Sarajevo, 12 June 2014– Data journalism is opening up new possibilities for journalists to disclose new types of stories and to present complex information to readers through infographics. This new form of journalism is ever more popular as an addition to traditional journalism. In a world of ever-growing flow of data, data-driven journalism is becoming an essential part of journalistic work.
To enhance journalists’ skills to access information and also to help journalists analyse and present the obtained data, a Legal Leaks training was organized in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on 10 and 11 June 2014. Organised by UNESCO in cooperation with Access Info Europe, the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina and SEENPM, around 50 journalists from around the country participated in the event.
The journalists were first trained by Helen Darbishire from Access Info Europe to use freedom of information laws, which have been in force since 2000 in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Helen Darbishire was involved as one of the team of local and international experts set up in 1999 by the OSCE in drafting the law. She discussed with journalists the fact that BiH does not have a constitutional provision on access to information but is a signatory to international treaties and that human rights bodies such as the European Court of Human Rights have recognised the right to information held by public bodies is linked to the right to freedom of expression.
In her presentation, Maja Brancovic, representative of Transparency International Bosnia and Herzegovina underlined «the need for harmonizing the state and entity laws, and solve all the other problems that occur during the implementation of the FOI legislation in Bosnia and Herzegovina«. There is an ongoing debate in Bosnia and Herzegovina on how to strengthen the legal framework for the right of access to information, which currently scores 102 out of 150 points on the Global RTI Rating (www.rti-rating.org).
The session on data journalism was then held by Slobodanka Dekic from the Media Centre Sarajevo and Aladin Abdagic from the Centre for Investigative Journalism. They presented their experience using the right of access to information to build databases that help them write stories and do visualizations with data sets such as budget spending. «Using graphics will help your readers understand very quickly the story you want to tell, people don’t have time to read 7 pages of investigation any more,» said Aladin Abdagic.
On the second day, the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina trained participants about ethical and quality journalism in the information era. It was emphasized that data should be treated with care and responsibility and that the public interest should be assessed before publishing it.
A further topic for debate was the role of whistleblowers and the responsibility of journalists to protect those who expose illegal activity. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a draft whistleblower law which only protects those who reveal information about their own organisation but not about other organisations. There is a Whistleblower Association which works to expose criminality and to encourage investigations from the police and prosecutors. This organisation also works to protect whistleblowers and is calling for a stronger law. In the debate concerns were raised about the possible liabilities for journalists who handle leaked information. The Access Info team noted that international standards are in development, including jurisprudence from the European Court of Human Rights.
This event was taking place in the framework of the EU-UNESCO project: «Media Accountability in South East Europe» which started in January 2013. The training was the third training in a series of local events that will take place in the region.
For more information, please contact:
Victoria Anderica, Access Info Europe
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