Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey
The goal of the project Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey is to enhance media trust among citizens and create a safe environment for journalists to produce independent news content through training, mentoring, technical and financial support, and publishing.
The project has been 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 three-year project has been intended to address the main problems and challenges in the Western Balkans identified in the Feasibility Study for the Establishment of a Regional Program in Media and Journalism Training, a study conducted for the EU between September and December 2016 that canvassed more than 80 media professionals in Europe. The study found:
- poor professional skills among journalists;
- limited training capacity at a high proficiency level for mid-career journalists;
- lack of financial resources in most of the media sector, especially for investigations;
- limited reach of published investigative stories.
Planned activities as part of the BIRN-led project include national and regional training for young and mid-career journalists and for reporters from mainstream media and public service broadcasters. CMDS is in charge of holding regional training workshops on investigative journalism and of developing an investigative journalism curriculum that can be promoted among universities across the region. The curriculum is targeted to both journalism students and students interested either in conducting investigative journalism or in investigative journalism methods. The regional training has been in the form of a hybrid course, with online and offline elements.
The Course Director is Attila Mong, a Berlin-based Hungarian freelance journalist. He works as the Europe correspondent of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an international press freedom organization, and reports on press freedom issues from the EU. He is also an innovation consultant for Germany`s leading media development organization, the DW Akademie and consults digital innovation project all around the world. He is a jury member of the European journalism grant program, Reporters in the Field. In 2013 he finished the prestigious John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship Program and was a Hoover Institution research fellow (2011), both at Stanford University. He authored several investigative books in Hungary and was awarded with the most prestigious journalism prizes in his country (the Pulitzer Memorial Prize for Best Investigative Journalism in 2004 and the Soma Investigative Journalism Prize in 2003.)
Sheila S. Coronel is the Curriculum Development Lead of the project. Sheila is an investigative journalist and journalism professor. She is co-founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) and in 2006, joined the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism as the inaugural director of the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. In 2014, she was named the Journalism School’s academic dean, a position she held till the end of 2020. As academic dean and director of the Stabile Center, she has helped build and advance Columbia’s Journalism School investigative and data journalism curriculum, including the creation of a master’s degree in data journalism. She has also taught journalism courses and spoken at conferences around the world. In 2011 and 2012, she was the lead instructor of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network's Summer School. She is also the author of DIgging Deeper: A Guide for Investigative Journalists in the Balkans, and board chair of the Media Development Investment Fund, which invests in independent media in countries with a history of media repression. She also sits on the boards of the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Columbia Journalism Review, the National Security Archive, and ProPublica. In addition, she is a member and former board chair of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Funding of cross-border story ideas and a study trip for up to 20 editors to a major media outlet in Europe with a highly-developed investigative newsroom are also planned. The project also envisages the launch of a resource platform for investigative journalists aimed at providing them with tools and services needed in their investigations.
An important element of this project is the continuation of the ongoing regional EU Investigative Journalism Award in the Western Balkans and Turkey. Through this scheme, 63 prizes will be awarded over the course of three years, three in each project country (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, North-Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey).
The project is funded by EuropeAid/European Commission through its Regional Training and Support Program to Improve Quality and Professionalism in Journalism.
Mila Bajic is a researcher currently working at SHARE Foundation on the protection of digital human rights and online freedoms. Her work focuses on the intersection of analogue and digital spheres, popular culture, conspiracy theories and visual theory and practice. She is a CEU graduate where she obtained her MA in Nationalism Studies dealing with generational memories and attitudes. During her time at CEU she worked as a junior researcher at the Open Society Archives on the Yugoslav Archives Project where she conducted coding, processing and digitalizing of news articles and documents alongside television news materials. Along with her MA degree she received the Visual Studies Program certificate for a series of documentary shorts, photo essays and visual-theory works. She is an alumna of the Center for Women’s Studies school at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and a two-time participant in the Center for Comparative Conflict Studies summer school. She is a European Fund for the Balkans scholarship recipient and was a recipient of the Dositeja scholarship for young talent in Serbia for two consecutive years.