In May 2018, the Center for Anti-Authoritarian Studies (CAAS) in Serbia was pronounced the winner of this year’s Think Tank Shark Tank competition in Copenhagen; now, a few months later, they are seeing the payoff. The Selfie Citizen Journalism Project, for which CAAS won the competition, aims to create an “academy” of citizen journalism through their YouTube channel, including “selfie citizen reports about infringements of liberty across the country.”
The project is slowly growing in popularity across Serbia, and CAAS estimates their work has already reached some 10,000 people. The next set of citizen journalists graduate in a few months and CAAS hopes to have all of their selfie citizen reports finished and posted by the end of November.
CAAS believes that freedom of the press is especially important in Serbia today. Reporters Without Borders’ annual Press Freedom Index ranks Serbia at 76, 10 places behind its 2017 ranking.
“Media freedoms, in particular, have been worsening since the election of the currently ruling coalition ran by the Serbian Progressive Party (Srpska napredna stranka),” says Ratko Nikolić, president of CAAS. “[There have been] frequent tabloid mediated attacks against independent journalists, even tighter government control of the mainstream media with nationally issued frequencies and various other pressures aimed at those investigating and whistle-blowing on the crime and corruption affairs of the currently ruling elite.”
The goal of this project is to, “harness the wave of democratization and decentralization in the ability to create video content brought on by omnipresent smartphones, says Nikolić. This will “provide a libertarian alternative to the censored and corrupt mainstream media in Serbia.”
CAAS’s mission is to protect and promote unrestricted freedom of speech in Serbia. Projects like this, that involve journalists and everyday people, are an important part of bringing liberty into the mainstream conversation.
“From choosing the right topic and the approach to it, over data gathering and investigative procedures all the way to procedures aimed at maintaining ethics and professionalism of the investigative process, our YouTube academy covers all of the know-how's needed to produce a decent investigative report on the crime, corruption and infringements of liberty so badly lacking in the country,” says Nikolić. “Our content has been viewed by more than 120,000 people and our main goal is reaching more than twice that much, or relatively speaking, every 12th social media user in the country.”