A total of 18 journalists from around the region, 11 of whom were women, attended the course.
Over three days, the participants became familiar with fact-checking and verification tools and studied in-depth investigations from the region.
The first day’s training was conducted by Stephane M. Grueso, deputy coordinator of Spanish fact-checking media outlet Maldita.es, who talked about the current global problem with disinformation.
Grueso also discussed disinformation in democratic states, the pandemic, infodemia and disinformation on social networks and messaging apps.
During the day’s second session, he talked about the various disinformation narratives that emerged during the COVID pandemic and the Ukraine war, the importance of Osint, and what he called the largest disinformation crisis in modern history.
Grueso also talked about fact-checking organisations, their methodologies and how they work, giving examples from Maldita.es, which part of the International Fact-Checking Network and European Fact-Checking Standards.
The course continued with a session held by Marjana Planojevic, a data protection expert who spoke about data protection and privacy in the media. She discussed data protection principles, rules for media publication of personal data and private information, digital service providers, video surveillance, the right to privacy, and highlighted examples from case studies.
The last session of the day was held by Ivana Nikolic, a programme manager at BIRN, who presented BIRN’s innovative interactive platform BIRD, created for journalists who want to keep up-to-date with the fast-changing world of technology.
The second day continued with Grueso from Maldita, who talked about verification tools and techniques to debunk disinformation, giving practical examples. The examples included tool repositories and how to observe photos and video debunking while using reverse search and metadata. He also spoke about geolicalisation and maps, advanced internet searches and how to archive internet materials.
The next session was conducted by Meri Jordanovska, a journalist and deputy editor-in-chief of Metamorphosis in North Macedonia.
Jordanovska spoke about in-depth investigations conducted in North Macedonia and examples of fact-checking and fighting disinformation from BIRN Macedonia’s ‘Skopje 2014 Uncovered’ database, which investigated the government-sponsored revamp of the capital called ‘Skopje 2014’ and could lead to a criminal investigation.
Jordanovska also held a session on the most common types of disinformation in the Balkans, such as fake commercials, conspiracy theories and the selling of various kinds of medicine while using disinformation.
The last day of the training course was conducted by Kreshnik Gashi, the managing editor of BIRN Kosovo’s KALLXO.com. Gashi spoke about the misinformation and propaganda spread by Russia, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Balkans, citing findings from investigations in Kosovo.
He also talked about the use of whistleblowers while reporting on organised crime in the Balkans, how to protect whistleblowers, and how organised crime functions in the Balkans.
Gashi and the participant journalists from Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia practiced the verification of news reports and shared ideas for future stories using fact-checking and investigative journalism techniques, which could become part of a fellowship programme that BIRN Kosovo will run.