Journalists Selected for BIRN’s Digital Rights Programme

The winning applications have been selected for BIRN’s first digital rights oriented programme – which aims to explore the effects of digitalisation processes and the challenges facing digital rights.

Twelve journalists from Albania, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Romania, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia and Turkey have been selected to participate in BIRN’s first Digital Rights Programme for Journalists, covering concerns over digital rights trends in Southeastern and Central Europe.

The programme awards bursaries to individuals and teams of journalists who will explore topics such as censorship on social platforms, the effect of online video games on dominant narratives, digital political interference, cyber violence against women, 5g infrastructures, surveillance and algorithmic decision-making processes.

For the duration of the course, the journalists will be provided with comprehensive editorial and writing skills training, and be given a chance to meet some of the most important European CSOs working on their topics of interest. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the whole programme will be held online.

The digital rights programme focuses on the continuous monitoring of digital rights violations in eight countries, the production of compiling content and cross-sectorial networking.

By combining strengthening accurate reporting with promotion of basic human rights standards and an understanding of the fast-evolving technology, the programme strives to contribute to a healthier digital ecosystem for everyone.

The Digital Rights Programme development is supported by Civitates, Sida, ERSTE Foundation and by European Artificial Intelligence Fund.

Ivana Drakic Brkan

Based in Sarajevo, Ivana assists with implementation of BIRN Hub’s programmes and provides day-to-day management of the monitoring and evaluation activities related to them, including working with programme staff, external consultants, implementing partners and key stakeholders.

Previously, Ivana worked for more than 10 years in the NGO sector in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro. She managed different programmes and projects throughout the entire business cycle, from project planning and writing, implementation of activities to reporting to different donors. She managed several regional projects, and is also proficient in research and
monitoring activities, social media and financial management of projects.

Ivana is a political scientist, and graduated from the University of Montenegro in Podgorica. During her undergraduate studies, she spent one year studying in the USA on a USAID/World Learning exchange program. She is currently enrolled in a Master studies at the Faculty of
Economy in Podgorica. Besides speaking BHS languages, she is fluent in English, and knows Spanish and French.

BIRN Launches Balkan Terrorism and Foreign Fighters Database

BIRN’s unique new database includes court verdicts handed down in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia for domestic terrorism and for going abroad to fight in the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

The Terrorism and Foreign Fighters Database, which was launched on Friday by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, contains comprehensive information about court verdicts for domestic terrorism in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

It also includes verdicts from the trials of people accused of going abroad to fight for the so-called Islamic State and other militant groups in Syria and for pro-Russian separatist forces in the conflict in Ukraine.

The database utilises BIRN’s extensive experience of covering terrorism trials in the Western Balkans and includes photographs and videos as well as a resource centre that offers video explainers and PDF booklets on how to report on violent extremism and terrorism.

BIRN’s regional director Marija Ristic said the database is the result of the BIRN network’s long-term reporting efforts and knowledge.

“We wanted to make a relevant source of data about regional terrorism for journalists and researchers, but also for all those interested in the topic. In addition to the data, which has been checked, we also wanted to share BIRN’s knowledge and experience in reporting on these topics,” Ristic said.

The verdicts in the database cover the period from 2007 to the end of 2020.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has convicted the highest number of people in the region for domestic terrorism, a total of 14. North Macedonia has convicted the second-largest amount, finding 11 terrorism defendants guilty.

Bosnia has also has convicted the highest number of people in the region for going to fight in Syria, a total of 28. North Macedonia has convicted 18 individuals and Albania has found nine guilty.

Serbia has prosecuted the highest number of people for going to fight in Ukraine. Serbian courts convicted 16 people but all the trials ended in plea bargains and suspended sentences.

BIRN Bosnia and Herzegovina’s director Denis Dzidic said that the database contains data about the duration of sentences, the text of court judgments and data about the criminal records of terrorism defendants.

“It is important to emphasise that the database is free and accessible to everyone. It is searchable. We have made a special effort to link the important information, such as previous convictions or other ties between individuals who have stood trial,” Dzidic said.

The database’s resource centre includes videos and a detailed webinar about professional journalistic coverage of terrorism, along with BIRN’s suggestions for external resources that could help improve media reporting.

NOTE: The database was created with financial support from the European Union and Hedayah, the Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism. It can be accessed here.


Open Call for Stories from Montenegro

Do you have an idea for a big story in the public interest? Do you want to explore topics relevant for Montenegro and the EU integration process? Do you want to conduct your story to the highest standards, with training and a quality editorial mentoring from the country and the region that let you explore your subject in depth? Would you like your story to be published in the region, translated into English and to reach wider public?

If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, now is the time to submit your ideas for investigative articles in the public interest related to the EU integration process. The candidates with the best proposals will undergo a training, which will be held in Montenegro at the end of April 2021.

The training will be followed by a selection process. Three candidates with the best ideas, journalistic skills and knowledge will implement their investigative projects, with a close supervision and mentoring of the editorial team from the country and the region.

After completion of the investigation, all stories will be published at the websites of CIN-CG and BIRN, as well as in a special bilingual publication and e-book.

All journalists from Montenegro who have interest and experience in investigative journalism are eligible to apply. Apart from the training, mentoring and editorial support, the selected applicants will receive € 1,000 bursary for their stories (reduced by approximately 9% tax).

Applications should be submitted by March 26th, 2021 to: and to The application form is available online HERE.

Should you have any additional questions, please send them to: or

Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence 2021: Transformation

The Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence is opening its 2021 call for applications.

The programme, now in its 15th year, provides a 3,000-euro bursary and sustained editorial support to journalists seeking to report in depth on the forces shaping societies and democracies across 14 countries in Central, Eastern and South-eastern Europe. The Fellowship emphasises strong storytelling and rigorous, on-the-ground reporting – skills traditionally associated with the best magazine journalism.

The deadline for this year’s entries is 9 April 2021. As usual, applications are solicited under an annual theme. This year’s theme is Transformation. Fellowship editor Neil Arun said the theme gave journalists “a chance to pitch a story that probed the changes that had been set in motion, or that had gathered pace, over the past year.”

The annual selection of 10 journalist Fellows is made by an independent committee. The Fellows are mentored by the programme editor in the course of their reporting, and can also draw on the support of BIRN’s regional network of journalists. In addition to financial and editorial support, the Fellowship offers:

  • The chance to participate in an introductory seminar focused on reporting and storytelling techniques
  • The chance to win additional awards, worth between 3.000 and 1.000 euros, for the three best stories
  • Publication of finished stories in regional languages and in English, through BIRN’s network of media partners
  • Membership of the Fellowship alumni network, designed to support networking between journalists who have participated in the programme

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and ERSTE Foundation set up the Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence in 2007.

Since then, more than 140 journalists from 14 countries in Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe have taken part in the Fellowship’s world-class programme for professional development.

Since 2020, the Fellowship has been accepting applications from journalists in the Visegrad group of countries, as well as from the Balkans.

Applications can be made by downloading the official form. Journalists who wish to maximise their chances of a successful application can read these tips from our editors and check out the latest stories on the Fellowship homepage

For more information, please contact us on

Open Calls for EU Investigative Journalism Award for 2021

Applications are now open for submission of investigative articles.

Investigative stories published from January 1 to December 31, 2020, and related to freedom of expression, rule of law, transparency, abuse of power and fundamental rights, corruption and organised crime are welcome to apply.

The award fund in each country in 2021 (for achievements in 2020) is 10,000 EUR. The first prize will be 5,000 EUR, the second 3,000 EUR, and the third will be 2,000 EUR.

Individuals or groups of journalists are eligible to apply in all journalism forms (print, online, radio and TV) published or broadcast in the media in each country in official, minority or international languages.

Articles eligible for submission must appear in print, online, radio and TV media outlets during the 2020 calendar year.

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

The awards are a continuation of the ongoing regional EU Investigative Journalism Award 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.

The project partners involved all have extensive expertise in the field of media freedom and have been recognised locally and internationally as strong independent media organisations.

The jury for the EU Award comprises media experts, some of them from the project consortia. Others are drawn from the extensive network projects that the consortium members have, such as editors, members of academia and journalists with merits.

Please download individual packages below to find more information about the EU Award for Investigative Journalism in your respective country.

Download all necessary documents for North Macedonia (in Albanian and Macedonian)
Download all necessary documents for Montenegro
Download all necessary documents for Serbia
Download all necessary documents for Turkey
Download all necessary documents for Kosovo (in Albanian and Serbian)
Download all necessary documents for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Call for Applications for Training in Podcasting

Reporters, editors and producers from six Western Balkans countries are invited to apply for a training in investigative podcasts led by prominent international trainers who produce podcasts for the Reveal and Bellingcat investigative journalism websites.

Podcasts are transforming journalism around the globe and their popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. But in the Western Balkans’ media landscape, podcasts that combine the power of investigative journalism and narrative story-telling are still in their infancy. However, there is growing interest in this type of content that can attract a large and diverse audience via mobile devices.

If you are a journalist, editor or producer who wants to learn more about podcasting and are wondering how to turn an ambitious investigative project into a successful podcast, this four-day training will introduce you to the basic concepts and skills needed to adapt investigative stories into podcasts.

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, is organising a training on investigative podcasts for media representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia, within the regional “Media for All” project. The workshop is being led by Michael Montgomery, senior producer at Reveal from the US-based Center for Investigative Reporting. Michael will be joined by Sean Glynn, CEO of Novel, one of the UK’s leading audio production companies, and Max O’Brien, Executive Producer of Novel’s The Bellingcat Podcast.

Following the workshop, the best proposals for new podcasts will receive a financial award to cover production costs and further mentoring support from Michael Montgomery and other producers and editors. In addition to covering story development and production, we will ensure that, at the end of the training you understand how to identify and connect with the target audience and the basic steps in marketing and distribution.

Our lead trainer Michael Montgomery is a dynamic, award-winning journalist with an accomplished career in radio/podcasts, television and print. His work has appeared in national and international outlets including Reveal, NPR, Frontline, the BBC and BIRN. He also has extensive experience in the Balkans: he covered the rise of Slobodan Milosevic, the fall of communism throughout the region and the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo for the UK’s prestigious Daily Telegraph.

Sean Glynn is a highly experienced series producer and executive producer whose work spans current affairs, arts, history and politics. Sean has produced stories and flagship factual series for BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service.

Max O’Brien has overseen award-winning audio documentaries and previously produced BBC Radio 4’s popular long-running series Something Understood. Max has recorded everywhere from séance rooms and operating theatres during open heart surgery to the control room of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Who can apply?

Journalists, editors, producers who wish to learn about podcasting and develop skills that will enable them to create their own podcasts should apply.

All potential participants should apply using the information provided in the application form.

How to apply?

Applicants should complete and submit only one application that you can download below. All applications should be submitted in English to along with the applicant’s CV.

DATE OF TRAINING:  March 22-31, 2021 (Four day sessions in two weeks)


LANGUAGE: Working language of the training is English



DEADLINE: March 14, at midnight Central European Time





BIRN to Conclude Debates on Online Media Regulation

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network will host a group of journalists and editors from across the Balkan region in a live online debate on February 24 to discuss the issues of online media regulation while preserving freedom of speech and avoiding censorship.

The questions of self-regulation and regulation of online media are practical for every newsroom, however rarely they have time to constructively discuss these issues and approach potential solutions.

Media in the region face increasing pressures; not only do they no longer control the news cycle, but they are also often failing to deliver quality journalism under the pressure of speed, clicks and disinformation.

How do we arrive at the best solutions for regulation? How can the process ensure solidarity and include all professional media? What are the perils of self-regulation? Is there an option for government regulation that will not turn into censorship? These are some of the questions we aim to tackle during the debate.

The debate, “Online Media Regulation: Newsroom Perspective”, will feature journalists, editors and other media professionals who face different aspects of this problem daily. The debate moderated by Ana Petruseva, country director of BIRN North Macedonia, will be the final discussion in a series of conversations we held in recent months with representatives of regulatory and self-regulatory bodies, legal experts and academics.

Panellists taking part in the discussion include:

  • Alen Altoka, head of digital media at Oslobodjenje, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Flutura Kusari, legal advisor at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Kosovo
  • Geri Emiri, editor at Amfora, Albania
  • Goran Mihajlovski, editor-in-chief at Sakam da kazam, North Macedonia
  • Jelena Vasic, project manager at KRIK, Serbia
  • Srdan Kosovic, editor-in-chief at Vijesti, Montenegro

To join our third debate in a series of discussions on online media regulation with different stakeholders – organised as a part of the regional “Media for All” project – connect with us on ZOOM on Wednesday, February 24, at noon CET.

Save the date and register HERE.

Please read the privacy notice before registering.

Open Call for Digital Rights Programme for Journalists

Journalists from Central and Southeastern Europe are invited to apply for BIRN’s Digital Rights Programme for Journalists that aims to explore the effects of digitalisation processes and to go deeper into the challenges facing digital rights.

Through BIRN’s new “Digital Rights Programme for Journalists“ we are looking for journalists interested in fast-evolving digitalisation processes and their impact on democracy, society and lives in Central and Southeastern Europe, particularly the following:

  • The use of the algorithms
  • The forces fuelling hate speech and discrimination in the digital environment and
  • their implications
  • Digital security and phishing campaigns
  • Privacy and personal data breaches and (non)existing protection mechanisms
  • Surveillance policy and use of technology by authoritarian regimes
  • Accountability of the major Internet platforms and online safety of users
  • Information security breaches
  • Arrests for social media posts and pressure applied over online expression and
  • activities
  • Blocking and filtering of content
  • Holding intermediaries liable
  • Manipulation and propaganda in the digital environment
  • Machine learning algorithms and algorithmic decision-making processes
  • 5G technology in the region
  • Cryptocurrencies/blockchains in the world of financial crime
  • Social media bots and troll farms

We are offering a comprehensive, 10-month programme that includes: regular networking opportunities and meetings with actors and experts dealing with digital rights and emerging tech challenges, financial support, on-the-job mentoring and editorial sessions to produce high-quality journalism and educational sessions focused on digital security for media. The programme aims to cover under-reported topics related to the health of the digital ecosystem and digital rights violations in Central and Southeastern Europe.

If you already have a story on your mind but you lack resources and guidance, this is the programme for you.

Each journalist will receive a bursary of 2,000 euros to support their reporting.

In order to apply for the programme, use the application form attached below to send us a proposal for a regional investigative story.

As part of our Reporting Democracy platform, BIRN’s “Digital Rights Programme for Journalists” will enable media workers to cover under-reported topics relating to growing digital rights challenges in the region.  The stories produced will be published on BIRN’s flagship website Balkan Insight, and by prominent European, regional and international media outlets. The programme is supported by European Artificial Intelligence Fund and ERSTE Foundation.

The call is open until February 21, 2021.

Who can apply?

The programme is open to all journalists who believe they have a good story on an under-reported topic concerning the health of the digital ecosystem in Central and Southeastern Europe. We also welcome applications from staff reporters from local and national media who wish to co-publish the story with us.

BIRN is committed to gender diversity and freedom from prejudice on any grounds.

Story requirements

  • The story must deal with at least one of the topics listed above
  • The story must be relevant to Central and Southeastern Europe and must cover at least two countries in the region
  • We are looking for in-depth, investigative stories
  • The story should be around 2,000 words long
  • Each selected story must be published within eight months of receipt of the first installment of the bursary.

How to apply?

Download the Story Grant Form

Download the Declaration

Send us your story proposal using the story grant form, downloadable here.

Please send the completed form together with a signed declaration and your CV to no later than February 21, 2021.

BIRN Launches Online Community to Connect Journalists

BIRD Community is BIRN’s new, secure online platform for our alumni and for journalists reporting on South-East and Central Europe, allowing them to share story ideas, data and information, collaborate and utilise a document archive and contacts database.

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network launched a new cross-border journalism platform on Wednesday, aiming to connect more than 1,000 journalists who took part in BIRN’s programmes as fellows, trainees and grantees, as well as other journalists reporting on South-East and Central Europe.

BIRD Community offers a unique secure online environment in which to exchange information, as well as a comprehensive database and a rich contacts directory of experts across the Western Balkans.

The idea was the result of more than 15 years of experience in connecting journalists across the Balkans and beyond to produce complex regional analyses and cross-border investigations, as well as BIRN’s experience in providing comprehensive training in investigative reporting.

The aim of BIRD Community is to make journalistic work much easier and take journalistic networking to the next level. By joining BIRD Community, journalists will get:

  • A secure environment in which they can easily reach out to BIRN’s team members and other colleagues from our alumni network across South-East and Central Europe.
  • Free access to BIRD Source, an easily searchable and comprehensive database with thousands of documents collected by BIRN over the years and exclusive data scraped from public registries and state institutions’ websites as well as information obtained through Freedom of Information BIRD Source also offers journalists the opportunity to share their own documents and leaks, and has a tool that allows them to sketch a diagram online to summarise investigative findings with other journalists.
  • Access to BIRD Directory, with around 1,400 names and contacts of experts from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.
  • Access to the Forum in which journalists can easily communicate with other members, privately or publicly.
  • The opportunity to send requests for help, information and advice from other journalists by posting them in the Bulletin Board section. The responses from other members can be made visible to all users or can be kept private.
  • Updates on grants and training opportunities.

Members can create public or private topics in the Forum section – the former will be visible to all members, allowing any of them to join the discussion, while with the latter, the creator can choose which members will be able to participate.

The Bulletin Board section is a place to share opportunities with others, ask for help, swap contacts or find a journalist who specialises in a particular topic. In the Bulletin Board section, members can leave posts which can either be private or be seen by all other members.

Once members subscribe to the posts and topics they want to follow on the Forum and Bulletin Board, they will receive an email each time there is an updates.

BIRD Community is part of a broader platform that BIRN introduced last year, BIRN Investigative Resource Desk (BIRD) – an innovative interactive platform created for professional and citizen journalists who want to keep up-to-date with the fast-changing world of technology without sacrificing their ethics or the standards of professional journalism.

The link that takes you directly to the registration page is here.