BIRN BiH Journalist and Editor Win EU Investigative Journalism Award

BIRN BiH Journalist Lamija Grebo and Dzana Brkanic, BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina deputy editor, have won second prize of the European Union Investigative Journalism Awards for an investigation based on court verdicts over the past ten years for hate crimes.

The jury consisting of media expert Lamija Aleckovic, Political Sciences Faculty professor Lejla Turcilo and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation director Tanja Topic from Banja Luka awarded Grebo and Brkanic for their multimedia data research, which showed that hate crimes were mostly sanctioned with suspended sentences, with only one quarter of those convicted being imprisoned, and investigations in some cases taking more than 20 years.

Awarding the prize, Turcilo said the story threw light on the absurdity of the court system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointing to the need for changes in Bosnian society.

Suspended Sentences Do not Prevent the Spread of Hate” was based on verdicts passed down before all courts in Bosnia over a ten-year period. It revealed also that there was no unified system for registering such crimes, which has made the monitoring and investigating of those cases more difficult.

The two journalists thanked members of BIRN BiH newsroom for their help, adding that they appreciated the European Union Award and the jury which recognized their work.

“Many hours of browsing through hundreds of court and prosecutorial decisions, numerous queries, interviews with experts, but also with our fellow citizens who have still not seen justice after 20 years, stand behind this investigation. At a time when hate crimes are happening nearly on a daily basis, it is even more important to point to this problem with a view to improving the prosecution, ensuring justice for victims and achieving a potential general prevention [of such crimes],” Grebo said.

Brkanic said the value of the award was reflected in the additional visibility of investigative stories, which bring changes in society, adding that she hoped this story also would have a positive impact in favour of victims.

“Returnees live in fear throughout BiH, minorities are endangered, and no one has information about the attack on LGBTIQ activists and fellow journalists in March this year. Hence, this award, alongside the support which independent newsrooms such as ours get from foreign donors, represents an incentive and obligation to continue with our work,” she said.

Brkanic and Grebo shared second place with Predrag Blagovcanin, who was awarded for his story titled “Between the HDZ and DF: How the Defence Ministry of BiH Protected a War Criminal”.

First prize was awarded to Semira Degirmendzic for a story titled “Turkish Cengiz Wins Contracts Worth a Billion KM, but Fails to Pay Compensation to Bosnian Workers”. Third prize went to Arduana Pribinja for a story titled “Abuse of Patients in Sarajevo: False Diagnoses for Expensive Medicines”.

Johann Sattler, Head of the Delegation and Special Representative of EU in Bosnia, said during the awards ceremony that Bosnian citizens had the right to be informed about irregularities in society.

“Professional journalism is essential for the health of the society, while freedom of the media and expression is one of the key priorities for the entry of BiH into the European Union,” said Sattler, adding that without achieving this priority, Bosnia could not join the EU.

In 2021, BIRN BiH deputy editor Brkanic won the third prize of the European Union Investigative Journalism Awards for a piece on the non-transparent collection of humanitarian aid for construction of wells and mosques in Africa.

The EU Investigative Journalism Award celebrates the best investigative stories written in the previous calendar year and is awarded in all six Western Balkan countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia) and Turkey. The organiser of the award ceremony, Thomson Media, an organisation with multi-year experience in developing and promoting media freedom, awarded a regional prize for the first time this year.

Grebo and Brkanic previously won a special European Press Prize in 2020, as members of BIRN BiH, for “efforts and success in ensuring justice for victims of war crimes”.

Jointly with their colleague Jasmin Begic, they were shortlisted for the Srdjan Aleksic Journalism Award in 2022 in the “contribution to the community” category.

EU Awards for Best Investigative Journalism in Bosnia Announced

On October 5, in Europe House in Sarajevo, the winners of the EU Awards for Investigative Journalism in Bosnia and Hercegovina were announced.

Semira Degirmendzic, Predrag Blagovčanin, Džana Brkanić, Lamija Grebo and Arduana Pribinja were selected from many colleagues as this year’s winners for their stories published in 2022 exposing violations of labour rights, protection of war crimes, the spread of hatred and wrongdoings in the health system.

The jury consisted of Lamija Aleckovic, a media expert with over two decades of experience in journalism; Lejla Turcilo, a professor at the University of Sarajevo specializing in media theory, journalism, PR and online media; and Tanja Topic, a former journalist, political analyst and media expert.

The first prize went to Semira Degirmendzic (Fokus.ba, Raport.ba) for the story “Turkish Cengiz got deals worth a billion marks, but will not pay compensation to the workers.”

The second prize was shared between Predrag Blagovčanin and Džana Brkanić  and Lamija Grebo.

Blagovčanin, from Tacno.net, got the second prize for the story “Between the HDZ and DF: How the Ministry of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina protected a war criminal”. Brkanić and Grebo, from Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, got the second prize for the story “Probation does not prevent the spread of hatred”.

The third place was given to Arduana Pribinja from Al Jazeera Balkans for her story “Misuse of prescriptions by patients in Sarajevo Canton (parts I and II)”.

Lejla Turcilo, representing the jury members, explained the decision and announced the winners while the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ambassador Johann Sattler, handed the certificates to the winners.

More information can be found here.

The EU Award for Investigative Journalism 2023 is part of the project “Strengthening Quality Journalism in Western Balkans and Türkiye II”. This aims to recognise and promote outstanding achievements in investigative journalism as well as improve the visibility of quality journalism in the Western Balkans and Türkiye.

 

 

Workshop for Sarajevo Canton Teachers on Teaching History from Database of Judicially Established Facts

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Institute for Development of Pre-University Education of Sarajevo Canton are organising workshops in October for history teachers at which plans for lessons about the past and a multimedia Database of Judicially Established Facts will be presented.

During a meeting held at the Institute for Development of Pre-University Education of Sarajevo Canton – an advisory, educational and coordination body for starting and steering the growth and development of the educational system – participants stressed the need for teachers to use the Database of Judicially Established Facts, arising from previous evaluations filled out by educators to whom BIRN BiH had presented the materials.

Institute director Senada Salihovic said it was a pleasure to offer to teachers an innovative, yet verified, working material.

“We gladly support and participate in projects which will be based on high pedagogical and scientific standards, as a guarantor of development and progress of society as a whole. Our mission is to motivate teachers for further training, although they are already doing an excellent job,” Salihovic said.

In March 2023, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network of Bosnia and Herzegovina BIRN BiH presented its Database of Judicially Established Facts about the War in BiH.

This contains information from all Hague Tribunal verdicts about crimes committed in the 1992-5 war, video testimonials from survivors and victims tailored to pupils, as well as lesson plans containing activities, to help teachers and professors give lessons about topics from the recent past.

“We are pleased that as many teachers as possible will use our database. Our goal is to start working on its expansion soon, by means of drawing facts also from verdicts passed down before the State Court and other courts in the region, in addition to those from the Hague verdicts,” BIRN BiH director Denis Dzidic said.

The October workshop for teachers in Sarajevo will be run by representatives of the Institute and BIRN BiH who worked on compiling the materials, alongside professor Melisa Foric-Plasto.

For the purposes of this project, she has prepared a 200-page document containing lesson plans with learning activities and concrete examples of events from the past war.

 

 

Internet Governance Forum to Be Held in Bosnia Again

After five years, the Internet Governance Forum is being held again in Bosnia – and, below, you can help select the topics to be discussed by experts in cyber-security and citizens’ rights, representatives of academic community and the media.

The first national meeting of the Internet Governance Forum, BH IGF, to be held in Bosnia in the past five years is scheduled to take place in Novotel Hotel, Sarajevo, on October 2.

Given the complexity of the country’s set-up, the non-existence of a strategic approach and the growing challenges facing the country as regards digital rights, cyber-security, social media operation and other issues in the online sphere, BIRN BiH jointly with its partners has decided to relaunch the IGF platform in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Organising Committee consists of the Cyber-Security Excellence Centre in Bosnia and Herzegovina, CSEC, BHNIX.ba, the Centre for Education of Judges and Prosecutors of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Faculty of Political Sciences of the Sarajevo University, Logosoft and BIRN BiH.

The main focus of the forum will be cyber-security, with a new report on such threats in Bosnia to be presented for the first time, as well as on freedom of expression and the media on the Internet, historical revisionism, and violence against women and marginalized groups through information and communications technologies.

Each session will result in key recommendations, which will be conveyed to the Global IGF 2023 to be held in Tokyo, which has been convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations since 2006.

It would give us great pleasure if, by selecting two of the offered topics of importance for citizens, you would influence the work of this year’s forum, whose practical ideas will be presented at the next annual meeting. And, if you wish to attend in person, email your application to: [email protected]

Choose two topics for the Internet Governance Forum in Bosnia

  1. Violence on the Internet
  2. Security in cyber space (security of institutions, private companies, citizens’ data)
  3. Systematic approach to the Internet issue
  4. Networks as a platform for hate speech, genocide and war crime denial and disinformation
  5. Freedom of speech on the Internet, vs repressive laws restricting it
  6. Bosnia’s readiness for artificial intelligence, AI
  7. Human rights before digitalization
  8. Other…

 

 

BIRN BiH Launches Video Campaign about Missing Persons

Marking International Day of the Disappeared, BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina has launched a campaign to help raise awareness of the pain of family members of those who disappeared during and after the war.

by Dzana Brkanic

By August 28, ten videos of family members of the disappeared from across Bosnia and Herzegovina – saying who they are searching for and sharing memories of that person, with a plea for help in finding the person – will be posted on BIRN BiH’s social media.

All of them share a joint pain and hope that they will one day find the remains of their loved ones before they die.

“Considering that we have reported on war crimes and on missing persons in BiH for nearly two decades, we are well acquainted with what the families are going through. Unfortunately, we have fewer and fewer interlocutors, because families are disappearing naturally.

“This campaign is our way to be their voice, with a hope that someone who sees these videos will help them, that someone will grow a conscience and reveal where the bodies were buried,” said Denis Dzidic, executive director of BIRN BiH.

He explained that, at the end of each video, there is information on how to report locations of individual or mass graves to the Missing Persons Institute of BiH anonymously.

Within BIRN BiH’s campaign, called “I am still searching for…”, members of families of the missing have shared their own findings about their loved ones’ fates.

Some went missing in the area of Sarajevo and its surroundings, others in Mostar, Bugojno, Zvornik and other places in Bosnia. BIRN BiH spoke to fathers, mothers, sisters and children of the missing, and many of them described their love for, and memories of, their loved ones.

All of them asked for help, highlighting that many members of their families did not live to bury their loved ones. Many of them would give everything and pay for the information, they said in the filming.

Around 30,000 people went missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1992-5 war and the search for more than 7,000 of them is still ongoing.

The International Day of the Disappeared is marked each August 30, as a day of remembrance of and tribute to people across the globe, who went missing in armed conflicts, crimes against humanity or as a result of violations of basic human rights.

The campaign is being implemented with the support of the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation consortium.

 

Digital Rights Training for Bosnian Journalists: Applications Open

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina invites journalists, NGO representatives and activists from across Bosnia to apply for a three-day training program addressing topics and cross-cutting issues related to digital rights and freedoms violations in the Balkans.

The training will take place in Bjelašnica, Sarajevo, from September 29 to October 1, 2023.

The way the media reports on dangers and human rights in the digital space is very important, so journalists and human rights advocates need to understand how the Internet and its networks work and be informed about the latest policy developments in order to be able to recognise and report on violations of rights in the digital space and point out questionable policies.

BIRN BiH’s three-day training will focus on understanding human rights-related issues in the digital sphere, such as privacy, security, violence against women and marginalized groups, content regulation, malign foreign influence through propaganda and manipulation, and other relevant topics.

“When we talk about ‘digital rights’, we are talking about the same rights that are fundamental for all people in the physical space, such as freedom of expression, privacy, access to information, security, which also apply in the era of the Internet, technology and social media. It is important to understand digital rights in order to protect them in online spaces that are developing every day, and in which human rights require effective and human-centric responses towards arising malicious influences and often oppressive legal regulations,” said Aida Mahmutović, BIRN BiH project manager. She added that violations of human rights on the Internet in Bosnia and the Balkans are no different from those in the rest of the world.

The first threat report on cyber threats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, issued by the Cyber Security Excellence Center and BIRN BiH, shows more than 9.2 million separate cyber attacks were recorded in Bosnia in November 2022 alone, against a wide range of targets. This points to the significant vulnerability of citizens, companies and institutions to cyber-security threats.

The lack of regulations at a national level, comprehensive and coherent strategies and systems in place is worrisome when it comes to responding to these threats, which are aimed at not only institutions but citizens as well.

Online harassment, especially against women and marginalized groups, is burgeoning. When it comes to abuse of intimate images, for example, the absence of laws and support system in place discourages the victims, the latest Detektor Magazine reports.

The BIRN BiH training will give at least ten selected journalists, NGO representatives and activists a comprehensive understanding of the risks at stake, in order to help them to identify and report on digital rights violations more effectively.

Journalists especially play a crucial role in raising public awareness and driving change. By equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge, this training will enable them to produce impactful stories that can contribute to a more informed public debate and eventually lead to policy changes that protect and promote digital rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans.

Who can apply?

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina invites journalists from across Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as NGO representatives and activists who have an interest in or advocate for human rights in the digital space, to apply.

Those interested should demonstrate an interest in digital rights, possess previous journalism experience and/or show active engagement in the field of rights in the digital space. A selection committee will evaluate the applications. Ten participants will be selected to participate in the training.

Where?

The training will take place in Bjelašnica, Sarajevo, BiH, from September 29 to October 1, 2023. On October 2, all participants will then join the Internet Governance Forum in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. The organisers will fully cover the travel, food and accommodation costs of the selected participants. The working language of the training is Bosnian. Knowledge of the English language is desirable.

Opportunity to pitch ideas after the training

On the last day of the training, participants will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas for stories and other content to BIRN BiH. The selected participants will receive mentoring and financial support to implement their ideas in accordance with newly acquired knowledge related to human rights violations in the digital space, such as freedom of expression and freedom of media, access to information, violence against women and marginalized, cyberthreats and foreign malign influence (including manipulation and propaganda).

How to apply and deadline

You can apply by filling in the application form below no later than August 31, 2023, by 10 pm CET. If you have questions about the training, contact: [email protected]. Please note that only selected participants will be contacted.

 

 

 

 

Nino Bilajac

Nino joined Detektor (BIRN BiH) in 2022 as a journalist. He is based in the Sarajevo office providing support to regional operations.

His main responsibilities include following developments related to corruption and crime at government institutions and public companies, as well as foreign malign influence. Previously, he worked in the media and NGO sector, such as the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN), Face TV Sarajevo and N1 BiH as a reporter, editor and producer and was responsible for researching, investigating and authoring complex investigative stories, covering financial misuse in public procurement and public funds.

During this period, he also gained valuable experience in investigative reporting.

His awards include “Eco Journalist” 2022 – winner; European Union Award for Investigative Journalism in BiH 2021 – second prize; European Press Prize 2021 – selected in the top five; CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism 2018 – winner; Thompson Foundation – Finalist for the Young Journalist Award, 2017 University and Languages.

Nino studied Communication and Journalism at the University of Sarajevo. His bachelor’s degree was in media and communication. In addition to his formal education, he attended various projects, courses and seminars on journalism and investigative reporting. Along with Bosnian, his mother tongue, Nino speaks English.

Nermina Kuloglija-Zolj

Nermina Kuloglija-Zolj joined BIRN BiH in August 2019. For the last four years, she has been researching extremism, terrorism, genocide denial and corruption.

She published many investigative stories about far-right groups in Bosnia and the Western Balkans, following the activities of at least five far-right groups operating in Bosnia. Before joining BIRN BiH, Nermina was a journalist at the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo, where she started her career in 2017, first as an intern, then as a journalist, focusing on researching corruption and organized crime.

Awards

In 2021, she was given a special mention by the judges of the CEI SEEMO journalism awards for outstanding merits in investigative journalism. That same year, she was a finalist for the Kurt Schork Awards in International Journalism.

She holds a master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Sarajevo.

 

 

Minja Krsmanović

Minja joined BIRN BIH in January 2023 as Legal advisor.

She graduated with a Law degree at the University of Sarajevo. She had over 10 years of working experience before coming to BIRN BIH. In relation to her current position, she gained experience as a legal advisor in a law firm and a debt collection company.

She is based in BIRN BIH’s Sarajevo office – and when not there is traveling.

Enes Hodžić

Enes joined BIRN BiH in May 2022 as a journalist/investigator. He is based in BIRN BiH’s Sarajevo office providing support to various projects.

He works as an investigative journalist and specialist court monitor. Since joining the team, he has contributed to various investigative pieces related to far-right extremism. During the past year, he has done several researches into harmful foreign influences in the Balkans and cyber security, including the first report on cyber security threats in BiH, which BIRN BiH presented in cooperation with CSEC.

Some of his investigative pieces, which were high on the media radar, were: “Bosnian Entity Road Company Ignores Sanctions, Promotes Gazprom Petrol Stations” – “Detektor, BiH ranjiva na cyber napade zbog nedostatka ključnih dokumenata” – “Detektor and “Kako su dvije desničarske organizacije spriječile mirnu šetnju povodom Dana bijelih traka u Prijedoru”.

He authored the first Detektor Magazine episode on cyber security, “Građani i institucije i dalje bez zaštite od cyber napada”, and co-authored an episode of the TV Justice show about the online monetization of hatred flourishing in Bosnia and Serbia.

Apart from journalism, he has high interest in technology and (cyber)security.

Previous Experience

Previously, he worked in various media outlets in Bosnia and gained extensive experience in journalism and investigative work, administration, financial and operational work.

Since 2012, he worked at the media outlets Visoko.co.ba, Radio Sarajevo and Federation Television as journalist and editor and was responsible for various projects and contents in those outlets.

He also worked as a project manager at VICOBA d.o.o., working on various media projects, including the Engaged Citizens Reporting project.

During this period, he also gained valuable experience in office management, project operations, field investigations, social media management and use of different digital tools needed for the jobs listed above.

 Awards

 He received an award for continuous reporting and contribution to witnessing the truth about the genocide in Srebrenica at the “Nino Ćatić” Journalist Award event in 2020.

University and Languages

Enes studied communication science at the Faculty of Political Sciences of the University of Sarajevo. His major was in communication sciences, journalism, PR and marketing. In addition to formal education, he has attended various project related and journalism courses/seminars. Along with Bosnian he speaks English.