to them or relatives who were killed, which will be used to accompany the video testimonies.

“Our museum collection currently holds a large number of items which we have gathered over the past few months. Our colleagues have noted down the basic information linking victims to those items. Now we will try to complete the story through a video of victims’ testimonies,” said Hasan Hasanovic, who is managing the project on behalf of the Memorial Centre.

“Each story is important. Every one of us has an obligation to preserve the memory of their loved ones,” he added.

The Memorial Centre and BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina are filming the first five interviews this week in Srebrenica with people who have donated items that belonged to them or their family members.

Of the 100 testimonies to be filmed for the project, which is being financed by the government of the Netherlands, 20 stories which will be used with the accompanying personal items and presented in a permanent exhibition hosted by the Memorial Centre.

Bosnian Prosecution Questions War Crime Witnesses After BIRN Report

The Bosnian state prosecution has questioned witnesses who could shed light on the wartime killings of Pero Glavocevic and Pero Bozic in the Fojnica area in July 1993 after BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina published an article about the case on September 11.

The victims’ families have been campaigning for action to resolve the case for 27 years.

The Office for Legal Assistance to Veterans with the General Council of the Croatian National Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomed the fact that the the state prosecution has finally started working to identify the perpetrators of the murders.

“Of course, I am aware of the fact that, in order to ensure the goals of the ongoing investigation are protected, the prosecution is unable to provide information on the actions undertaken or being undertaken at present, but it pleases me to know that the case has finally taken off, bearing in mind what has been done in that respect in the past. I hope that this article has contributed to that too,” said Zvonko Vidovic of the Office for Legal Assistance to Veterans.

The Glavocevic and Bozic families had previously addressed the cantonal prosecution in Travnik and the state prosecution on several occasions, asking them to resolve the case as witnesses to the crime have been dying.

Vidovic explained that the first criminal report naming a perpetrator had been filed to the then prosecutor’s office in Vitez on November 8, 1994, and then again a year later.

He said that a request was also filed to the Higher Court in Travnik in 1996, demanding an investigation into four former Bosnian Army soldiers for alleged ethnic cleansing in the Fojnica area. 

He said the Glavocevic and Bozic case was finally submitted to the state prosecution in 2011, but no apparent action was taken until now.

BIRN Movie About Underground Hospital Premieres at Sarajevo Festival

A film about a remarkable hospital that functioned underground during the war in Bosnia – directed by BIRN BiH’s deputy editor – has its first showing at this year’s online Sarajevo Film Festival.

A documentary titled “Underground” directed by Dzana Brkanic, deputy editor of the Balkans Investigative Reporting Network in Bosnia and Herzegovina, BIRN BiH, will be premiered at this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival, taking place from August 14 to 21. The film about a wartime underground hospital will be screened as part of the BH Film programme. 

The film is about a hospital in the town of Olovo that was set up below ground during the 1992-5 war in Bosnia because the town’s old hospital had become exposed to everyday shelling during the war. 

The underground hospital handled more than 1,300 patients each month. Doctors saved hundreds of lives by surgeries and other interventions while midwives delivered around 500 babies. The film follows the young people who were born in the underground hospital during the war. 

“Some time ago I learnt about a hospital built below ground in a very short period of time during the war. Fascinated by the idea, I proposed making a screening of the story, so BIRN BiH produced the story about the superhuman efforts of doctors and other medical staff to save hundreds of lives in inhumane conditions,” Brkanic said.

“It is interesting to note that so many children from Olovo and its surroundings were born there without any complications, four meters below ground, with no electricity and sometimes with no necessary light. We found some of them proudly going through life, claiming that being born in such conditions actually sent a message that ‘they can do anything,’” Brkanic added.

Brkanic was the film director, Denis Dzidic was the producer and Semir Mujkic was the editor. Amel Djikoli, helped by cameramen Faris Dobraca, Jasmin Jatic and Mario Ilicic, was director of photography. Samir Hrkovic and Adis Bazdarevic handled sound while Adnan Musanovic and Elma Selimovic were in charge of music. The song used in the film was written by Mujo Hodzic.

“I am happy to have had the opportunity to be the author of this film and work with these great people, interlocutors and the crew, all of whom shared my enthusiasm for this story and the idea, and agreed that it should be shared with the world,” Brkanic said.

“It is an honour to see this film screened at the SFF alongside the great figures of domestic and world cinematography, and it is a stimulus to BIRN to continue making stories, because they kind of preserve history and the events that happened in this area,” Brkanic noted.

The Association of Filmmakers of Bosnia and Herzegovina organizes BH Film programme as part of the Sarajevo Film Festival, presenting films produced in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as those made by domestic authors living abroad.

This year’s 15th BH FILM programme features 42 films, 31 of which will have their world premieres at the festival.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 26th Sarajevo Film Festival will be screened online on ondemand.sff.ba. Through the platform the audience will have access to accompanying content, such as lectures and interviews with directors.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina Director Given Srebrenica Reporting Award  

Denis Dzidic, director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Bosnia and Herzegovina, was given a Nino Catic Journalism Award on Friday for long-term reporting about the Srebrenica genocide and for contributing to preserving the truth about the July 1995 mass killings.

Dzidic was presented with the award by the Biti Novinar Association from Tuzla at the Srebrenica Memorial Centre a day before the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the genocide.

Other journalists who were given Nino Catic awards included Alema Kazazic for the best TV footage and Ismet Becar for a radio piece. The award was also given to Samir Karic in the ‘written text’ and ‘photography’ categories, while Edina Latif was given the award in the ‘blog’ category.

“I think that every journalist has a special relationship with the truth, as a goal and a challenge. When reporting on genocide and war crimes, the relationship becomes more complex and more important,” Dzidic said during the award ceremony.

“In that sense, the fact that I have been presented with a plaque of recognition, which was named after our colleague Nino Catic, for preserving the truth about Srebrenica over a long period, gives me a sense of honour, but also an obligation for us, at BIRN, to continue reporting on the truth and on Srebrenica,” he added.

Dzidic was appointed director of BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 2019 after working as an editor and journalist for BIRN. He has reported on war-crime trials at the Bosnian state court and the Hague Tribunal since 2008. He has written numerous pieces of analysis and created various TV programmes about the Srebrenica genocide.

Nihad ‘Nino’ Catic was a journalist from Srebrenica. During the war, he broadcast daily reports on the situation in the town. His last contribution to a live programme was on July 10, 1995, and he was last seen on July 11, 1995, when Bosnian Serb forces seized Srebrenica. He disappeared and his remains have never been found.

Biti Novinar also presented special recognition plaques to jury members Almasa Hadzic, Salih Brkic, Marko Divkovic and Marinko Sekulic.

Further plaques were presented to the Srebrenica Memorial Centre, Federal Television, Radio-Television of Tuzla Canton, Federal Journalistic Agency, Al Jazeera Balkans journalist Adnan Rondic, photographer Ahmet Bajric Blicko, RTV Srebrenica journalist Adem Mehmedovic, cameraman Ahmedin Djozic, Federalna.ba journalist Enes Hodzic, teacher Ehlimana Lukacevic-Grbo and humanitarian worker Huso Muratovic.

Nino Catic’s mother Hajra Catic was presented with a gold recognition plaque.

The Nino Catic award ceremony was organised under the patronage of the Federal Ministry of Displaced Persons and Refugees with support from the BH Journalists’ Association, the Organisational Board for Marking the 25th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide, the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Centre, the Women of Srebrenica Association, the Tuzla Cantonal Government and the City of Tuzla.