Projects Focus on Safeguarding Media Freedom and Pluralism in the Western Balkans

SEENPM member organisations sought project proposals aimed at strengthening capacities of civil society organisations (CSOs) to help safeguard media freedom and pluralism in the Western Balkans.

This activity is part of Resilience: Civil Society for Media Free of Hate and Disinformation, a regional project financially supported by the European Union and implemented in the Western Balkans and Turkey.

The call was for CSOs in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia operating in the fields of media, education, human rights, or gender equality. Applications from partnerships of CSOs (all from the country in which the proposed project would take place) were strongly encouraged.

In each country, the budget available for grants totals EUR 36,000. Requested grants had to be between EUR3,000 and 9,000. Co-financing was not required.

The duration of projects must be between9 and 18 months.

Project activities should be primarily focused on small towns and rural areas.

Application procedure included two steps:

1) Submission, evaluation and selection of concept notes (open call)

2) Submission, evaluation and selection of full proposals (restricted call)

141 concept notes were evaluated and 75 selected for the next step – preparation of full proposals. Out of 72 full proposals that were evaluated, 22 were selected for sub-granting and launched in May 2021.

Here is the final list of sub-grantees with brief information about their approved projects:

Albania

Albanian Center for Quality Journalism [Qendra Shqiptare për Gazetari Cilësore]

Co-applicant: Hand to Hand Against Nation Apathy

Project:Media education as a cornerstone in combating misinformation among Lezha youth

The proposal focuses on media-related education by means of a module built within the project. The target group are students in secondary and high schools in the district of Lezhe. The specific purpose of the project is to promote critical thinking in discerning fake news and the means to fight it. Also, the project aims to design the module in a manner that it can be replicated without excessive costs by small community centers, so that the end products of the initiative can be reproduced for a larger pool of beneficiaries and stakeholders.

Citizens Channel

Project: Media Literacy – Fake vs Facts

Discrimination and hate speech, commonly encountered in traditional and online media, target vulnerable groups including women and girls in Albania, reinforcing stereotypes and prejudices. Distribution of content on social media in many cases doesn’t go hand in hand with ethical and professional reporting. For this reason, training of 20-25 young people from Kuçova is necessary, also considering that trainings and opportunities are concentrated in the capital of Tirana. The youth will be enabled to identify untrue, unethical news that reinforce myths about groups or members of society that experience constant discrimination or violence.

Center for Child Protection

Project: Media for Protection of children’s rights

Media and journalists play a very important role in informing and educating the public about different social issues; the media is the mirror through which public creates its views about domestic violence and sexual assaults in the family and society. This project is built upon the safeguard of children’s highest interest. It aims to strengthen the knowledge of local media in the transmission of information regarding the respect of children’s rights.

Faktoje

Project: Media education in local communities in Albania

This project aims at tackling media and information literacy concerns in rural communities in Albania by enabling high school students and their teachers to filter the information and better understand the media. These interventions will create better possibilities for critical thinking among youngsters and enable teachers to get used to media and information literacy and spread it to other students. The project also aims at promoting and reinforcing cooperation between local journalists and communities to counter misinformation and disinformation online through awareness raising campaigns. Finally, the project aims at equipping its agents of change with better skills and deeper understanding of the media and its role in a democratic society.

Albanian Woman in Audiovisual

Co-applicant: Barazi në Vendimmarrje

Project: Strengthening women and girls against sexism in the media

Sexism in the Albanian media is very spread, yet there is little or no reaction against it. This is the case partly because there is no common knowledge about what sexism is and partly because there is no data about it. For small cities and rural areas this phenomenon greatly hampers the efforts of women and girls to prosper in life and fulfil their potential as massmedia is their only meeting point with the big world. It is equally important that, while the authorities take a stronger role in monitoring sexist content, the audiences are empowered to identify, report and fight sexism with means available to them.

Tirana Center for Journalism Excellence

Project: Change starts from youth: pro truth, against disinformation

The aim of the project is to counter disinformation among young people in small cities in Albania. Young people in the age group 18-25 use the internet more than other age groups while they have less experience in distinguishing and combating disinformation than other age groups. This project has two aims: first, to study how young people in this age group in small cities in Albania use the internet and how they are faced with disinformation; second, to give them tools in the form of a ‘Disinformation guideline’ so they can recognize disinformation and learn how to counter it.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Association for Social, Cultural and Creative Development ZORA [Udruženje za socijalni, kulturni i kreativni razvoj ZORA]

Project: Engaged youth report

Overall aim of the project is to enable a positive shift in communication and cooperation of young people with civil society organizations (CSOs) and local media in Visoko, Vareš and Breza. Specific objectives are: a) Strengthening and raising the capacity of young people in Visoko, Vareš and Breza for greater social engagement and engaged reporting on problems in their community; b) Empowering CSOs and local media in Visoko, Vareš and Breza to recognize the importance of engaged youth reporting for these organizations, media and local communities in general. Target groups and activities: 1) At least 100 young people – high school students – will attend presentations on media literacy and the importance of engaged civic reporting in the development of local communities. Presentations will be held in 4 high schools in Visoko, Vareš and Breza; 2) At least 10 young people from Visoko, Vareš and Breza will participate in educational workshops on engaged youth reporting, to be realized in cooperation with local media and CSOs; 3) At least 3 media outlets and CSOs from local communities will participate in the implementation of project activities.


In order to change the paradigm that the voice of young people is not heard and that their problems are not important, the project will present which local CSOs and the media can help them and especially how they can contribute to making the voice of young people better heard. Through education on media literacy and engaged reporting, young people will be able to report independently on topics and problems relevant to them in their local communities and thus be more engaged there. By creating connections between young people, media and CSOs from their local communities, better communication between them will be achieved. By creating new media content covering topics of importance to young people, a larger number of citizens will be acquainted with their problems.

Association for Media Education, Democratization and Research MEDIANA [Asocijacija za medijsku edukaciju, demokratizaciju i istraživanja MEDIANA]

Project: Development of media and information competences of teachers in local communities of north-east Bosnia for recognizing false information

Workshops on media and information competencies for recognizing fake information will be organized for teachers in ten smaller towns and rural areas in Northeast Bosnia. The aim of the project is to develop teachers’ competencies to identify fake information, especially when related to hate speech towards other citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The teachers will share the acquired knowledge with students and their parents / guardians with whom they have frequent meetings. At least 7,500 people (teachers, students, parents or guardians) will directly and indirectly benefit from thise project. The project will significantly contribute to the development of media and information literacy in rural areas, especially in the field of recognizing fake information and hate speech.

Foundation INFOHOUSE [Fondacija INFOHOUSE]

Project: FiF – Facts and Fake in the Media

The project goal is to expose misinformation, media manipulations and media (il)literacy through a series of public sessions and a media campaign in order to build the resistance of citizens of target communities to misinformation. Around 150 citizens, activists, teachers, media professionals and students will have the opportunity to learn how to recognize what factual and fake media content is and how to recognize manipulation and disinformation.

Association LAN Bihac [Udruženje LAN Bihać] and Association of people with dystrophy Buzim [Udruženje distrofičara Bužim]

Project: Media literacy of people with disabilities

The aim of the project is to improve civic participation of people with disabilities through the development of media literacy. The activities will enable the acquisition of media literacy knowledge and skills in a way that people with disabilities can contribute to solving problems in the community and promote growth and development of associations in the field of social inclusion.

Montenegro

NGO Center for Feminist Culture [NVO Centar za feminističku kulturu] www.muzejzena.me /www.zenskamrezaukulturi.me 

Partner: Drama Studio ‘Empty Space’ [NVO Dramski studio “Prazan prostor”]

Project: It matters to me: Theatrical and pedagogical workshops about hate speech and gender equality for students in rural areas

Within the project there are 6 theatrical-educative-activist workshops for 90 pupils in Montenegrin rural areas. During four-day workshops, facilitated by theatre pedagogues, the participants will jointly prepare an activist performance on hate speech against women in the media. Within this process they will learn more about human rights, gender equality, hate speech in the media, and critical attitude towards media content and opportunities for activist resistance to human rights violations. Based on the performance, 6 video clips will be prepared and broadcast. About 2000 children will be reached by the project.

NGO Bjelo Polje Democratic Center [NVO “Bjelopoljski demokratski centar”]

Partner: Europen Youth Center of Montenegro [Evropski omladinski centar Crne Gore]

Project: Local communities resilient to disinformation and hate speech

The aim of the project is to contribute to increasing the level of media literacy and resistance of citizens in rural areas to hate speech, disinformation and propaganda. Key activities are 1) training for representatives of NGOs operating in rural areas about media content decoding – with the focus on disinformation and hate speech; 2) organizing workshops for high school students aimed to increase their resilience to fake news and the level of their social engagement in local communities.

Target groups will be encouraged to make strong networks and respond to these phenomena. Also, the project will create a video on the importance of free and professional journalism with journalists reporting from rural areas of Montenegro, as well as a brochure “How to read the media?”.

NGO Kompas – Center for youth information and counselling

Partner: NGO „SeaRock“

Project: “Bruškin in action”

The project aims to empower civic activism of young people from rural areas of Boka Kotorska by creating media content. The project will enable direct participation of young people through non-formal education, production of radio podcasts and delivery of public forums. Specifically, the project will:  gather a group of 20 youngsters from four rural areas of Boka Kotorska; deliver four weekend trainings (“Creative mind and critical opinion”, “Media literacy and digital media content”, “How to create podcast” and “Media influence on local communities”); produce 15 radio podcasts; strengthen local communities through the concept of community radio; deliver four public forums in local rural areas.

Initiative of Youth with Disabilities of Boka

Project: For Equality of the Persons with Disabilities in the Media

The overall aim of the project is to enable the resistance of citizens to the impact of misinformation and hate speech towards PWDs and to provide PWDs with access to information disseminated through the media in an accessible form. The specific goal is to enhance civic activism of at least 60 youth from Boka’s rural areas in the struggle for the rights of PWDs, to strengthen at least 15 PWDs to protect themselves from hate speech and exercise their rights of access to information dissimenated by media in accessible formats, as well as to provide general public with adequate and high quality information about the issues of PWDs in Boka by means of high quality media products on the local level. Project activities include: workshops, research, publishing a report, website creation, press conference, media and online campaign. Target groups are: students of the final grades of elementary schools in rural areas of Boka; PWDs from Boka; local and national media; general public of Montenegro. The final beneficiaries are: PWDs, their families and the media throughout Montenegro, as well as the general public.

North Macedonia

Center for education, culture and activism “Multus” – Gevgelija

Project: Media diversity

The main goal is to encourage local population, through humour, to learn how to observe multiple aspects of one situation and bring rational conclusion about possible manipulation or bias. Short term goals: 1) To enroll local population in projects in the media literacy field; 2) To influence the perception of the local population in terms of reliability and quality of information and the media using multimedia and multi-method approach. Activities: making humorous videos, presented through social media; media literacy workshops in local and rural areas; making a short high school movie; conducting online surveys. Target groups: citizens (without age restrictions) from the local and rural areas in Gevgelija, Bogdanci, Valandovo and Dojran, who are predominantly influenced by national and tabloid media. Final beneficiaries are all citizens with internet access in these municipalities.

Association for rural development “Javor” – Zrnovci

Project: Information is power

The main goal of the project is for young farmers from Zrnovci, Vinica, Delcevo and village Crnikto to be media literate in order to recognize false news and misinformation and to be able to oppose them. Through this project, young people will gain skills in using social media and will be able to unite in advocacy initiatives with local and national authorities. A partnership will be built with media professionals so that problems will gain weight and the impact of fake news will be minimized. The project will also result in intergenerational solidarity where older people will learn from younger people how to use social media and communicate with their relatives abroad.

Target groups of the project are farmers from the municipalities: Zrnovci, Vinica, Delchevo and Pehchevo, agricultural associations, media professionals. The final beneficiaries are young farmers up to age 35 and women farmers. They will be trained in: how to recognize fake news, how to use digital tools to apply for subsidies, how to start selling online, but also to understand the need to team up in various forms to work together, create initiatives and advocacy before local and national authorities.

Association for research, communication and development “PUBLIC”

Project: Face to face with the disinformation and hate speech

This project focuses on strengthening the capacities of local civil society organizations, local media and media professionals, as well as citizens in the municipality of Struga on the topics of media literacy and critical thinking as key capacities in unregulated information of digital age. This is to be achieved through the following activities: mapping and informing local organizations, media, schools and initiatives in the municipality of Struga; organizing a creative circle on the local level as a space for sharing personal experiences with fake news and hate speech; printing of one issue of the street paper “Face to Face”, focused on fake news and hate speech, created in a collaboration of local civil associations and local media organizations; and the organization of an online campaign on social media focused on young people who will share personal experiences with fake news and hate speech. This will lead to the following results: increased awareness and knowledge of at least 30,000 citizens of the municipality of Struga (of which at least 70% are young people) on how to critically evaluate media coverage; at least 5 local organizations in the municipality of Struga are emancipated for active engagement in promoting media literacy on the local level; developed capacities of 5 local journalists to apply good journalistic practices to the street magazine “Face to Face”; and established collaboration for promoting dialogue between key actors at the local level and empowering them to get involved in activism and counter-narratives to reduce the impact of fake news and hate speech on the citizenry.

Association for Cerebral Palsy – Tetovo

Project: Why media literacy matters?

We often encounter incomprehensible jargon, vulgarities and hate speech. This imposes the need for young people, residents and NGO sector in small rural areas to be acquainted with media literacy. Recognizing hate speech, speculation and sensation would help us learn to be tolerant of each other and respect different views on certain phenomena, problems or events, as well as build a better democratic society inclusive for all. Representatives of civil society organizations from Debar, Mavrovo-Rostuse, Tearce and Jegunovce will be directly involved in the trainings and will be able to transfer knowledge to residents in rural areas. They will recognize the need to think critically, to identify fake news, and realize that offensive information that spreads hate speech does not bring any good and we do not need it. Journalists from local media from the Tetovo and Debar region will be directly involved in the trainings on the need to recognize fake news and will gain additional knowledge in this area.

Serbia

“Forum 10”

Project: Local community and media literacy: citizens, responsibility, public interest

The aim of the project is increasing media literacy and critical thinking through educational activities targeting teachers from rural areas and the young. The project contributes to creation of resistance to hate speech and misinformation by developing critical thinking towards media content. Planned outputs are: a research of a smaller scope that should explore informing of citizens by local web portals and media content; education of the teachers and pupils from rural primary schools; starting a media campaign that promotes media literacy; production of quality media content with the focus on four stories from the local community.

Citizen association FemPlatz

Project: Responsible reporting on gender equality

The purpose of the project is to contribute to improvement of the gender equality in four towns/municipalities in South Banat region (Pancevo, Kovacica, Bela Crkva, Vrsac). Its objectives are to build capacities of local stakeholders (CSOs, educational institutions, media) to understand and react to gender-based stereotypes, sexism, and gender-based discrimination in media reporting, as well as to form local partnerships to advocate for gender equality and media literacy at the local level. The project includes implementation of media monitoring, report on prevalence of gender stereotypes and discrimination in the local media, informative sessions with local stakeholders to promote gender equality and media literacy, printing 300 copies of newsletter on media literacy and gender equality, advocacy activities directed at the local gender mechanism.

Centre for Contemporary Politics

Project: Slobodna reč – Fight against misinformation in the south of Serbia and empowerment of MIL among young people in Vranje

The project has 3 objectives: 1. Better informing the citizens of Vranje about local political and social problems by publishing 25 articles and 5 infographics on the ‘Slobodna reč’ portal; 2. Improving media literacy of young people or high school students in the city of Vranje by holding 2 workshops on media literacy; 3. Improving media literacy of local political actors and getting them acquainted with the role of the media in society by holding 2 workshops.

Okular

Project: Youth and media in the fight against misinformation

Children and young people (minimum 250 directly, and a few thousand indirectly) will learn through workshops about media literacy: how to create quality media content (news, report, reportage, article, blog etc.); how to respect copyright; what informative headlines and click bait headlines are; how to distinguish positive from negative content in the media; what the instruments of manipulation in the media are; fake news and how to fight them with demystification and truth that would increase the degree of their media literacy and resistance to hate speech in the media. The trainings will be led by representatives of local CSOs and / or teachers. In this way local CSOs will be motivated to strengthen the resilience of citizens to the impact of misinformation. A blog will be created that will be edited by young journalists – workshop participants (for at least three months) – that will be a quality information channel for young people at the local, but also possibly at the national level.


Funded by the European Union


The regional program RESILIENCE: Civil society action to reaffirm media freedom and counter disinformation and hateful propaganda in Western Balkans and Turkey’ is implemented with the financial support of the European Union by partner organizations SEENPMAlbanian Media InstituteMediacentar Sarajevo, Kosovo 2.0Montenegrin Media InstituteMacedonian Institute for MediaNovi Sad School of JournalismPeace Institute and Bianet.

This article was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of SEENPM and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.