“Who is behind the media?” – a workshop that incubated new investigative journalists

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IMG_3231 editttWhy do some media have the need to hide their ownership in faraway Caribbean States? Why some journalists are afraid to sign their name? Is the money for government advertising a means of bribery and control of the media?
These are part of the questions discussed by Bulgarian and Macedonian journalists, who took part in the two-day workshop “Who is behind the media? In Borovets (15-16th of October, 2016). Their goal was to explore the new ways in investigative journalism and to put into practice this new knowledge. A total number of 16 national and regional journalists were selected to participate in this one-of-its-kind educational program. Their mentors were Meri Jordanovska and Saska Cvetkovska, representing the “Media Pedia” project, which maps the ownership of media in Macedonia, as well as Rossen Bossev, journalist in Capital Weekly, Spas Spasov, correspondent for Dnevnik.bg and Atanas Chobanov, journalists and researcher in Bivol.bg. The event was organized by the Association of European Journalists (AEJ)-Bulgaria in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) for Freedom Southeast Europe.
The first part of the workshop”, which was officially opened by Daniel Kaddik Project Director of the FNF Southeast Europe, was dedicated to presenting tools, strategies and know-how on investigating the real owners of media outlets and their financial dependences. Meri Jordanovska and Saska Cvetkovska gave real-life example of how their team has created a platform, where every citizen in Macedonia can see for themselves who are the persons who rule the media in their country. “There is a viscous circle, when televisions in Macedonia quote unconfirmed information coming from internet portals, which have unclear ownership. Indeed they show the sources, but the sources are untrustworthy”, explained Meri Jordanovska. According to Saska Cvetkovska the aim of the concealed media ownership in Macedonia is continuous brain washing of the public.
“There are two things which journalists are encouraged to do – to be curious and to be annoying. Do not hesitate to make the most of both of them!”, said Rossen Bossev to the participants in the workshop. He introduced them to a variety of public registers in Bulgaria and showed them how to work with them in an effective manner. He gave tips on how to plan an investigation and which are the best approaches to carry it out successfully.
The financial dependences of regional media in Bulgaria were the focus of Spas Spasov’s presentation. He presented the results of his own investigation, carried out in several municipalities, which clearly showed that the local media is heavily dependent on government money and that the extent of this scheme is greater than the official data can describe. Spasov explained which the biggest challenges were for him while he was working on this investigation and gave particular pieces of advices to the participants on how to overcome them.
Atanas Chobanov focused on contemporary tools for visualization of data and working with the tailored search engines of the investigative portal Bivol.bg. The three mentors gave practical task to the participants – to work in small groups and to research the real ownership and financial dependences of five Bulgarian media outlets. In the end of the second day every working group made a presentation of the information that they have obtained with the help of their mentors. They also summarized the best practices that they have learnt during the educational program. Their feedback was very positive, especially because high-quality events like this one are rare opportunity for the journalistic community in Bulgaria. “We are determined to continue our efforts in improving the media sector in Bulgaria by expanding the professional capacity of the journalists This is the added value that we are aiming at by organizing this workshop in partnership with Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) for Freedom Southeast Europe.“, said Maria Cheresheva, vice-president of AEJ-Bulgaria.
The event was concluded by giving out certificates for attendance to all of the participants.