Moldowan investigative journalists win second indstance of case brought against them by Rezina Town Hall

On Press Freedom Day, Chişinău Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the authors of a journalistic investigation and two media publications that had been sued by Rezina Town Hall, writes Moldowan Investigative Journalism Centre. The journalist’s investigation has been supported by Scoop.
The journalists Tudor Iaşcenco, Cornelia Cozonac and Victor Sofroni in their investigation “Rezina-style governance”, published in September 2006 (www.investigatii.md), described a number of wrongdoings and abuses committed by Rezina Town Hall officers.
The activities allegedly had been carried out with the tacit support of the Town Council, including in the privatization of certain local objects, auctioned at ridiculously low prices.
After the publication of the investigation, the mayer of Rezina Town, Mihail Cuţ, and the citizens Ruslan Socol and Pantelei Cojuhari filed an action against the investigation’s authors and the newspapers “Cuvântul” (Rezina) and “Ziarul de Gardă”, which had published the investigation, invoking “damage to [their] honor, dignity and professional reputation”.
The plaintiffs asserted that the facts stated in the investigation article were not true and requested their denial as well as moral damages. Mihail Cuţ requested from “Cuvântul” USD 300 thousand (about MDL 3,7 mlln.), and the other two citizens – MDL 5 thousand and MDL 15 thousand, respectively. Rezina Mayor Mihail Cuţ also invoked in his complaint that “the honor and dignity of Rezina Town Hall had also been harmed”.
It is worth mentioning, that mayor Mihail Cuţ, after commencing legal proceedings against the investigation’s authors and the two publications, stated his intention of building a public bathhouse with the money obtained in moral damages from the journalists.
On 8th of February 2007 the claims by the Rezina Town mayor and the citizens Ruslan Socol and Pantelei Cojuhari that the newspapers “Cuvântul” and “Ziarul de Gardă” as well as the journalists Tudor Iaşcenco, Cornelia Cozonac and Victor Sofroni should be held liable were found groundless by the panel of judges made up of the judges Tudor Leahu (presiding judge), Olga Gangal and Vasile Macrinici of Rezina District Court.
Rezina Town Hall, however, appealed the court’s judgment. On 3rd of May 2007 the Court of Appeal rejected the appeal of Rezina Town Hall and reinstated the journalists and publications “Cuvântul” and “Ziarul de Gardă”.
The court decision may be appealed, within the term provided by the legislation, to the Supreme Court of Justice, according to the Investigative Journalism Center, who follows the case.

Scoop on fact finding mission in Armenia and Georgia

Discussions about future Scoop investigations in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Members of the Danish Scoop management, Henrik Kaufholz and Solveig Gram Jensen, went on a trip to the two Caucasian countries Armenia and Georgia on July 7 to July 11. Scoop has had public funding in order to establish a support structure for investigative reporters in the Caucasus for the next three years. The purpose of the trip was to establish contact to and meet key persons in the media in both countries. They met with a number of reporters who all showed great interest in working with Scoop. In September there might be another trip to Azerbaijan. In any case the plan is to have national seminars in all three countries in the beginning of October. Scoop is very positive and enthusiastic about the reception in Armenia and Georgia and has great hope for the future cooperation with reporters in the Caucasus.

 

Scoop seminar in Croatia

On May 24, 10 investigative journalists from all over Croatia and with various backgrounds such as photographing, local reporting and national TV attended a national seminar in Zagreb. The seminar was also attended by Danish coordinator of Scoop, Claus Vittus. The journalists shared experiences with each other in order to discuss common practices and problems in investigations having focus on environmental hazards, corruption and construction mafia and to strengthen networking and cooperation with each other. Two Croatian journalists who already have done SCOOP stories (Ljiljanka Mitos Svoboda, Kresimir Kovac) presented how they did it including application processes as well.

Scoop has a new manager

Journalist and many year active member of Scoop-management Brigitte Alfter is now the new manager of Scoop. Brigitte is the Brussels correspondent for Danish daily newspaper Information, and has been covering European affairs for years. She is also knowledgeable on European freedom of information acts as journalistic tools and runs a website on the subject. Brigitte will also function as the coordinator for Bosnia. The rest of the Danish management is founder of Scoop Henrik Kaufholz, coordinator for Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, Kaukasus, Anne Haubek, coordinator for Macedonia, Claus Vittus, coordinator for Montenegro, Croatia and Kosovo and Solveig Gram Jensen, coordinator for Albania and webmaster. Thomas Ubbesen is the coordinator for Serbia. For further information please contact Brigitte Alfter: brig(a)mail.dk

Investigative reporters rearm in Budapest

Fearless reporters: Tudor Iascenco (to the left) did an investigation of a corrupt mayor in Moldovia. Yulia Ladnova worked undercover in Belorusian orphanages.

130 East European Journalist at Conference on Investigative Reporting

Over 130 journalists from the Balkans and Eastern Europe attended the largest regional conference so far on investigative reporting.
The conference in Budapest on November 9-11 was organised by BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporters Network) and Scoop, the  Danish-based support structure that gives direct help to investigative reporting. The conference is the second of its kind and the event brought together the largest gatherings of journalists in the region who specialise in uncovering difficult-to-report stories.
The conference, hosted by Hungary’ Centre for Independent Journalism, provided an opportunity for participants to meet fellow-journalists who have been involved in tracking terrorists, worked undercover in an orphanage or exposed university lecturers who issued false diplomas. It was sponsored by Open Society Institute, the Danish Politiken and Lannung foundations and the Neighbourhood-programme of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Leading practitioners from the United States and elsewhere in the world shared their experiences in investigative reporting. Mark Schapiro, Editorial Director of the Center for Investigative Reporting, California, spoke about the role of the media as a watchdog.
Professor Sheila Coronel of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York, described the challenges facing investigative journalists in her native Philippines and other transition societies across the world.
Hu Shuli, Managing Editor of China’s Caijing business magazine, voted International Editor of the Year (2003) by the World Press Review, focused on the very different problems facing investigative journalists working within her country’s more restrictive media environment, but noted that 95 per cent of topics were no longer taboo.
David Kaplan of the organisation Investigative Reporters and Editors, detailed some of the ground-breaking investigations he had carried out for U.S. News and World Report, about terrorists and the war on terror around the world.
Participants had many opportunities to broaden their knowledge and improve their skills in advanced computer-assisted research, working undercover, investigating terrorism and dealing with the often sophisticated financial aspects of corruption.
“This conference was a much-needed positive contribution to promoting professional standards in investigative reporting in the Balkans and beyond”, Gordana Igric, BIRN’s director said about training event.
Over 20 journalists gave personal accounts of successful investigative reports.  These ranged from the impact of gold mining on the environment in Bulgaria to the issuing of fake documents in Macedonia, from the recruitment of Balkan mercenaries for Iraq to the financial machinations of energy suppliers in Romania.
There were lively debates about the ethics of working undercover, protecting the confidentiality of sources, reporting violence and its impact both on audiences and the journalists themselves.
“Many journalists came here believing  lack of resources or up-to-date technology made some forms of investigative reporting impossible”, SCOOP’s manager and conference organiser, Henrik Kaufholz, said  after the event. “They.ve gone away knowing it’s all possible”.

Porn photographer claims he is innocent

In 2003 the Ukrainian weekly Slovo (Odessa) investigated “Studio-13”, which claimed to be both a studio for art photography and an educational programme for young girls. The investigation showed that the studio was actually shooting pornography with very young girls and boys as models. The investigation was awarded “Best investigation of 2003” by Ukrainian Association of Press Publishers.
In December 2007 Mr. Daniel Leuenberger  – one of the two men, who set up Studio-13 – claimed parts of the article to be false and asked Scoop to remove the article from the website.
Scoop has refused to do so and offered Mr. Leuenberger (or his lawyer Mr. Igor Dominicu) to write a `reply’ for the website, where he can explain his view of “Studio-13” and his personal engagement in the operation.
In case he refuses this, Scoop will publish the letters to both Scoop and the Danish police from Mr. Leuenberger and his lawyer. Mr. Leuenberger is now a resident of the Moldovan capital Chisinau.

Scoop sends letter of protest to the Albanian Prime Minister

Scoop’s letter of protest to Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha
Copenhagen, March 2008
H.E. Sali Berisha
Prime Minister of Albania
Blvd Zog I, Tirana, Albania

Mr. Grid Rroji
Director of the Communications Office for the Prime Minister
Your Excellency,
The Danish network for investigative reporters in Southeast and Eastern Europe, Scoop, is very concerned about the assault on the Albanian editor, Besar Likmeta, who has carried through several investigations supported by Scoop.
On March 10, Likmeta was brutally attacked by MP Tom Doshi during an interview at the Sheraton hotel in Tirana. Another MP, Arben Isaraj, from the Socialist Party was present too but did not intervene.
Likmeta had asked for the interview because his research on fake diplomas in Albania showed that deputy Tom Doshi had a fake certified degree from Tetovo University. The investigation was published on February 20 in Balkan Insight: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/main/investigations/8041/)
When asking for the interview Mr. Likmeta wanted to give Mr. Doshi the opportunity to tell his side of the story. However, some time after the beginning of the interview, Mr. Doshi begun hitting Mr. Likmeta, breaking his glasses and leaving him with a swollen eye. Several witnesses saw the attack; one of them was MP Isaraj. No one tried to help.
The freedom of the press in Europe is under a greater pressure than it has been for many years – and at the same time more important today than ever. If reporters cannot do their investigations without fearing attacks or the worse, European media will not be able to hold decision-makers accountable – and a fundamental part of democracy will then be missing.
We therefore ask you to do everything possible to investigate the case and to make reporters feel safe while doing their jobs.
Yours sincerely,
Management of  Scoop.

SCOOP holds a conference in Budapest

BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporters Network) and Scoop (a support structure for investigative reporters in East – and South East Europe) invite you to join a conference in Budapest November 9. to 11. Please see details here – invitationprogramme

Four more years for Scoop

Scoop will continue four more years. Money has been allocated by the Danish Foreign Ministry to continue Scoop as part of the media activities in the Neighbourhood Programme in the years 2008-2012. The formal and final confirmation of the next four year period is expected in Copenhagen this autumn.
The overall sum for Scoop from 2008-2012 is 1,3 million €, however the structure will change slightly.
Support will continue for journalists from Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, Moldowa, Ukraine and Belarus. Support will stop entirely for Romania and Bulgaria because of their EU-membership. New countries will be included, thus in the future Russian colleagues will be able to apply for funding aswell.
Also a partner-project for Scoop will be developped after the same model in the Kaukasus-region, including Armenia, Aserbadjan and Georgia.
New applications will be welcome as of January 2008, as the new funding period will start in February 2008.

Investigation on mass grave caused police to try to find journalists

The investigation “Net closes on Alleged Suva Reka Killers”, published in September 2005, predicted the arrest of Serb policemen accused of having carried out a massacre in the Kosovo town of Suva Reka.

The report was widely republished in Kosovo, Macedonia and Romania and given a prominent place in popular Serbian daily Blic, days before the arrest took place.

Following the arrest of the suspects, police officers visited BIRN SaM’s Belgrade office to interrogate the journalists responsible for the text, which was interpreted as an attempt to intimidate BIRN staff from carrying our similar investigations into war crimes and impunity.

Balkan Investigative Reporting Network

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