Ivana Jeremic

Based in Belgrade, Ivana is an editor at Balkan Insight who coordinates and works on investigative stories.

Before joining BIRN, Ivana was an investigative reporter and fact-checker at the Serbian Center for Investigative Journalism  from 2012 to 2017 and was Deputy Editor-in-Chief at the same organisation from 2017 to 2018. For the last seven years, she has also been a fact-checker at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.

Additionally, she has been an External Assessor at the Intern Journalism formational Fact-checking Network since 2017. Ivana is the 2017 European Press Prize Investigative Reporting Award laureate. She also received the 2017 Balkan Fact-checking Award, which, under the auspices of the International Fact-Checking Network, was established with the aim of encouraging citizens and journalists in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia to base articles on thoroughly fact-checked information. Ivana has been a fellow of BIRN’s 2018 Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence.

Dragana Peco

Dragana Peco works as an investigative journalist at KRIK and Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and a staff researcher for the Investigative Dashboard (ID) online platform.

For six years she worked for the Centre for Investigative Reporting of Serbia (CINS). She won international 2018 Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism, given by the Central European Initiative (CEI) and the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO).

As part of the KRIK investigative team, in 2017 Dragana won Data Journalism Award and the journalistic award for ethics and courage „Dusan Bogavac“. She received the Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence 2014 and three National awards for investigative journalism, in 2011, 2014 and 2016. Dragana trains other reporters in advanced journalism techniques, how to research business registries worldwide and follow the money.

Andrew Baker

Andrew Baker is a freelance filmmaker and photographer. His work is focused on documentary, both long-form and short.

His current projects include the feature documentary “Bellwether,” an expansive two-year production following the 2016 presidential election through the eyes of Terre Haute, Indiana — the one county in America that always votes for the winning president — and Beekeeping on Pluto, a 40-minute film exploring creation through the world of a Vermont blacksmith.

As a cinematographer and/or cameraman, he worked on “Severed” (Reuters documentary series, 2018), “Betrayal: The Plot that Won the White House” (MSNCB), Ultimaker product films, SNA Displays (Outsider), an untitled Tim O’Brien documentary (Look Alive films, dir. Aaron Matthews) and Ultimaker product films (Ultimaker). He lives in New York.

Olaf Sundermeyer

Author and journalist Olaf Sundermeyer studied law at the Ruhr-University Bochum and journalism at the University of Dortmund.

He has worked for national editorial offices in print media, such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), on radio and on television. His regular editorial team has been with Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) since 2012.

His journalistic specialty is internal security issues such as extremism, crime, and violence in football. He is interested in the causes of conflict as well as the motives of violent activists, speaking with extremists in prison to uncover their motives. Sundermeyer is the author of several books; the most recent, “Gauland – The revenge of the old man” follows the transition of Alexander Gauland, AfD party chairman, from conservativist to extremist.

The biography is based on many of Sundermeyer’s conservations with Gauland and other relevant personalities. For his work, he was awarded the “Long Breath” research award in 2016 and 2018 and the German-Polish journalism award in 2014. Sundermeyer lives in Berlin.

Benjamin Strick

Benjamin Strick is an open-source investigator for the BBC and Bellingcat and an instructor and investigator with the EUArms.

He has a background in law and the military, focusing on human rights abuses, conflict, security, and arms. He is best known for his work for BBC Africa Eye on “Anatomy of a Killing” — together with a team of investigators and BBC journalists, Strick discovered where and when the execution of two women and two young children by Cameroon soldiers took place. “Anatomy of a Killing” won The Peabody, Webby and RTS awards.

Even though “Anatomy of killing” is Strick’s most well-known work, his investigations for Bellingcat and EUArms are equally important. He discovered the first Jihadi cryptocurrency crowdsourcing site on the Dark web and wrote about tracing a Jihadi cell, kidnappers and a scammer using blockchain. He also wrote numerous case studies regarding the use of different investigative tools in conflict areas. Finally, he loves dogs.

Frederik Obermaier

Frederik Obermaier is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author who works for Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Obermaier’s work focuses largely on tax havens, corruption, extremism and intelligence services worldwide. He has taken part in numerous award-winning investigations by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and the Forbidden Stories project, among others. 

Obermaier was part of an investigative team that revealed the existence of a video showing the head of Austria’s far-right party FPÖ, Heinz-Christian Strache, promising government contracts to a woman claiming to be a Russian millionaire. The reporting led to the resignation of Austria’s vice chancellor. Together with his colleague Bastian Obermayer, he initiated and coordinated the “Panama Papers” revelations after an anonymous source provided them with 2.6 terabytes of internal data from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Obermaier co-authored an international bestseller about the project. Before the Panama Papers, he was part of the international team of journalists who revealed the “Offshore Leaks,” “Luxembourg Leaks” and “Swiss Leaks”. 

Obermaier has received numerous honors for his work, including the CNN Award, the Otto Brenner Preis, the Wächterpreis, the Journalistenpreis Informatik, the Helmut Schmidt Journalistenpreis and, together with his colleagues, a Scripps Howard award, the George Polk Award for Business Reporting, the Barlett & Steele Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award (IRE Award). As part of the Panama Papers team, he won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in the category of “Explanatory Reporting”.

Pulitzer Winner and Finalists are Leading Trainers for 10th BIRN Summer School

Award winning journalists and editors will train more than 30 journalists in conducting open source investigations, verifying data and visualising stories at the 2019 BIRN Summer School, taking place in Montenegro.

Blake Morrison, investigative projects editor at Reuters and three-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, is the lead trainer for the 10th annual Birn Summer School. The School will be hosted in the heart of Boka Bay at Herceg Novi and will run from August 18th to August 25th, with participants from across the Western Balkans and Europe.

In addition to Morison’s lectures, the more than 30 participants will have an opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading editors and journalists, such as Frederick Obermaier (Süddeutsche Zeitung), Benjamin Strick (BBC Africa Eye and Bellingcat) and many more.

Since joining Reuters, Morrison has overseen and edited a variety of projects that includes two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize: The Child Exchange, an investigation of America’s underground market for adopted children, and The Echo Chamber, a special report that revealed how a handful of lawyers came to have an outsize influence at the U.S. Supreme Court. At BIRN Summer School he will reveal the secrets of interviewing to attendees, teach them how to conceive and organize an investigative project, and help them learn to imagine a story.

Frederick Obermaier, an investigative journalist for Süddeutsche Zeitung and one of the initiators and coordinators of the ICIJ’s Panama Papers investigation, will teach participants how to investigate large data sets and verify leaks.

As part of the Panama Papers team he won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting; the George Polk award; the Perfil award; and the Nannen Preis, a prestigious German journalism prize. He was voted, together with his colleagues Bastian Obermayer and Vanessa Wormer, “German Journalist of the Year 2016”.

In addition to the Panama Papers, Obermaier was a part of the team that uncovered Germany’s role in the United States’s drone war. Obermaier has received numerous awards for his other work, including the CNN-Award in 2011 and the Wächterpreis der Tagespresse and Helmut Schmidt Prize in 2013.

Participants in the BIRN Summer School will also have the opportunity to study open source investigations from one of the leading researchers in the field—Benjamin Strick, an open-source investigator for BBC Africa Eye and Bellingcat. Strick, with a background in law and the military, was part of the BBC Africa Eye team that developed Anatomy of a Killing, a reconstruction of the killing of civilians in Cameroon in 2015. Anatomy of a Killing won a Peabody Award and a Webby award in the Documentary: Longform category.

BIRN’s own Ivan Angelovski and Ivana Jeremic will teach attendees how to fact check their stories and how to track ships and planes online.

Participants will also have the opportunity to learn from journalist Andrew Baker, who will show them how to visualize investigation, including using smartphones to do so. Award winning German journalist Olaf Sundermeyer will talk about investigative documentaries focused on organized crime and political extremism.

Beyond lectures, participants will enjoy screenings and discussions of award-winning documentaries, including “Bellingcat – Truth in a Post-Truth World.”

BIRN’s Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Media Program South East Europe.

BIRN’s Summer School Closes with Investigation Proposals

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s Summer School ended on Friday with the participants presenting story ideas that could be funded by the Summer School’s Investigative Story Fund.

The Summer School’s 29 participants divided into nine groups and presented ideas for investigations on which they would like to work.

The participants proposed investigations into female reproductive rights, air quality, the road industry, Balkan countries’ relations with Turkey and Hungary, illegal trading, smear campaigns and police dealings with private companies.

Each group gave a presentation of the outline of their proposed investigation and answered questions about the scale of their story, why it is important and what impact they expect.

The best three story ideas are being chosen by a jury composed of Reuters investigative editor and Summer School lead trainer Blake Morrison, BIRN’s Regional Director Marija Ristic and Investigative Editor Lawrence Marzouk, and the Executive Producer Podcasting for E.W Scripps national bureau, Susanne Reber, who was also a trainer at the Summer School.

The three ideas that are chosen will then receive funding from the Investigative Story Fund.

The ninth BIRN Summer School brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Britain and the United States. For the first time, the Summer School also welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung, the Open Society Foundations and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of the Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.

Investigators Must Wise up to Threats – BIRN Debate

Investigative reporters have become regular targets in Europe, as populism rises and politicians create an environment that makes violence easier, BIRN’s Summer School heard in Brasov, Romania.

Politicians in various European countries have insulted and discredited journalists, populism is on the rise, the press is vilified – and it has led to the creation of an environment in which two journalists were killed in just four months in two European Union states, Malta and Slovakia.

Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcova and Maltese media freedom advocate Matthew Caruana Galizia spoke about this context to participants in BIRN’s Summer School of Investigative Reporting on Thursday, advising them on how to cope with security threats as investigative journalists.

“We’ve pushed the boundaries of our profession and are holding people accountable in ways that were not possible before. This brings new dangers,” Caruana Galizia explained. “As a journalist, if you’re good, you’re at greater risk,” he added.

Caruana Galizia, a former investigative journalist, witnessed his own mother’s murder in October 2017. Daphne Caruana Galizia, 50, a Maltese journalist well known for her graft investigations died after a bomb was placed under the seat in her car.

Holcova, a journalist with the Czech Center for Investigative Journalism, spent a month under police protection and had to cut communications with family and friends, after her co-worker, Slovak reporter Jan Kuciak was shot together with his fiancée at their home on February 21, 2018.

Holcova and Kuciak worked together in collaboration with the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, OCCRP, on an investigation into links between the Slovak government and Italian organized crime.

Slovak police also interrogated Holcova for eight hours and confiscated her cellphone. However, she said, the investigation hasn’t made much progress, despite pressure from the public in Slovakia.

“There is no information coming from the Slovak police. The only info we get is that the investigators are making mistakes,” she said.

She believes that investigative journalists risk their safety when pursuing a story and that they need to spot the signs of threats, such as being followed.

Galizia explained that both he and his mother were followed for months by her assassins.

“I had this feeling that my mother was being followed,” he said. “I woke up every day and told myself to check the bottom of the car. I did not check that morning,” he added.

After his mother’s murder, Galizia quit working as a journalist and focused on advocacy. He is now working on ways to protect journalists from violent attacks and on legal ways to pressurize government into respecting the freedom of the press.

“Violence against journalists right now is cheap,” he explained. “We need to raise the costs of violence against journalists.”

Holcova also said that regaining the public’s trust and support is also important for journalism.

“That’s what we should rely on. We need to explain to society that they need us, that they need the information we provide and that they need to trust the media.

“We can’t rely on international bodies, but we need to regain the trust of the public, because without us the people in power would not be accountable for their actions,” Holcova said.

BIRN Summer School Puts Focus on ‘Art of Interviews’

On the third day of the BIRN Summer School in Romania, journalists learned about interviewing techniques, how to use the Paradise Papers in investigations, verifying videos and uses of podcasts.

As BIRN’s summer school continued on Wednesday, lead trainer and Reuters investigative projects editor Blake Morrison held a session on the “art of interviewing” and on how to convince difficult sources to talk, describing interviews as a crucial component of the journalistic job.

“Think of any story as a blind date,” he told participants.

Morrison stressed the need for preparation and gave insight into why some people agree to give an interview – vanity, the need to be understood, self-interest, desperation, guilt and curiosity.

Susanne Reber, co-founder of Reveal podcast and Podcasting Executive Producer for E.W. Scripps National, introduced participants to the art of podcasting and of making stories heard.

BIRN investigations editor Lawrence Marzouk spoke of how to research the arms trade, using open source data.

The financial investigations workshop continued with OCCRP’s Miranda Patrucic explaining the Paradise Papers and how investigative journalists can find leads and data in the leaks.

The geolocation and digital investigations workshop also continued on Wednesday, with Bellingcat’s Christiaan Triebert’s lecturing on how to verify if a photo or a video was taken in a certain location at a given time.

Lead trainer Morrison held a second practical individual session with journalists.

The ninth BIRN Summer School has brought together young journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, the UK, and the United States. For the first time, the Summer School has welcomed journalists from Moldova and Ukraine.

The Summer School is organised in cooperation with the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad Adenauer- Stiftung, Open Society Foundations, the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of Austrian Development Cooperation, with support from the European Union.