BIRN in Cooperation with derStandard Launches Exchange and Capacity Building Programme

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The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, in cooperation with der Standard, has begun a one-year journalist exchange programme. The programme, which began in April 2010, will include journalists from Austria, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia, and there will be one exchange held per month.

Florian Niederndorfer was the first Austrian journalist to come to Belgrade as part of the exchange. He is conducting research on the history of the USCE Tower, the tallest sky-scraper in Belgrade and the ex-headquarters of the Communist Party under Tito’s regime. The building was bombed in 1999 during the NATO military operation.

Today, crisis-troubled Austrian Hypo Alpe Adria Bank and a number of multinational IT companies, like IMB, occupy offices in the building.

The evolution of the USCE Tower is a particularly interesting research topic, given that the 25 storey building, which was once a symbol of communism, is currently home to some of the most visible symbols of capitalism. Today there is little evidence that the tower was ever linked to communism.

Florian stayed in Belgrade for three days. He held interviews with two historians – Cedomir Antic and Professor Djordje Stankovic, and architect Natasa Vukosavljevic. During his discussions with the historians, he learned that Tito in fact never actually entered the building.

According to Florian, whose April visit was his first to Belgrade, the city surpassed all his expectations and he was very pleased to be the first exchange journalist of the programme.

He was left with the impression that Serbia’s capital fits well with the slogan “No sleep”, enjoy Belgrade, as an advertisement for the country’s most popular energy drink says. Florian was fascinated by the city’s skyscrapers and Belgrade’s other urban delights. He was also very pleased with the  “friendly and warm-hearted reception by the BIRN staff”.

Bojana Barlovac will be the first BIRN journalist to participate in the exchange; she will travel to Vienna at the beginning of May.