BIRN Wins Austria’s Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Award

RSF Austria on Thursday awarded BIRN its prestigious Press Freedom Award – A Signal for Europe – which BIRN’s regional director, Marija Ristic, described as an honour and encouragement.

In a ceremony held online because of the COVID-19 restrictions, Reporters Without Borders Austria on Thursday honoured BIRN for its courageous investigative journalism in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and for its dedication to the fight for human rights, democracy and justice for the victims of war crimes.

Marija Ristic, regional director of Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, said she felt “honoured by this acknowledgment from our Austrian colleagues. It is an encouragement and it gives us more motivation to continue with our uncompromising reporting.”

“It support us in our endeavour to make our societies more democratic and hold powerful to account,” she added.

The award also specifically honoured BIRN’s founder, Gordana Igric, the organisation’s regional director until May 2018, for her pioneering work in establishing the network.

“With it, she has done enormous and almost unbelievable pioneering work,” Rubina Mohring, president of Reporters Without Borders Austria, said.

“The result is a masterpiece,” Mohring added. “This pan-Balkan journalistic network that she has built up now has offices in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Romania and Serbia. The publications of the BIRN reports also reach the media in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece and Croatia, in Moldova and Montenegro, in Poland and Slovenia and in the Czech Republic.”

BIRN’s regional director, Marija Ristic holds Austria’s Reporters Without Borders award. Photo: BIRN

Ristic stressed that the award was going to the entire organisation. “This is not just a reward for my leadership and Goca’s vision,” she said. “It is a reward for the whole network – with more than 200 people who work together and really made cross-border journalism, collaboration and diversity a reality in a region that saw wars and unrest.”

Workers for the network “are often labelled spies”, she remarked. “They face pressure, intimidation and lawsuits – but despite all of that they produce great public interest journalism.”

The Austrian branch of Reporters Without Borders, RSF, gives the Press Freedom Award – A Signal for Europe every year.

The Paris-based RSF is a leading international non-profit and non-governmental organisation. It is dedicated to safeguarding the right to freedom of information, to promoting free, independent and pluralistic journalism and to defending media workers.

Thomson Media Advanced mobile journalism e-workshop in North Macedonia

Thomson Media announces call for participants for its advanced online workshops on mobile journalism.

Eligible participants are those who have completed Thomson Media Mobile Journalism beginners online course, want to learn more tricks of the trade and produce high quality mobile journalism reports with support and mentoring from Thomson Media experts.

Join Aleksandar Mansiev and Kristina Ozimec for the free Thomson Media Advanced Mobile Journalism online workshop from 5 – 10, October. This practical, live online workshop will allow you to acquire advanced skills in mobile journalism and put them into practice in group and individual work with support of our trainers and mentors.

By the end of it you will be able to:

  • Employ the techniques to create powerful images using a smartphone
  • Acquire skills in making short videos and photo-stories using smartphones
  • Create content of relevance to and that engages audiences.
  • Use filming and editing apps suitable for IOS and/or android devices
  • Recognise the different formats needed for different social media platforms
  • Adapt material filmed on smartphones for different social media platforms.
  • Construct content to work effectively for viewing on smartphones.
  • Use acquired editorial skills to create balanced content.

Busy week? Not to worry: although the online workshop takes place over 5 days, it has been designed to allow you to attend specific group and individual sessions, which means that you will be able to get on with your work and personal life in between!

Tuesday, 06. 10: Participants have 4 hours of online training with breaks and an assignment (est. 3 hours).

Wednesday –  Friday: Participants work in groups: Group 1 session from 10:00 to 13:00 and Group 2 session from 14:00 to 17:00 (assignments of est. 3 hours)

Saturday, 10. 10: The last day is dedicated to individual editing and production focused sessions. Each participant works with a trainer for 30 – 45 minutes and spends the rest of the day editing his/her mobile journalism output. Our trainers will be available from 10:00 until 18:00 for individual sessions.

After the e-workshop: All participants will have an opportunity to consult our experts in the weeks after the online workshop as they produce high quality mobile journalism content and finalise it for publishing.

To apply, please fill in this online form. The application deadline is Sunday, 4 October, by 16h.

Please note that completing our basic 4-hour online course on mobile journalism is a prerequisite for participation in the online workshop. To enroll please visit the online course page.

For more information about our e-workshop course on mobile journalism please contact Maja Vasic-Nikolic at

The e-workshop is organized in the framework of the Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey project, which is implemented by BIRN Hub in partnership with Thomson Media gGmbH (TM), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Central European University (Center for Media, Data and Society at CEU), the Media Association of South-East Europe (MASEE), the Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN CG), the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers in Macedonia (SSNM), BIRN Albania and BIRN Serbia.

The project is funded by EuropeAid/European Commission through its Regional Training and Support Program to Improve Quality and Professionalism in Journalism.

Serbia Hugely Underestimated COVID-19 Death Toll, Official Admits

Confirming the substance of BIRN reports on this issue, a Government Crisis Staff member has admitted that the COVID-19 death toll in June was far higher than was officially reported, blaming a new information system.

A member of the Serbian Government’s Crisis Staff, Predrag Kon, has admitted that the number of deaths related to COVID-19 by June officially announced by the government was three times less than the real number.

Kon blamed the new informational system being used for the first time, which had not been not accurate, saying subsequent analysis of the data revealed a big difference between the real and announced numbers.

“We were using an information system for the first time. That information system at one point, at one time, was not precise enough and I cannot say why, so, somewhere from mid-June, it was not accurate,” Kon told NewsMaxAdria TV on Tuesday.

“Examining everything that happened, it is clear that there is a difference between what we, at the level of Belgrade, determined as cases and, especially deaths,” he added.

“Deaths cannot be accurately reported unless a certain period has elapsed. The data entered in the death certificate is only returned in two months… I processed the data by June. By June, in short, there were three times more deaths not only than what was officially announced but also what was reported,” he continued.

Kon said that such things “happen all the time”, and repeated that “we have never worked on that system”.

At the end of June BIRN reported that from March 19 to June 1 this year, a total of 632 people died in Serbia who had tested positive for the coronavirus, which was more than twice the officially announced number of 244 deaths in that period.

By analysing data obtained from the state’s own COVID-19 information system, BIRN also reported that the number of people who had oecame infected in Serbia from June 17 to June 20 was at least 300 per day, which was far more than the officially announced figures. They recorded a maximum of 97 new cases in a single day during that period.

At that point, officials from Batut Institute, which manages the COVID-19 information system, declined to respond to the BIRN reports while state officials, including President Aleksandar Vucic, dismissed BIRN’s revelations.

Serbia was in a state of emergency, with a curfew and strict bans on movement lasting from March 15 until May 6. Soon after the state of emergency was lifted, many of the other bans were lifted, too, so Serbia was among the first states in Europe to again allow mass gatherings, and big audiences for football matches. One between local rivals Red Star and Partisan on June 10, according to Reuters agency, attracted some 25,000 fans. Serbia also held parliamentary elections in June 2020.

Thomson Media Launches an Online Course on Mobile Journalism

As a part of a Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey project, Thomson Media has launched an online course on mobile journalism.

The online course is open for journalists or media professionals from the Western Balkans who are interested in using their mobile phone for complete production of powerful journalistic stories.

Through practical exercises, the online course will enable participants to learn how to take powerful photos, record audio and video and edit journalistic stories on mobile. It will help them think as mobile journalists who use a smartphone and newly acquired skills for independent production of quality media content.

Participants of the online course will learn

  • Mobile journalism basics and its advantages;
  • How to take control over your mobile phone camera;
  • How to take high quality photos and record audio and video with your phone;
  • How to edit journalistic stories on your mobile phone with free applications.

The course was developed in accordance with Thomson Media blended learning approach – it allows participants to work at own pace, and those who successfully finalise it will be awarded a certificate and a chance to participate in an advance course in Mobile Journalism to be held as e-workshop, followed by one on one mentoring by our experts in content production.

The course materials are all available to participants as soon as they enrol and they will need approximately 4 hours to finish the course.

The online course is hosted by Thomson Media lead regional trainer, Aleksandar Manasiev, an experienced journalist and editor of the digital media Vidi Vaka.  It features a special appearance of Glen Mulcahy, the pioneer of mobile journalism who has inspired and championed the growth of mobile journalism across the globe.

The self-paced online courses are available in three languages – Macedonian, Bosnian/Serbian and Albanian. Participants from the region can enrol as of the following dates:

For more information about our online course on mobile journalism please contact Maja Vasic-Nikolic at

The course is organized in the framework of the Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey project, which is implemented by BIRN Hub in partnership with Thomson Media gGmbH (TM), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Central European University (Center for Media, Data and Society at CEU), the Media Association of South-East Europe (MASEE), the Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN CG), the Independent Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers in Macedonia (SSNM), BIRN Albania and BIRN Serbia.

Turkish Recipient of BIRN EU Award for Investigative Journalism Acquitted

Zehra Özdilek, who won first place in the 2020 BIRN EU Investigative Journalism Awards competition, was acquitted by Istanbul 27th Criminal Court on September 24 of committing a crime by publishing information about the identity of a trial witness in a news report.

Özdilek was accused of “identifying a public officer on anti-terrorist duty as a target” because of a news report she wrote that was published in Cumhuriyet newspaper in May 2019.

She was charged with disclosing the name of a “secret witness in a counterterrorism case” in an interview that she conducted with a teacher who had been dismissed from duty by decree.

Özdilek was acquitted under the verdict that stated that the witness’s identity was not revealed by her news story.

“I agree with the verdict. The [identity of the] witness had been disclosed in several newspapers and websites before my article was published, meaning that I did not disclose the information, it had already been disclosed.” Özdilek said.

She won the EU Investigative Journalism Award for her story entitled “Zindaşti Bomb”, which unearthed ties between drug trafficker Naci Zindaşti and Burhan Kuzu, a former MP from the ruling AKP party.

In her acceptance speech Özdilek said she was accepting her award “on behalf of all imprisoned journalists”.

The 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.


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