Oštro, Center for investigative journalism in the Adriatic region
We started membership program 5 months ago. Establishing a two-way relationship with public is key to rebuilding trust in journalism & engaging citizens to become active participants in the public debate. Democracy is crumbling and the importance of a vigorous, independent journalism is rising. We will train journalists in Slovenia & Croatia in investigative journalism, and bring it to local communities at regionally unique public editorial meetings which will be reflected in our investigations.
Ljubljana, Maribor, Jesenice, Kočevje, Kobarid, Brežice, Lendava... (SI), Zagreb, Split, Osijek (HR)
In Slovenia, journalists are an easy target of the new PM J.Janša, a follower of Hungarian PM V.Orbàn. Hungarian financiers from the inner circle of Orbàn are behind the media at the heart of fake-news production; all of them are controlled by party members and cronies of PM Janša. In just two months since they came to power, his government has launched smear attacks against journalists and NGOs. All the while, the fake news media controlled by the ruling party is spewing fake news and misinformation. In Croatia, the media already have their own deep-rooted problems revealed also by a recent case of censorship of Oštro’s investigative story about suspected money laundering by influential Croatians by all national media. We believe quality of information consumed by public is under threat.
Many traditional media in the Adriatic region have become ivory towers, reluctant to let the public in to exchange ideas. The rise of hate speech, trolling and online harassment had obliviated any possibility for a constructive public debate to develop there. A two-way relationship should be established between the media and its public to regain its trust, and to sincerely engage citizens in the public debate. We see our public editorial meetings as one might today see the ancient agora. We would like to create space for debate for anyone willing to hold it constructively and respectfully. We want to listen to what citizens think, hear which pressing matters in the public interest are not being addressed and like to offer them guidance on issues that we are specialised in (online safety).
Oštro exclusively follows the public interest. We address the public at large because we believe the need to have a voice is not connected to any individual circumstance. Just like the right to have a voice in a democratic society is universal. Yet at the current state of the media we cannot say that the publics in Slovenia and Croatia are informed thoroughly and inclusively in a way that empowers citizens to make informed decisions about their future. In fact, the rise of misinformation is doing quite the opposite, it is destroying the very fabric of a democratic public debate by distorting and also devaluing facts. At each editorial meeting we will aim to detect the pressing topics of public interest which are overlooked and choose those around which we can form feasible investigations.
We will empower local communities by giving them a voice and present our findings in investigations relevant to them which will demonstrate that quality journalism matters. We will give advice to help citizens solve possible individual issues (ie. finding an official document etc.). Our fact-checking project Razkrinkavanje.si already functions as a learning hub for young journalists. We plan to extend that training. In Croatia we plan to build a small team and offer learning-by-doing opportunities. Under our editors’ mentorship journalists learn data & investigative journalism skills, and how to protect their work and themselves. We will empower journalists in both countries by equipping them with skills & knowledge to better serve the public interest & monitor the centers of power.
Local communities will better understand the concept of membership of a non profit media which is now practically unknown. This will make the transition to membership easier for other future news initiatives. Citizens participating in the meetings will feel their voice counts & will have an increased understanding of what journalists do and possibly a new-found respect for them. This will increase the trust and offer a real opportunity to rebuild it to pre-internet levels. A share of journalists in both countries will be equipped with skills and knowledge they will be able to employ in their regular work. During our learning-by-doing opportunities they will get a detailed understanding of the principles of investigative and data journalism they cannot access anywhere else.
Free press is under attack in Europe.At Oštro we can observe it first-hand in our immediate environment. Some of our colleagues in the EU have been killed. Media freedom in Europe is diminishing and a sinister trend developed in some states: fighting high quality journalism with fake news and smear campaigns. Journalists have to find a way to make facts sacred again and to gain back the public’s trust. Only a strong relationship between the media and the public can counter destructive forces funded by opaque financiers which are intent on reducing our democracy to rubble. By empowering both the journalists and the public we can be a sort of societal corrective factor in the hope of strengthening quality journalism in a time when it is most needed and increasing the public’s support for it.
The profound global crisis in and of the media shows that only a few well-standing traditional outlets can provide answers to the growing number of questions about whether uncompromising journalism is still possible in these uncertain times. It is not.Ethical standards and fundamental principles of journalism are opposed to the currently essential mission of traditional media of making a profit. This has pushed public interest journalism to the side-tracks in news, and in the profession as a whole. Oštro was formed out of this realization. By following principles of sincerely connecting with our public and our profession, we are enacting Oštro’s mission of nurturing investigative & data journalism, championing the “right to know”, and contributing to the cultivation of future generations.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Fee Supplementation (Meetings in SI & HR, hereinafter PEM): 10.000
Fee Supplementation (mentorship in SI & HR): 7.500
Fees (CRO team): 18.000
Proofreading & Translation: 1.000
Photo Services: 1.000
Graphic & Web Design (project, and Oštro HR): 2.000
Travel Costs (for PEM, mentorship): 1.500
Accomodation Costs (for mentorship in HR): 1.500
Space Rental Costs (for PEM, CRO team): 4.000
Equipment Rental: 500
Other Expenses (printing, fees...): 500
Media Campaign: 500
(all in euros)
We are pushing the membership in nonprofit media as a means for increasing the flow of information & financing the work in countries with no such experience. We are interested to hear how to activate citizens further & introduce them to this concept which will be key to healthy democracies in future