BIRN Macedonia Holds Debate on Marginalised Groups

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network Macedonia in partnership with the Centre for Civic Communications organised a debate on May 13 in Skopje entitled ‘Detecting common issues as a basis for cooperation between journalists and non-governmental organisations about the inclusion of marginalised groups in society’.

Marginalised debate MAcedonia

The debate about marginalised groups and the problems they are facing in Macedonia was the second in a series of nine held as part of the ‘Project for investigative journalism and cooperation between media and civil society’, which is part of a USAID programme for strengthening independent media in Macedonia.

Debates are being organised on topics selected at a large meeting between journalists and NGOs in mid-April. They include: quality of life; health; cultural policy; education and youth; human rights; EU integration; good governance; inter-ethnic relations.

About 20 journalists and representatives of non-governmental organisations took part in the latest debate, talking about possibilities and ways of cooperation.

The NGO representatives concluded that media often publish negative reports about marginalised groups, and emphasised that sometimes positive examples can be useful for tackling certain problems.

They listed dozens of topics concerning marginalised groups that are a priority for society and need to be tackled.

The journalists showed interest in most of the topics, asking for more details about some of them, but adding that cooperation with the NGOs should be intensified because writing about marginalised groups is sensitive and needs serious preparation.

BIRN Macedonia Holds Debate on Environment

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – Macedonia in partnership with the Center for Civic Communications, CCC, organized a debate on April 29 in Skopje entitled “Detecting common issues as a basis for cooperation between journalists and non-governmental organizations about environmental issues”.

Macedonia debate april 3

It was the first in a series of nine debates in the “Project for investigative journalism and cooperation between media and civil society”, which is part of the USAID Program for strengthening the independent media in Macedonia.

The debates will be organized on the topics concluded at a large debate between journalists and NGOs in mid-April. These include: quality of life; health; cultural policy; education and youth; human rights; EU integration; good governance; inter-ethnic relations; social inclusion.

About 20 representatives of non-governmental organizations and journalists debated the possibilities of working together on important issues for the environment but also for citizens.

NGO representatives said that it was problematic that the media lack specialized journalists on these topics, and that the media tend only to show interest in their work if there is something sensational to report.

Macedonia debate april

They listed dozens of topics that are priorities for the environment in Macedonia and answered more detailed questions about the options for research on those topics.

Journalists said that they were interested in writing investigative stories on the topics that the NGOs are working on but they needed a more direct and individual approach while issues were ongoing. They also suggested that analysis done by NGOs be written in more understandable and accessible language.


Macedonian NGOs and Media Mull Closer Partnership

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network – Macedonia in partnership with Center for Civic Communications, CCC, organized a debate on April 17 in Skopje entitled “Detecting common issues as a basis for cooperation between journalists and non-governmental organizations”.


It was first in a series of debates in the “Project for investigative journalism and cooperation between media and civil society”, which is part of the USAID Program for strengthening independent media in Macedonia.

About 90 NGO representatives and journalists debated for almost three hours, suggesting different topics of common interest. Energy, corruption, media and freedom of speech, marginalized groups, migrations, cultural policy, customer rights etc. were among the dozens of topics suggested and discussed.

The president of the CCC, German Filkov, who moderated the debate said that it was a good opportunity for NGOs and journalists to establish closer relations in order for their work to be more visible.

“Every day I get calls from journalists who ask for relevant sources. We will create a website designed to provide all information from the NGO sector, so it will be easier for journalists to write their investigative stories but also easier for NGOs to contact journalists”, Filkov said.

The debate concluded that NGO and journalists should work together as much as possible so that their work is credible and to encourage positive changes in society.

Ten priority topics will be identified as the conclusion of all suggestions from this debate. In the next two months smaller debates on these topics will be organized with the participation of journalists and NGO representatives from the given area.

At the same time, a call for 10 grants for journalists for 2013 will be published so they can apply with ideas for investigative stories.

BIRN Macedonia USAID Project Launched

Project aims to bridge divide between media and civil society and stimulate investigative journalism through grants and mentorship.

BIRN Macedonia today promoted its Project for Investigative Journalism and Cooperation between the Media and Civil Society, gathering representatives from different media outlets and CSO representatives engaged in various fields in Skopje.

The project, part of the wider USAID Program for Strengthening the Independent Media in Macedonia, aims to improve cooperation between journalists and civil society through debates and workshops and to contribute towards more independent investigative stories by offering small grants and mentorship to investigative journalists.

Michael Stievater, Director of the USAID Macedonia Office of Democracy and Local Governance, underlined the importance of collaboration between the CSOs and journalists.

“This project will provide journalists with a unique opportunity to gain from their peers’ experiences, identify common issues, investigate and speak out on vital issues,” Stivater said at the promotion.

Ana Petruseva, host and director of BIRN Macedonia, explained that the project intended to help fill a void in the media in Macedonia and provide a platform for investigative journalism.

“I would like to highlight the importance of this project for both civil society organizations and journalists in Macedonia, especially in this turbulent period that the media in Macedonia is in now,” she said.

Sabina Fakic, of the Centre for Civil Communications, a partner organization, said the next project event, on April 17, would be a public debate between NGO and media representatives on issues of common interest.

Zaklina Hadzi-Zafirova, of SCOOP Macedonia, presented the grants for the investigative journalists, while Snezana Lupevska, editor of the KOD investigative TV magazine, spoke of the challenges facing investigative journalism in Macedonia.

More than 70 guests from the media and civil society attended the first event of the project.

Running until July 2015, it will award 40 small grants to journalists writing investigative stories and 10 scholarships for journalists to attend the BIRN School for Investigative Journalism.

More than 100 stories will be published on a new internet media outlet, which will be initiated to promote independent and investigative journalism.

The project will also hold 20 discussion groups and workshops for journalists and civil society organizations on topics of interest.

Al Jazeera Balkans Hosts Balkan Insight Managing Editor

Ana Petruseva, BIRN Macedonia director and Balkan Insight managing editor, took part in Al Jazeera Balkans’ current affairs TV show ‘Kontekst’ on April 4.

The topic of the programme was the upcoming second round of the local elections in Macedonia. Another guest on the show was Macedonian political analyst and professor at Skopje University of Political Science, Vladimir Bozinovski.

‘Kontekst’ is a daily programme aired by the Balkans branch of the international Al Jazeera news network, which was launched in 2011. The April 4 edition can be seen by following this link:

Skopje Debate Demands More Freedom of Information

Macedonia’s Centre for Civic Communications, in partnership with BIRN Macedonia, organised a public debate in Skopje on February 1 entitled ‘Initiative for Changes to the Law on Free Access to Public Information’.

Several recommendations were suggested by journalists and NGO members during the debate, including shortening the legal deadline for issuing information from 30 to 15 days, increased use of freedom of information legislation and greater authority for the parliamentary Commission for Free Access to Public Information.

The CCC’s analysis shows that Macedonia’s freedom of information act has been used by journalists very rarely. Journalists are discouraged by the long deadline for responses, but also by the often incomplete and unsatisfactory answers they get from public institutions.

According to the CCC’s analysis, only 50 per cent of journalists know about the right to obtain public information, and 56 per cent of those do not believe they will get the right information within the legal deadline.

The debate concluded that journalists should use this right as much as possible.

“Our goal is that the use of this tool by journalists is increased. We want to improve the quality of reporting. There are millions of pieces of information lying somewhere in some drawers, information that is important and vital for people, their life, work and for the whole society,” said German Filkov from CCC. 

BIRN Macedonia Receives USAID Funding

BIRN Macedonia has signed a grant agreement with USAID in Macedonia for a 30-month project aimed at enhancing cooperation between civil society organisations and media and strengthening investigative journalism in the country.

BIRN Macedonia will implement the project in partnership with the Centre for Civil Communications, SCOOP Macedonia, KOD TV magazine and Koha daily newspaper.

In partnership with local media and NGOs, BIRN Macedonia will organise a series of events designed to bridge the gap between civil society organisations and media and foster valuable relationships between NGOs and journalists.

In addition, the project will award grants to journalists for investigative stories, offer mentorship and guidance to journalists in the editorial process and arrange publication for investigative stories on various issues in the country.

The project will run until June 2015.

Balkan Fellowship Alumni Meet in Macedonia

The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence has gathered 35 alumni from nine countries of the region in the Macedonian capital Skopje.

The award ceremony, honouring the work of the 2012 fellows, was held on Friday, November 23.

This year’s winners are Sorana Stanescu, Saska Cvetkovska and Aleksandra Bogdani.

“I will never forget the feeling when I was awarded, it was really special moment for me,” said Majlinda Aliu who won the first place in 2011 for her story about the Balkan war widows.

On Saturday the alumni had an opportunity to see the newly revamped Skopje. They were taken for a guided tour to see dozen new buildings and numerous monuments and sculptures, new bridges as well as hear about the controversies related to the costly project that has now put Macedonia on the tourist map.

The alumni also attended a panel with Roberto Belicanec of the Media Development Centre and Xhabir Deralla from the NGO Civil and a discussion about the current political situation in Macedonia, the deteriorating state of media and freedom of speech as well as the fragile inter- ethnic relations.

“I did not know much about the situation in Macedonia before, but now I am inspired to come back here with the TV crew and make a piece about it,” said Jelena Kulidzan, a journalist and editor from Montenegro, awarded with the second price in 2011

The same day, the group discussed future alumni activities and models of cooperation, including the joint regional reporting projects.

“It is great seeing all of us together, this network is the biggest asset of the programme and I really enjoy being in touch with the likeminded group of professionals,” said Nenad Radicevic, a fellow from 2007.

The idea to hold annual alumni meetings came about as a result of interest by former fellows to continue to jointly contribute to the goal of promoting excellence in journalism in the Balkans.

The alumni initiative is supported by Erste Stiftung and the Robert Bosch Foundation, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.

Balkan Fellows Meet in Skopje

Ten fellows from the region met in Skopje for the final seminar of the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence.

Following the opening dinner on Wednesday night, on Thursday the agenda included a panel on social networking and the media with Filip Stojanovski, program coordinator at the Metamorphosis Foundation for internet and society.

Stojanovski gave the fellows valuable insight as well as practical tips into how journalists can use social networks to promote their work, but also how they can gather information and double check on facts. The fellows exchanged views and examples of journalists’ use of social networks throughout the region.

The second panel on the state of media in Macedonia included Goran Mihajlovski, editor-in-chief of Vest daily, Tamara Causidis, president of the Journalists’ union and Petrit Saracini of the Macedonian Media Institute. The panelists discussed the deteriorating state of the media and of journalistic standards in the country, and other challenges that journalists face.

The panelists and the fellows discussed issues of media freedom, the media’s struggle to survive in the market and alternative ways for the media to survive and resist pressures coming from political or business interests.

On Thursday the fellows had a guided tour in the centre of Skopje and visited all the new building and monuments erected as part of the Skopje 2014 project, a government project to revamp the city.

The Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the ERSTE Foundation, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, has been running since 2007.  Each year, ten Balkan journalists are competitively chosen to receive funding and professional support to conduct their own research projects.

Selected journalists receive a fellowship of 2,000 euro, a travel allowance of up to 2,000 euro and a chance to participate in a seven-month programme for professional advancement. In addition, the independent Selection Committee awards bursaries of €4,000, €3,000 and €1,000 to the authors of the three winning articles.

This years award ceremony will take place on November 23 in Skopje.

Journalists Gather for Fellowship Climax in Skopje

This year’s final gathering of participants from the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence is taking place in Skopje, between November 21 to 23.

The selected journalists will present their works in front of a board of international editors.

The jury will select the three best articles from the programme this year.

The members of the board this year are:

  • Florian Bieber, a professor and director of the Centre for Southeast Studies at the University of Graz
  • Gerald Knaus, the president of the European Stability Initiative think tank
  • Remzi Lani, the executive director of the Albanian Media Institute
  • Milorad Ivanovic, executive editor of the Serbian weekly, Novi
  • Markus Spielman, editor of the Swiss newspaper, Neue Zeitung Zuricher
  • Adelheid Wölfl, an editor at the Austrian daily, Der Standard

The winners will be announced on the evening of Friday, 23 November, at a ceremony at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Skopje.

A further 30 journalists from the region who are alumni of the Fellowship are also expected to participate in the event.

The theme for this year’s competition was “communities”. Journalists on the programme reported on topics ranging from football fan groups, the environmental movement, radical Islamists, youth unemployment, orphans and the exploitation of immigrant workers within the European Union.

Some articles from this year’s programme have already been published in prestigious local and international outlets. Several more articles are scheduled for re-publication in the local and international press within the next few weeks.

Click here for more information about this year programme.

Launched by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and Erste in 2007, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), this annual scholarship provides financial and professional support to journalists, encouraging good reporting in the Balkans region.

“We believe that journalists from south-east Europe should have the chance to be engaged in basic research with an international dimension, beyond their daily duties in their media,” says Robin Gosejohann, Project Manager, Erste Foundation.

“We are pleased to support this programme, along with our partners, for the sixth year in a row, and we will continue with this practice.”

The programme encourages regional networking among journalists and seeks to provide quality reporting on complex reform issues that are of central importance for the region and for the EU.

Ten of this year’s scholars were selected from among more than 120 candidates from nine Balkan countries.

After the completing the programme, they will become part of the Fellowship alumni network of regional journalists.

The competition for next year’s entries will open in early 2013.