Platform B: Resilience of local media – what can we learn from the region and beyond?

Together with our partners, BIRN is continuing its series of online and offline events aimed at amplifying the voices of strong and credible individuals and organisations in the region that promote the core values of democracy, such as civic engagement, independent institutions, transparency and rule of law.

As primarily a media organisation, we want to open space and provide a platform to discuss and reshape our alliances in light of the challenges facing democracies in South-East and Central Europe.

This effort comes at a critical time when the region is seeing several troubling trends: centralized power, reduced transparency, assaults on media, politicized judiciaries, unchecked corruption, online violations, and social polarization – all amidst heightened geopolitical tensions and deep divisions in Europe.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Platform B event series will be organised in accordance with all relevant health measures. As the situation improves, we hope to be able to host some of the events in BIRN spaces in Sarajevo and Belgrade, and elsewhere in the region.

Platform B will be an opportunity for individuals and groups to meet monthly on selected topics.

Next event: Resilience of local media – what can we learn from the region and beyond?

Date: January 28, 2022 (Friday)

Time: 11am-1pm, CET

Local media in the region face a number of structural problems, which have got worse since the pandemic started. The aim of this online event is to discuss the perspectives of local journalism in the Western Balkans through a discussion of media professionals from the region and the EU. During the event, we will also present an interactive publication that will hopefully become an important resource for all local media in the region. 

The first part of the event aims at an exchange between media representatives and journalists from EU countries who face the same or similar problems in their work as media in the region. 

Panelists that will take part in the discussion include: 

Anna Petersen, editor at Landeszeitung Lüneburg, Germany

Márton Kárpáti, CEO of Telex.hu, Hungary

Brigitte Alfter, director of Arena for Journalism in Europe

The panel will be moderated by Besar Likmeta, BIRN’s editor in Albania. 

The second part of the event will be dedicated to tackling specific issues related to the local media in the region. By creating room for discussion on three specific topics, we will try to reach conclusions and come up with possible solutions to some of the problems that local media face. This discussion will be moderated by Amer Bahtijar, president of Tačno.net from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Darija Ranković, editor of Kolubarske from Serbia and Ivana Petrović, editor of City Smart Radio from Serbia.

More information can be found in the agenda.

You can register for the event HERE.  

This event is organized in cooperation with partner organization n-ost within the project “Local journalism – European perspectives”. 

 

Women in Balkan Newsrooms: We’re Not a Monolithic Group

BIRN Platform B debate on Friday heard that, in a context of very diverse experiences, taking a “one-size-fits-all approach” towards fixing the issues women journalists face in the region is not practical.

At one of the series of Platform B events, on Friday, BIRN presented the main findings of its report on the position of female journalists in the Balkans, “Women in Newsrooms: Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Resilience”, which concluded, among other things, that, a “one-size-fits-all approach” to fixing issues women journalists face is not practical, as these women are not a “monolithic” group.

The report includes 21 interviews and a survey filled in by 175 participants, whose responses highlighted trends, opportunities and obstacles, identified through the sharing of experiences and perspectives by women working in the media, to paint a more nuanced and complex picture of women’s role in newsrooms, news-making and the region’s societies more broadly.

“When it comes to women journalists, prevailing narratives have focused on almost exclusively online violence and women’s vulnerability, rather than on the systems that make this type of abuse prevalent, normalized and even profitable,” the report notes, adding that, “when women who are proven to create space for narratives that fall outside of mainstream dialogue are marginalized, the negative implications for society are compounded”.

The report’s six sections depict women as : a monolith; a liability; a workforce; a community; as accessories; and as guerrillas, as “an attempt to paint a picture that is more nuanced – to address the intersecting identities and diverse experiences that actually characterize women’s media – and newsroom more specifically – participation and representation in the Western Balkans”.

In BIRN’s debate on Friday, the co-authors of the report, Bojana Kostic and Jennifer Adams, emphasized the need for “solidarity zones  – spaces created by and for women for support, innovation and connection”, where women can support each other “online and minimize their exposure to social media” which, as the report reads, has “since its inception, failed to provide a safe space for women and marginalized populations”.

One of the panelists, Elida Zylbeari, ethnic Albanian editor-in-chief of the North Macedonian-based Portalb.mk, said that being a journalist can be difficult both as a woman and as part of a minority ethnic group in North Macedonia.

“There’s a (first) language barrier and privilege; the community thinks Macedonians are more important than Albanians, so, when it comes to government briefings, for example, you see even fewer Albanian female journalists,” Zylbeari said, adding that “other minorities (Turks, Bosnians, etc) are practically non-existent – left out, taken less seriously, and undermined”.

Elida Zylbeari at the BIRN Platform B debate on Friday, January 14, 2021. Photo: Zoom/Screenshot

Women journalists in the Western Balkans “are not taken seriously”, as Zylbeari points out. Katarina Radović, a journalist for a regional broadcaster from Novi Pazar in Serbia, agrees. Certain professions such as teaching are perceived as more suitable for women than “being a journalist”, she said.

Adams said international organisations that work in media and women empowerment should work more “to reflect change” and make sure increasing women’s safety in the newsrooms is not translated into a narrative about women being weaker.

“We [international organisations] wanted to push for women’s safety in the newsroom, but the lack of response had the opposite effect. Many women in international media were sent to smaller events because they are considered weaker,” Adams lamented, explaining that, “despite the online violence that is more towards women than men, the reality of women … is not one of weakness”.

Kostic called for more focus on “solidarity zones”, for women to “continue being outspoken”, and for stakeholders to “continue empowering women journalists” by learning lessons from existing women movements.

Platform B – Women in Newsrooms: Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Resilience

Event series by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and partners

Together with our partners, BIRN is launching a series of online and offline events aimed at amplifying the voices of strong and credible individuals and organisations in the region that promote the core values of democracy, such as civic engagement, independent institutions, transparency and the rule of law.

As a primarily media organisation, we want to open space and provide a platform to discuss and reshape our alliances in light of the challenges facing democracies in Southeastern and Central Europe.

This comes at a critical time when the region is seeing several troubling trends towards: centralized power, reduced transparency, assaults on media, politicized judiciaries, unchecked corruption, online violations and social polarization – all amid heightened geopolitical tensions and divisions in Europe.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Platform B event series will be organised with respect for with all relevant health measures. As the situation improves, we hope to be able to host some of the events in BIRN spaces in Sarajevo and Belgrade, and elsewhere in the region.

Platform B will be an opportunity for individuals and groups to meet monthly on selected topics.

Next event: Women in Newsrooms: Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Resilience

Date: January 14, 2022 (Friday)

Time: 3pm-4.30pm CET

At this event, BIRN will present the main findings of its report on the position of female journalists in the Balkans, Women in Newsrooms: Perspectives on Equity, Diversity and Resilience.

The report highlights trends, opportunities and obstacles, identified through the sharing of experiences and perspectives by women working in the media, to paint a more nuanced and complex picture of women’s role in newsrooms, news-making and regional societies more broadly. When it comes to women journalists, prevailing narratives have focused almost exclusively on online violence and women’s vulnerability, rather than on the systems that make this type of abuse prevalent, normalized and even profitable.

This report, and accompanying platform, is an attempt to paint a picture that is more nuanced – to address the intersecting identities and diverse experiences that actually characterize women’s media – and newsrooms more specifically – and their participation and representation in the  Balkans.

The report includes in-depth interviews with more than 20 female journalists, editors, fact-checkers, editor-in-chiefs and activists as well as a broad data collection, comprising a total of 175 responses BIRN obtained through an online survey conducted in October and November 2021.

Together with the authors and regional journalists and gender equality experts, we will reflect on the findings of BIRN’s report and offer some recommendations to regional media outlets, journalists’ unions and institutions on how to advance women’s positions in the newsrooms and stop perceiving them as victims but as agents of change.

A complete list of panelists is to be published soon.

Upon registration you will receive a Zoom link.

Online Violence Against Women Must Not Be Tolerated, Debate Told

Women who work in the public arena in the Western Balkans are regularly targeted by online threats, insults and false accusations, and existing laws must be enforced to protect them, said panelists at a BIRN debate.

Panelists at a BIRN debate entitled ‘Female Empowerment – Online Practices and Challenges’ in Sarajevo on Monday said that online insults, threats and false accusations are commonly-used weapons to discredit and discourage women who work in the public arena.

Iva Paradjanin, a Serbian journalist whose work mostly focuses on women’s rights and who runs a podcast called Tampon Zona, said that even though online violence against women has become more visible, it is still not taken seriously enough.

“We are working to empower women, to raise awareness that violence is not only physical,” Paradjanin said.

She said that online attacks have a real impact on women’s lives, and those who write offensive comments should not be allowed to remain under the illusion that they are free from any kind of responsibility.

Bosnian journalist Dalija Hasanbegovic Konakovic said that women are often attacked because they are seen as a “weaker target”.

“You should not be silent. You will feel better once you start speaking out. In that way, at least you will know that you are fighting back and that you will not be perceived as weak,” Hasanbegovic Konakovic said.

“What scares me the most is that we are losing the thread of humanity,” said Lana Prlic, a member of parliament in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Federation entity, who came under attack online after posting on social media about her COVID-19 vaccination in September 2020.

“We are mothers, sisters, daughters and so on. Those people who are sending us insults, they are forgetting about these identities,” Prlic said.

In the second part of the debate, moderator Zlatan Music from the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and panelists Samra Filipovic-Hadziabdic, director of the Agency for Gender Equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Maja Raicevic, director of the Centre for Women’s Rights, and Adnan Kadribasic, a lawyer and expert on human rights and gender equality, said that the main problem is the lack of response, support and goodwill from the authorities, particularly the police and prosecution.

They urged the authorities in the Western Balkans region to start implementing existing laws and sanctioning perpetrators.

“We have a good legal framework that we can use to sanction these acts. There are various possibilities, we just need to know how to use them, and to want to use them. Improving the institutional response is crucial,” said Kadribasic.

The panelists argued that speaking out about violence empowers other women who have had the same experience and gives them courage to speak out too.

“If you stand by one woman who speaks out, you are showing that she is not alone. By our example, we show whether we are united or not. We must stop normalising violence,” said Hasanbegovic Konakovic.

BIRN Presents Online Platform on China’s Activities in Western Balkans

BIRN’s new interactive map pinpoints China’s growing business presence in the region – which experts say media and civil society need to focus on more.

Experts and journalists have warned that Chinese loans and investments in the Balkans lack a desirable level of transparency and say more of a focus is needed on such activities.

BIRN’s new platform “China in the Balkans”, aims to shed light on China’s increased activities in the six Western Balkans countries.

In the last decade, the region has seen China’s influence grow fast, mostly through its Belt and Road Initiative, BRI.

As a relatively new player in the region, China’s investments have raised some concerns related not only to their environmental impact but to political influence, corruption and growing debt.

While these investments are growing in size and number, access to contracts and other relevant data is often difficult or impossible to find.

The interactive map pinpoints various projects undertaken by China in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Greece.

Editor Ivan Angelovski, who in recent months managed the investigation of China investments in the Balkans, said around 130 China business activities worth around 30 billion euros have been disclosed and presented in the interactive map.

“We are looking at anything related to the state, and digging into that was the real task. Governments are sending mixed messages; they are not clear what is a loan and what is direct investment,” Angelovski pointed out.

BIRN editor Ivana Jeremic said that 61 cases of China projects detected in Serbia make up almost half of all the cases presented in BIRN’s new database.

“For these cases that we were able to detect, the estimated value of projects is almost 19 billion euros …  which explains the scope of influence China has in Serbia and importance of loans and investments,” Jeremic said.

“Some projects got stuck because of legal issues or environmentalists stopping some projects progressing because of environmental issues or land expropriation,” she added.

China’s activity in the region gathered speed in 2009. In that year the financial crisis that hit the world a year earlier was storming through the Balkans, and the region was scraping the bottom of the barrel to make ends meet. 

Greece opened its door through the Port of Piraeus, while Serbia declared China the “fourth pillar” of its foreign policy.

Balkan countries needed money fast, and China needed a friendly corridor from the Mediterranean to Western Europe. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. But it has come at a price. 

By BIRN’s own count, the region hosts over 130 projects worth at least 32 billion euros linked in one way or another to China.

The “China in the Balkans” map is a result of BIRN’s research into the various types of cooperation between Beijing and countries in the region.

It shows China is concentrating on taking over metallurgy, mining, energy, and transport in the region, with most of these projects accompanied by allegations of corruption, exploitation and environmental harm.

Plamen Tonchev, head of Asia Unit at the Athens-based Institute of International Economic Relations, said Chinese business activities in the Balkans should be seen as part of a bigger picture.

“The scale is overwhelming. The fact that Western Balkans are small by any standards, the fragmentation of the region, doesn’t help. China is a giant in terms of economic capacity and everybody is dazzled by the Chinese presence,” Tonchev said.

Ana Krstinovska, program manager at the Centre for Research and Policy Making in Skopje, said China’s activities in the region need to be more of a focus for media and civil society.

“We need to develop a more nuanced and in-depth understanding of China’s activities throughout the world in order to see what China is doing here, how we can maximise our interest,” she said, “because China is here to stay and in addition to being a threat to democratic values, it is an economic opportunity that we should not be missing out on.”

 

 

‘Last Despatches’ Exhibition Commemorates Balkan War Reporters

BIRN opened an exhibition in Sarajevo and published a new book commemorating the journalists and media workers who were killed during and just after the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia.

“Now, 30 years after the beginning of the wars, [some people in] our societies continue to deny many things that journalists documented – denying war crimes, denying genocide,” Ristic said.

The exhibition and book are based on BIRN’s long-running online series, Last Despatches, which documents some of the 155 people who died during the conflicts and shortly afterwards.

BIRN editor Matthew Collin, who edited the Last Despatches book with Ristic, said that the project was an act of commemoration because there have been so few prosecutions for the deaths of journalists during the 1990s wars.

“Our message is that in this atmosphere of impunity, a free media is more important than ever, not only in wartime, but also in peacetime,” Collin said.

Jan Waltmans, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, said that it was necessary to come to terms with the crimes of the past for the sake of future generations.

“I hope that journalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to progress so that hate speech, genocide denial and other problems will disappear,” Waltmans said.

The Last Despatches book is available to buy here.

The Last Despatches exhibition is open at Ferhadija 10, Sarajevo every day from 12 noon to 8pm until December 19. The exhibition is part of BIRN’s week-long Open House programme, which includes events focusing on issues such media freedom, digital rights, investigative journalism and female empowerment online.

The opening of the exhibition in Sarajevo. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
BIRN’s regional director Marija Ristic. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Copies of the Last Despatches book. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Jan Waltmans, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Sarajevo. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s director Denis Dzidic. Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.
Photo: Zlatan Menkovic/BIRN.

BIRN Hosts Series of Events in Sarajevo

BIRN Open House is a series of events in Sarajevo hosted by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, focusing on issues such as media freedom, justice, accountability, memory and digital rights.

The events will take place in the venue that next year will become the Reporters’ House – a space that will host BIRN’s museum dedicated to media and journalists, the war in the former Yugoslavia, and challenges to contemporary journalism.

Even though the venue is being renovated, we want to open it to the public temporarily, in the hope that BIRN Open House will become an annual series of events at our new museum from next year.

As we work across Southern and Eastern Europe, and due to the global pandemic, we cannot bring all of our participants to Sarajevo, so a limited number of the week’s events will be held online.

First day: Tuesday 14 December

18:00 Offline: Opening programme – Last Despatches: exhibition and launch of a new book published by BIRN that profiles some of the journalists killed during the wars in Yugoslavia. The exhibition is a follow-up to our multimedia project last-despatches.balkaninsight.com, which inspired us to create the Reporters’ House.

The exhibition will be otherwise open to the public without RSVP from December 14 to December 19, from 12:00 to 20:00 at Ferhadija Street 10.

Second day: Wednesday 15 December

15:00 Online: Platform B discussion: Chinese Investments in the Balkans: Transparency Locked. Presentation of our database that mapped the Chinese investments in the region, including more than 100 projects in infrastructure, technology and culture. Read more.

18:00 Offline: Presentation of the EU Award for Investigative Journalism followed by a panel discussion “Investigative journalism and challenges of COVID-19 pandemic”.

Third day: Thursday 16 December

11:00 – 11:45 Offline: BIRN Annual Regional Digital Rights Report: Misinformation, Denial and Threats.

12:00 – 12:45 Offline: Discussion: The Far Right, Violence and Misinformation.

Fourth day: Friday 17 December

10:00 – 13:30 Offline: Meeting: Online Content Removal and Blocking.

18:00 – 21:00 Offline: Screening of the documentary ‘Journalism is Not a Crime’.

Fifth day: Saturday 18 December

18:00 Offline: Book launch and discussion: Poems, stories and dealing with the past.

Sixth day: Sunday 19 December

18:00 Offline: Discussion: Remembering Srebrenica through journalism, oral history and activism.

Seventh day: Monday 20 December

11:00 Offline: Panel discussion and brunch: Female Empowerment Online: Practices and Challenges.

Eight day: Wednesday 22 December

15:00 – 17:00 Online: Presentation of a report on conflict prevention in collaboration with Impunity Watch.

 

 

Platform B: China in the Balkans – Transparency Locked

Event series by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and partners

Together with our partners, BIRN is launching a series of online and offline events aimed to amplify the voices of strong and credible individuals and organisations in the region that promote the core values of democracy, such as civic engagement, independent institutions, transparency and rule of law.

As a primarily media organisation, we want to open space and provide a platform to discuss and reshape our alliances in light of the challenges facing democracies in South-East and Central Europe.

This effort comes at a critical time when the region is seeing several troubling trends: centralized power, reduced transparency, assaults on media, politicized judiciaries, unchecked corruption, online violations and social polarization – all amidst heightened geopolitical tensions and deep divisions in Europe.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Platform B event series will be organised in accordance with all relevant health measures. As the situation improves, we hope to be able to host some of the events in BIRN spaces in Sarajevo and Belgrade, and elsewhere in the region.

The Platform B will be an opportunity for individuals and groups to meet monthly on selected topics.

Next event: China in the Balkans – Transparency Locked

Date: December 15, 2021 (Wednesday)

Time: 3pm-4.30pm, CET

In the last decade, the entire SEE region has seen Chinese influence grow, mostly through the Belt and Road Initiative, BRI.  China is a relatively new player in the region, and it has raised some concerns related to the environment, political influence, corruption, and economics. While investments are growing, access to contracts and other data is often difficult, if not impossible to find.

In a bid to bring more information to these discussions and to shed light on the Chinese presence in the Western Balkans and Greece, BIRN is launching its interactive map ‘China in the Balkans.’ A result of BIRN’s research into the different cooperations between Beijing and countries in the region, the map tracks around 130 Chinese-linked projects, including foreign direct investments, but also those focused on infrastructure, culture, technology media and donations sent during the COVID-19 crisis.

Together with our journalists who worked on the project and regional and international experts, we will reflect on the findings of BIRN’s year-and-a-half-long research and discuss the implications of this Chinese presence in a broader geopolitical context.

Panelists inclide:

  • Ivana Jeremic, Balkan Insight editor & journalist working on Chinese activities in Serbia
  • Bojan Stojkovski, journalist covering Chinese activities in North Macedonia
  • Samir Kajosevic, Balkan Insight correspondent for Montenegro & journalist covering Chinese activities in the country
  • Irvin Pekmez, BIRN BiH journalist, who covered Chinese activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • Plamen Tonchev, MERICS European China Policy Fellow & Head of Asia Unit Institute of International Economic Relations (IIER).
  • Ana Krstinovska, a Skopje-based China expert and founder of the research and consultancy services organisation ESTIMA.

Other panelists – regional and international experts – are to be announced in the coming days.

Moderator: Ivan Angelovski, BIRN investigations editor

Registration

This online event is part of BIRN Open House – a series of events hosted by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network in Sarajevo that aim to foster debate about key thematic areas we usually follow through our journalism, but now we want to talk with you about media freedom, justice, accountability, memory, digital rights and many other things. The events will take place in the future Reporter’s House, space that will from next year host BIRN’s museum, dedicated to media and journalists, war in former Yugoslavia and challenges to contemporary journalism.

Upcoming events as of January:

Presentation of BIRN’s report into the position of female journalists in the Western Balkans newsrooms, early January.

 

 

Call for Registration: Online Training on Gender-Sensitive Reporting

Belgrade-based NGO Atina, together with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, is launching a series of online training courses focusing on gender-sensitive reporting on human trafficking and violence against women.

Journalists and writers from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia are invited to register for a two-day online training course on practicing gender-responsive reporting on human trafficking and violence against women.

The main idea behind the training is to examine and expose worrying and increasing trends in the incidence and prevalence of gender-based violence, both in the offline and online sphere in the Balkan region, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The training will be led by experienced activists from NGO ATINA, an organisation that has been running a direct support programme for trafficking and gender-based survivors in Serbia for 18 years now.

Designed to offer a deep insight into ways to avoid the most common mistakes in reporting on human trafficking and violence against women, the training will also offer participants a chance to practice methods of communication with survivors of violence. They should also encourage journalists and writers to apply the methods and lessons learned in their everyday work, raising the quality of their journalism.

There are two available slots for this online training:

  • December 8th – 9th
  • December 22nd – 23rd

Applicants must register for one of these three slots only. The number of participants per training day is limited, so time slots should be booked as soon as possible. Scroll down for registration.

The training will be held in the English language, from 10am to 2pm. Each training day will consist of two 1.5-hour-long sessions that will encompass interactive exercises, facilitated discussions, with an evidence-based approach to group work in practicing gender-responsive reporting on human trafficking and violence against women. At the beginning and at the end of the training course, there will be a questionnaire, and participants will be invited to keep a journalistic diary.

Agenda

Day I

10:00 – 10:30  Introduction of participants, topic and activities

10:30 – 12:00  Not victimhood reporting, but promotion of the agency of women

  • Proactive role of journalists in understanding the context of human trafficking and violence against women (meaning of the phenomenon, why it happens, who are the perpetrators and who are the victims, what are the main trends and statistics, involvement of journalists in the process of identification, referral, assistance and court proceedings)

12:00 – 12:30  Break

12:30 – 14:00  How to avoid the most common mistakes while reporting on human trafficking and violence against women

  • Deconstruction of stereotypes and prejudices

Day II

10:00 – 10:30  Warm-up and recapitulation of the previous day

10:30 – 12:00 Why wording matters

  • Communication with survivors and practicing preferred terminology for reporting

12:00 – 12:30  Break

12:30 – 14:00  Reporting on specific types of violence against women

  • Understanding of violence and abuse in the digital sphere

For more information, contact: Jelena Hrnjak (jelena.hrnjak@atina.org.rs).

Please register here and select a preferred slot. Upon registration, you will receive an email confirmation, and a Zoom link will be sent to all participants a few days before the training course.

The training is being organised with support from the Balkan Trust for Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade.

Women in Balkan Media ‘Must Speak Out’ Against Sexual Harassment

Media organisations in the Balkans should have proper regulations on sexual harassment and gender-based abuses, and media workers should speak out and support female colleagues if they are targeted, journalists told a BIRN debate.

Despite that the majority of journalists in the Western Balkans are women, they still face gender-based discrimination and abuse and often do not feel secure in speaking out due to fears of losing their jobs or reputation and not receiving the necessary support, an online panel discussion organised by BIRN was told on Thursday.

Media organisations in the Balkans should have proper codes and procedures to follow in cases of sexual harassment or other kinds of gender-based discrimination, said BIRN’s project coordinator Sofija Todorovic, who moderated the debate entitled ‘#MeToo in Journalism: When Will Balkan Journalists Speak Up?’

This would “enable that every journalist at the media outlet where she works to be aware of the steps she can follow”, said Todorovic.

Dafina Halili, contributing editor at online magazine Kosovo 2.0, spoke of the difficulty of speaking out in a small country such as Kosovo.

“Women journalists are often harassed in the newsroom in front of journalists who then speak in public and on live TV about sexual harassment [as phenomenon] but do not intervene in cases when their colleagues are being harassed [while they are present,” she said.

Halili said that Kosovo has yet to witness a #MeToo movement, as no public figures have yet spoken out about the harassment they have suffered. But she said that it is positive that young people in Kosovo are organising protests and other events for women rights.

Jelena Jovanovic, a journalist at Montenegrin news outlet Vijesti, said that a patriarchal mindset often stops women from speaking out, particularly in rural areas where even domestic violence is kept hidden.

Jovanovic explains the situation is not much different for women journalists who often are faced with gossip that they achieved where they are by sleeping their way up.

“I took the approach saying ‘yes I did it’ to shut people up and at one point it worked but it did not stop, the gossip moved to other colleagues” Jovanovic explains.

Natalija Miletic, a journalist and fixer who works between Serbia and Germany, explained that despite the #MeToo movement, the situation remains difficult.

She said that in Serbia, despite the fact that some media organisations are overwhelmingly staffed by women, “there is no woman editor-in-chief in the mainstream media”.

Zhaklin Lekatari, a journalist, sex blogger and human rights activist in Albania, said that a #MeToo movement does not exist in Albania either, and that there are two main issues women in the country face when considering speaking out about their experiences of abuse and sexual harassment – fear and lack of trust.

“We don’t have a gap in the gender representation of editors-in-chief in Albania, but the [media companies’] policies are not feminist,” Lekatari said.

The panellists agreed that the problem will not be solved by having more female editors-in-chief, but by improving management practices and editorial policies.

Lekatari advised young female journalists to seek support and solidarity – “find support, identify, link groups together and organise them”.

Urging women journalists to come forward and speak to BIRN about their stories, even anonymously, Todorevic said: “The right time to speak up is whenever the women [who have been victims of abuse or sexual harassment] are ready to speak up and if they don’t speak sooner it is everybody’s fault.”