The three-day training took place in Durres between 16-18 June, gathering 14 journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Turkey, of which 10 were women.
The main aim was to provide journalists with specialized knowledge that will help them protect themselves and their newsrooms from different kinds of attacks, including physical attacks, legal actions such as Strategic Litigations Against Public Participation – SLAPPs, as well as to preserve their digital security.
A wide range of trainers and guest speakers held the sessions, including BIRN managing editors and other external guest speakers.
The first day of the training started with a session by Kreshnik Gashi, Managing Editor of KALLXO.com, who spoke about organizing and planning the desk and teams during field reporting in crisis situations, including undercover filming, handling risks, safety and security of the media, and threats against journalists’ sources.
The second session, focused on cyber security and data protection of journalists, was held by Dion Mulaj, a Security Researcher at FindBug, an NGO that helps journalists deal with cyber-attacks.
The third session was held by Ana Petruseva, BIRN Macedonia Executive Director and investigative reporter, who spoke about wiretapping in North Macedonia and its impact on the media.
Day two started with a session by Arber Beka, spokesperson of the Police Inspectorate of Kosovo who spoke about the lessons that journalists can learn from security institutions in managing crowds, protests, and tensions.
The next session was held by a special guest, Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline Club in London, who has long experience working with BBC News and Channel 4 and most of whose work was focused on the wars in the western Balkans. Specifically, he covered the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Vaughan Smith talked about crisis situations and conflict zones, giving examples from his rich experience as a video reporter in different conflict zones. He spoke about the protection of journalists in protests, how to deal with a mob, identifying weapons, managing tear gas, negotiations between journalists and violent men, and getting interviews with them.
He took examples from recent events in Kosovo, where journalists from different media outlets of Kosovo were attacked by masked protesters in northern Kosovo, as local Serbs were protesting against newly elected mayors in elections that they boycotted en masse. The session was facilitated by Jeta Xharra, BIRN Kosovo Executive Director who also covered the Kosovo war together with Vaughan Smith.
The third session covered fake news and disinformation during crisis reporting, which was given by Faik Ispahiu, Executive Director of Internews Kosova and third-party fact-checker of Facebook. The fourth session covered the First Aid Course, given by the instructors of the Red Cross in Kosovo.
On day three, Vaughan Smith and Jeta Xharra talked about the mindset of journalists when reporting during a crisis, creating contacts with armed forces, protecting equipment and other valuables, but also about PTSD and mental health as a reporter.
The final session was held by Labinot Leposhtica, head of the legal office at BIRN Kosovo, who talked about safe reporting and protection from SLAPP lawsuits and complaints. Specifically, Leposhtica talked about journalism ethics and standards, legal checks or filtering of sensitive journalistic reporting and hiding sensitive data that expose journalists to lawsuits.
He presented successful cases in Kosovo, such as the case of an investigation by BIRN Kosovo, which found that a single businessman in Kosovo stands behind six companies earning millions of euros from the sale of solar energy, in violation of anti-monopoly rules.
The overall objective of the project is to provide systemic support to improve the quality and professionalism of journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey. In the coming months, more activities will take place as part of the project, which will be announced and published soon.