Digital Rights Action: Enabling Free Flow of Information and Media Integrity

BIRN Serbia
The main goal of the project is to contribute to creating an enabling online environment for the free flow of information, in line with the standards of digital rights and media freedoms.

Summary

Donors: Balkans Trust for Democracy, MATRA Programme.

Information Sheet

Main Objective

The project’s overall goal is to contribute to creating an enabling online environment for the free flow of information, in line with the standards of digital rights and media freedoms.

Specific Objectives

  1. Public knowledge and understanding of the nature and impact of breaches of digital rights and freedoms are improved.
  2. Media policy framework advanced with new legislative solutions, responding to risks for media freedom and rights in the digital environment.
  3. Media improve standards of security, integrity and privacy protection in the digital environment.

Main Activities

  1. Providing the public with new information to instigate follow-up actions (including reactions, republications, and quotations) by relevant institutions, CSOs, other media outlets, and the public at large. Activities within this cluster include journalistic research, production, and publishing of in-depth articles, accompanied by data and document sets and multimedia material (visuals, video, audio). Based on the gathered material and findings ongoing public informing campaign will be implemented, including production, publishing, boosting and moderating a debate on social media channels
  2. Advocating and sustaining policy changes in domestic media regulatory framework includes the following activities: monitoring, consultations with beneficiaries and stakeholders, productions of policy solutions and amendments, participation in working groups, and other fora where media or related policies are discussed to advocate for its implementation.
  3. Raising capacities of media to implement standards of safety and integrity in the digital environment and their awareness of the potential risks – includes direct support to media outlets and journalists through service centre which will provide on-demand support in order to increase standards of privacy protection and the resilience of media and journalists in cases of digital rights violations and online attacks. In addition, a set of tools and internal procedures will be produced and promoted within the media community.

Target Groups

  1. Media community – Journalists, media outlets and media organisations.
  2. Independent institutions – Commissioner for Information of public importance, Ombudsman, Commissioner for Equality, RATEL/ National CERT.
  3. Civil sector – CSO dealing with human rights and data protection.
  4. Institutions – Ministry of Culture and Information and other relevant ministries and institutions in charge of various aspects of digital infrastructure and services (such as Ministry of Telecommunications, IKT office etc.)
  5. Public at large, especially computer literate.

Lead implementer

BIRN Serbia

Partner / Associate implementer:

SHARE Foundation

Are the Public Budgets Misused? Monitoring of State Financing Media Projects

BIRN Serbia
Non-transparent, uncontrolled, and arbitrary allocation of state funds is recognised as one of the most efficient mechanisms of ’soft-censorship’ harming media economic sustainability and, consequently, its independence.

Summary

The long-term objective of the project is transparency and accountability of state financing of media projects and ensuring the quality of public informing. Developed mechanisms of monitoring state budget spending on media will have a positive impact on a manner how the financial resources are allocated ad spent.

Donors: Open Society Foundation Serbia.

Information Sheet

Objectives

BIRN’s advocacy activities focus on public money spending in the media sector and potential corruption and state budgets misuses. Non-transparent, uncontrolled, and arbitrary allocation of state funds is recognised as one of the most efficient mechanisms of ’soft-censorship’ harming media economic sustainability and, consequently, its independence. BIRN, in partnership with IJAS and Slavko Curuvija Foundation implemented the project Public Money for Public Interest and monitored public money spending indicating occurred funds’ misuse. The consortium identified problems which require additional analysis: numerous abuses in the state funding media process (arbitrary selection of commission members, funds allocated to tabloids and media supporting the ruling party, lack of citizens’ participation and scrutiny), accompanied with a low-quality media production; inadequate regulations for individual fund allocations, lack of market and finance analysis before public procurement procedures, increase direct contracts allocation for various media and promotional services directly influencing editorial independence.

Activities

1) Monitoring of public money spending on media production;
2) Report production;
3) Advocacy campaign.

Target Groups

1) Local self-government
2) Ministry of Culture and Information
3) Citizens
4) Media outlets and media associations
5) Civil Society Organisations

Partners

Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia

COVID-19 in Serbia: Information Resilience

BIRN Serbia
In the current situation, there is a great demand for punctual, accurate and objective information among citizens. The crisis disclosed the negative impact of disinformation and its influence on spreading panic among citizens.

Summary

The COVID-19 global crisis reveals the need for and essential role of independent, objective journalism. Serbian society is additionally burdened by the fact that democratic institutions are weak and independent media are marginalized. The Serbian government introduced the state of emergency in an early stage to combat the crisis coronavirus caused. Yet, as much as this measure seemed justified to stop spreading the virus and protect the healthcare system, it opened a space for potential abuses.

In the current situation, there is a great demand for punctual, accurate and objective information among citizens. The crisis disclosed the negative impact of disinformation and its influence on spreading panic among citizens. In addition, the restrictive measures of the Serbian government demand public attention and serious journalistic work in order to keep them transparent and accountable and to prevent deterioration of democratic values and institutions once the crisis is over. Thus, BIRN will go beyond daily reports in order to offer in-depth analysis and data articles that can provide the context, analyze causes and consequences, as well as trends regarding the COVID – 19 crisis and its implications on the public services, work of institutions and society at large.

While mainstream media extensively cover the Covid-19 crisis through daily informative production there is a lack of analysis of the trends, wider context, and the effects of the pandemic on different aspects of our society. Furthermore, most of the media cover the cases and updates in major cities (Belgrade, Nis, Novi Sad, etc.) while the effects of the pandemic in smaller places are even more striking and are paradigmatic of the systemic response flaws. Lack of in-depth articles and relevant analysis causes the greater negative influence of fake news and disinformation hindering efforts to mitigate the consequences of the crisis. Society is dealing, with the pandemic, but also with infodemic, and the best course of the action is to rely on fact-based, reliable, and objective journalism.

Donors: The Balkan Trust for Democracy and USAID.

Information Sheet

Objective

Increasing the quality of media coverage and public understanding of the current COVID-19 crisis and its consequences.

Activities

1) Production (data and in-depth articles and journalistic reports on a daily basis);

2) Work with local journalists;

3) Online campaign.

Target Groups

Journalists, decision-makers, citizens

Under the Spotlight: Capital Investments Projects in Serbia

BIRN Serbia
Promoting institutional transparency and accountability through investigative reporting.

Summary

BIRN continues promoting government transparency and accountability through investigative reporting. BIRN Serbia will continue operating its flagship web platform Javno (Public, www.javno.rs), which currently hosts 20 databases that monitor public spending and the work of the judiciary. The watchdog’s searchable databases contain information such as court cases on tax evasion and money laundering, public procurements approved through emergency measures, subsidies distributed to media by local governments, and travel expenses incurred by government officials.

The project will also encourage other media organizations and relevant NGOs to utilize its databases for other investigative, research, and accountability initiatives.

Donor: National Endowment for Democracy (NED)

Information Sheet

Main Objective

Promoting institutional transparency and accountability through investigative reporting.

Activities

1) Production of investigative articles;

2) Creation of two databases on reconstruction projects for health care facilities, public schools, and energy companies in Serbia;

3) Production of a series of multimedia materials, such as videos and infographics, in order to make the investigative stories more appealing and understandable to the general public.

Target Groups

Local media journalists, state representatives, local-government representatives, public at large, CSOs representatives

Where is the Place of Media in New Internet Governance Policies?

BIRN Serbia
Raising involvement of the media industry in a public debate on new development policies and internet governance issues.

Summary

During 2020, new legal and strategic documents are expected to be adopted in Serbia reshaping media landscape in a digital environment.
Internet and new technologies are the principal transformers of the media sector that bring important change to the ways of informing citizens. Development is based not only on new technologies that are accelerated by the innovation in IT industry (programmes for creation of databases, virtual reality, video, podcast, video 360) but also on new policies focused on internet governance that have a strong impact on the media industry. Only on the European level new directives on copyright, personal data protection were adopted, the directive on AVMSD is in the process of being amended. At the global forums, regulation of internet and internet governance are the most important topics the media industry is dealing with. This issue is especially important for developing countries (or those in transition, as it is the case with Serbia) and which stayed marginalised so far. Above-mentioned issues, BIRN intends to explore and put in a local context, thus counterbalancing the lack of meaningful debate in Serbia.
Media Strategy and other national initiatives, such as Digital Serbia, do not recognize the liaison between media development and internet governance. In such an environment, internet governance policies could be considered as an additional responsibility which has been imposed on media, but as well as an opportunity to overcome or bypass the current deficiency of media regulation.
BIRN will conduct research in order to formulate policy position and strengthen role of media in upcoming processes. With this project, we are aiming to contribute to a new rethinking of media policies and media development.

Donor: Open Society Foundation, Serbia

Information Sheet

Main Objective

Raising involvement of the media industry in a public debate on new development policies and internet governance issues.

Specific Objectives

The initiative is intended to support CSOs in Serbia to test, evaluate and scale their advocacy initiatives in a more strategic way.

Target Groups

Media professionals, decision-makers, state institutions representatives, media managers, journalists, CSOs, IT and telecommunication organisations and institutions

Main implementer

BIRN Serbia

Europeanisation of Kosovo’s Environmental Agenda

BIRN Kosovo

The project intends to reach its aim by creating a partnership based on ‘Triangle Model Advocacy’ by utilising skills and expertise of think-tanks, grassroots organizations, and media, in advocating on crucial energy and environmental issues in Kosovo.

Summary

The project intends to reach its aim by creating a partnership based on ‘Triangle Model Advocacy’ by utilising skills and expertise of think-tanks, grassroots organizations, and media, in advocating on crucial energy and environmental issues in Kosovo.

Information Sheet

Donor:

European Union Office in Kosovo

Main Objective:

The main objective of this project is to foster proactive participation of civil society in Kosovo, in policy and decision making, on energy efficiency, environment, and its impact on health, in order to bring environmental policies closer to the EU acquis.

Specific Objectives: 

  • Specific Objective 1: To enhance CSOs’ and local media capacities to promote energy efficiency, renewables, health, and environmental policies;
  • Specific Objective 2: To strengthen the partnership and dialogue between CSOs, media, and public institutions in the energy sector through public discussions and combined efforts in addressing citizens’ needs;
  • Specific Objective 3: To raise citizens’ awareness, particularly among school-children, on the importance and benefits of healthy choices in energy, food, renewables, and environmental protection.

Main Activities:

  1. Capacity building of at least 50 local CSOs/citizen groups, with a special focus on advocating for energy efficiency and environmental provisions throughout Kosovo
  2. Organize two workshops with 30 journalists that focus on improving knowledge and reporting on energy efficiency, health benefits of renewables and good environment, who will publish 30 stories on local and national level media
  3. Establish and award 6 journalistic prizes in two years on best stories on energy efficiency, environment and health effects of the environment.
  4. Organize two annual ENERGY EFFICIENCY DAYS (EED)
    • Two energy themed conferences
    • One regional conference
    • One international conference
    • Two youth mobilization activities,
    • Publication of two position papers on energy efficiency, environment & health
    • Two media campaigns that include televised debates at national & local level and articles that highlight findings of policy papers produced as a result of this project.
    • Four dialogue meetings with about 200 high school & university students overall on the promotion of best energy efficiency/environmental practice.
  5. Monitoring the compliance of national and secondary legislation with Energy Community Treaty requirements and EU Acquis (Chapter 15, 27)
  6. Advocacy activities/regular meetings with public officials (Parliamentary Committees, Ministries, municipalities & regulatory bodies);
  7. Journalistic reporting and analysis on energy/environmental issues resulting in about 50 articles, analysis & TV programmes;
  8. One documentary on energy/environmental/health issues broadcast on TV and promoted widely through social media.
  9. Environmental education in 20 primary schools on these topics.

Target Groups:

  • Civil Society Organizations – 50 local CSOs for Capacity Building Trainings, including minority organizations
  • Youth – 20 primary schools for the Project’s environmental education program; 250 youth volunteers engaged in environmental education programmes
  • 200 high school and university students
  • Media – 30 journalists for the Project’s workshops, and journalists overall
  • Local and national authorities, legislators, policymakers
  • Western Balkans CSO and media
  • Wide public

Main implementer:

BIRN Kosovo

Partners:

CEE Bankwatch Network, Environmentally Responsible Action Group (ERA), Independent TV Network (Mreza)

Civil Society Advocates: Through Partnership Towards Democratic Development in Serbia

BIRN Serbia
The project aims to strengthen a participatory culture in Serbia and empower civil society groups to get people more involved in advocacy work.

Summary

The project is designed to address the lack of capacities in civil society organizations, CSOs, to undertake successful advocacy efforts, their lack of cooperation with public authorities at all levels, and citizens’ lack of motivation to join and trust CSO advocacy actions.

Donor: USAID

Information Sheet

Main Objective

By building skills, encouraging citizens’ engagement and improving advocacy programs, the project hopes to contribute to the strengthening of a democratic society.

Specific Objectives

The initiative is intended to support CSOs in Serbia to test, evaluate and scale their advocacy initiatives in a more strategic way.

Main Activities

Capacity Boost for Advocacy

Mapping, stakeholder and needs analysis

Advocacy training programs for CSOs

CSOs’ Advocacy Actions

Re–granting scheme

Support to local advocacy initiatives

National advocacy initiative toward participatory environment for CSOs

Web Platform for Advanced Reflection and Learning

Development and maintaining of the web Platform

Help Desk–Advocacy Clinic

Communication and Community Outreach

Local and social media outreach and branding and marking activities

Annual Advocacy Award

Target Groups

  • Local CSOs implementing advocacy initiatives;
  • Citizens

Highlights

Report on CSOs’ needs, policy environment possibilities in implementation of innovative advocacy practices;

  1. Delivered capacity building programs and raised level of knowledge and skills;
  2. At least 50 CSOs in Serbia directly involved in capacity building program;
  3. Advocated recommendations for participatory environment for CSOs in decision making;
  4. Produced set of recommendations on innovative advocacy approaches but tailored on community needs;
  5. Created web Platform for advanced reflection and learning;
  6. At least 15 case studies of successful advocacy campaign produced;
  7. 3 successful advocacy initiative awarded

Main implementer

Belgrade Open School (BOS)

Partners

Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE) and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN).

Moldova – Romania: A Network of Stories

BIRN Romania
The project aims to foster mutual understanding among people from Moldova and Romania by creating a network of human interest stories (print and audio) related to what does it mean to be a Moldovan citizen today in relation with a Romanian one, in an era of geopolitical tensions and radical social change.

Summary

At least ten journalists from both countries will produce some 20 long form, in-depth stories, which will be published on local and international level. A selection of stories will be published as an e-book which will be highly redistributed to general public and stakeholders.

Donor: Open Society FoundatioBlack Sea Trust Fund – A German Marshall Projectn, Serbia

Information Sheet

Main Objective

To contribute to the confidence building and mutual understanding process among the citizens from Moldova and Romania.

Specific Objectives

  • To involve at least 10 journalists from Moldova and Romania to report on human interest stories relevant for both countries
  • To supply local media from both countries with interviews, good-quality analytical articles and opinion pieces
  • To support informed debate on key challenges both countries are facing, both at national and regional level.

Main Activities

  • BIRN Romania team will activate its network of journalists and stringer from Moldova and Romania but will also launch a public call for contributors. Basic rules of editorial policies and communication will be established.
  • BIRN Romania will commission the stories and will schedule their publication date
  • Under guidance from BIRN team (on-the-job training), the journalists will write up to 20 long form, in-depth articles. The articles will be published simultaneously on SINOPSIS website and on BIRN’s media partners from Moldova and Romania. A selection of the articles (or brief version of them) will be published in English on the Balkan Insight website and also distributed to an international audience.
  • A selection and revised version of the articles will be published as an e-book, which will be distributed to general public and stakeholders.

Target Groups

  • At least 10 journalists from Moldova and Romania.
  • General public from the above mentioned countries
  • International audience interested in the Eastern Europe region.

Main implementer

BIRN Romania

Partners

Several publications from Romania and Moldova

Under the Spotlight: Criminal Justice in Serbia

BIRN Serbia

Promotion of judicial transparency and accountability through investigative reporting.

Summary

BIRN will provide comprehensive public insight into the capacities of the judicial system to fight against the corruption through the newly-established mechanism of special courts and prosecution offices in charge of the abuse of funds, money-laundering and tax evasion.

BIRN plans to increase its content production and publishing on BIRN Serbia’s flagship website javno.rs, providing citizens with accurate and unbiased information about cases of corruption, access to justice and abuse of public funds or posts.

BIRN will produce at least four journalistic stories in different formats – investigative, data-journalism and/or analytical content, published on the javno.rs platform, with follow-ups on the reported cases. Additionally, two online databases will be created, establishing an evidence base for tracing the work of the special anti-corruption departments and their effectiveness in processing the cases of high corruption..

Information Sheet

Main Objective:
To promote judicial transparency and accountability through investigative reporting.
Specific Objectives:
  • To promote the accountability of the judiciary and other state institutions through investigative journalism and professional media reporting
  • To put the spotlight on newly-established judicial instruments and their contribution to anti-corruption efforts, by scrutinizing their work and exposing potential cases of the abuse of funds, money-laundering and tax evasion

Main Activities:

  1. Content production
  2. Creation of online databases
  3. Online promotion and awareness-raising

Target Groups:

Journalists, experts, the public
Highlights: 
Investigations, Analysis, Data bases

Digital Media Action

BIRN Serbia

The overall objective is to reinforce the role of media in democratic processes in Serbia by enhancing the reach and impact of quality, public-interest oriented journalism that strives to make government more accountable to citizens

Summary

The Digital Media Action project involves independent media through a small grants scheme and innovative training approaches, responding to their needs and motivations, giving them expertise, tools and resources, including the opportunity to publish and efficiently promote and start monetizing their work.

The project will demonstrate the power of quality media and journalism to bring to the public eye sensitive and underreported issues and steer debate about them.

This will have a positive impact on the Serbian public, who will be better informed and thus able to hold authorities accountable, and also on the participating media, as their profile and influence will be strengthened, creating the basis for their future sustainability.

Information Sheet

Main Objective:
The overall objective is to reinforce the role of media in democratic processes in Serbia by enhancing the reach and impact of quality, public-interest oriented journalism that strives to make government more accountable to citizens.

Specific Objectives:

  • Make independent media more financially stable, producing regular, high quality and professional content that meets citizens’ demands
    There is a considerable need and space for improvement in journalistic, technical and managerial terms in order to expand their influence and create the basis for sustainability in a fast-developing digital arena, currently dominated by questionable and highly politicized, externally influenced journalistic standards and practices.
  • Enable citizens to increasingly understand and debate the performance of public institutions, contributing to raising public accountably
    Citizens’ informed decision-making is significantly reduced by the lack of relevant and unbiased information and debate, especially on potentially controversial issues such as the rule of law. This is exacerbated by the political capture of the mainstream media environment, which leaves large parts of the population deprived of reliable information.

Main Activities:

    • Organise and carry out cutting-edge training, online mentorship, provide expert know-how and technical support to selected independent media;
    • Create a basis for sustainable business model development by providing technical solutions and digital services;
    • Strengthen capacities in development of revenue streams;
    • Provide grants for quality journalistic and multimedia production on issues of public concern that would otherwise remain unreported;
    • Provide editorial mentorship to media awarded with small grants;
    • Coordinate content syndication, exchange and promotion for all participating media;
    • Foster public debate and stakeholders’ involvement over the reported issues through debates, conferences, consultations and online campaigns.

    Target Groups:

  • Local media, independent institutions, experts, communities, authorities, general public

Highlights: 

  • News, analysis, investigations
Partners:
Juzne Vesti