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Strengthening Quality News and Independent Journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey II

The project aims to provide systemic support to improve the quality and professionalism of journalism in the Western Balkans and Türkiye. It is based on a successful model established by BIRN and its partners, including CEU Democracy Institute and developed over the past four years, which enables journalists to produce relevant, high-quality content independently, broadening, citizens’ perspectives on issues of public importance and increasing trust in the media. 

As part of this initiative, CEU Democracy Institute will conduct broad consultations with academic institutions in the region, and create an Advisory Board of academics and journalists, in order to develop a roadmap for formal accreditation of future MA programme(s). CEU will also collaborate with the University Goce Delcev (UGD) from Stip, North Macedonia to implement a pilot programme for academic training in investigative journalism. During the previous project cycle, CEU developed a model curriculum, which will be instrumental towards informing the accreditation roadmap.

The roadmap will help secure long-term and sustainable education of the next generations of journalists in the region. Development of an accreditation roadmap is a critical part of the process towards implementation of fully accredited MA programme(s). 

The overall objectives of the project are:

  • Capacity building for mid-career and young journalists;
  • Supporting the production of quality news;
  • Cross-border investigative stories in print and tv;
  • Providing investigative resource desk support;
  • Promoting these stories through awards; and
  • Ensuring sustainability in journalism study programmes.

The main challenges facing the media in the Western Balkans include poor professional skills of journalists, limited training opportunities, lack of resources, reluctance to publish investigative stories and limited penetration of these stories. The fight against corruption and organized crime, rule of law, the environment and media freedoms are repeatedly highlighted in European Commission progress reports for most Western Balkan countries. According to other international reports, governments in these countries have resorted to excessive surveillance and have curtailed freedom of expression. Investigative journalists face threats and attacks

The COVID-19 pandemic further curbed media freedoms in the region, leading to a decline in media pluralism and freedom of expression. According to the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published in May 2022, all Western Balkan countries are in the category of countries with “problematic” press freedom. The scores the countries achieved are lower than the previous year, yet paradoxically their ranking are higher.  

These challenges highlight the need for comprehensive and systemic support for the media in the Western Balkans and Türkiye, to raise their capacities, safeguard the media freedom and promote freedom of expression.

The project is funded by the European Commission through its Regional Training and Support Programme to Improve Quality and Professionalism in Journalism.