Juzne vesti Interview
Below is an interview with Juzne vesti conducted over email from 11/26/2012 to 12/01/2012. There are three main parts to this interview.
 Part One
M.C.: What is the ideal outcome of the release of a leaked document and/or an article based on a leaked document for juzne vesti?
Juzne vesti: I am not sure that I understand question? In general, I am always happy when government officials have to react :)
M.C.: Could you explain the steps a leaked document goes through from receipt to release of the document or an article based on it? What are the most time consuming or difficult parts of this process? Do you normally release documents or leaked information with the related articles you publish?
Juzne vesti: in basic, when we receive scan of some document we are using FOIA to ask for that doc from official source. Sometimes journalist would just call some official person and ask for comment. If that person, through comment confirm that doc exist, we can procede.. in other way, we will use FOIA :))
Anyway, there is no way that we will publish unchecked document. Everything we receive we see only as a clue, nothing more.
M.C.: Do you use any particular tools when processing leaked information or documents? For example, tools to remove document metadata or verify information. If so, how well do these tools work? And is there any tool that could make the process easier?
Juzne vesti: Perun is removing metadata by default before it send it to us. So, there is no need for that further.
 Part Two
M.C.: On the first question, I guess it could be rephrased as- what is your goal when releasing documents or why do you release documents? Some sites do it to increase transparency generally, others to identify wrongdoings, some hope to correct and/or raise awareness of wrongdoings. Have government officials ever had to react from a release of yours? If so, could you tell me a little more about that case?
Juzne vesti: aha, now I understand :) I think the most logical answer would be "all mentioned" :)) The cause I have founded Juzne vesti was my disappointment because I could not find a media that will publish my investigative storie about some illegal procurements on city airport, in witch both city and state government were included.
In that time my goal was to inform citizens, tax-payers, that somebody is stealing their money. Off course, personaly I was happy when prosecutors office had started investigation after my article was released in JV, and even now, 3 years latter, the tiral continues.
In general our goal is always to rise awareness of citizens about their rights, but depends on case we expect some reaction from officials - that can sometimes be prosecutor, sometimes magistrates court, mayor,.. or even public company that will solve some municipal problem.
Let me give you a few examples:
- We have published the story that the brother of mayors chief of stuff started working and imediately become chief in one city owned company, but there was no any public contest for that positinion. It is important to metion that new mayor was elected in mid July, and one of his key argument was "there will be no political employments in public sector". Day after we have published article, mayor released statement that his chief of stuff brother was fired.
- After Juzne vesti released article that city owned building directorate have just published contest for pawing 5 streets that were already been pawed (unofficianly, they have hired one building company to pawe streets, but without contest. So, they had to publish contest later to try to cover everything), Directorate have canceled the contest.
- We have published article the general manager of city owned heating plant (the only one in city) had hired her son and doughter of her assitant, and give them chief positions. 7 days later she was fired.
- Only few hours after we have published article about some road sign that was placed on sidewalk in the midle of track for blind, that sign was moved.
But, unfortunately, it is not always this "good".
At the end, let me conclude - we alway have few goals - to force public officials to fix wrongdoing (or to stop), to increase transparency generally, and to rise public awarenes on the topic. It is hard to separate those things.
M. C.: Do you ever verify documents in ways other than getting it through FOIA or having an official comment? Around what percent of the documents or info you receive can you verify?
Juzne vesti: off course. Etc, for the story about heating plant (director hired her son), I have received information in Friday, few hours after she had signed the contract and guy should start to work from Monday. I did not have a time to send FOIA (they have 15 day to answer, but if they dont I have to appeal to Commisioner and whole process last at least 2-3 months), so I have called director and I said to her that I have those contracts (I was lying, I only had information about them), and asked her for comment and she can confirm me the authenticity.
She said that she dont want to comment but have offered me to come to her office during next week and she will show me contracts - that was enough for me - indirectly she had confirmed that contracts exits :)
M. C.: After verifying documents, do you do anything else to them like remove names? If so, what? Do you specifically look for evidence of wrongdoings in the documents and information you receive?
Juzne vesti: We are trying to be carefull about personal data. Public official name is not personal data, but his adress and date of birth are, so if we are publishing that document we are covering that data with black colour.
http://www.juznevesti.com/uploads/assets/2012/10/17/18157/800x600_kpd-putni-nalog-napomena.jpg - from article about some broken veichle from city prison which was "spending" gasoline (according to documents).
M. C.: Do you publish all verified information? If not, what are the standards you use to determine what to publish?
Juzne vesti: I am not shure I understend question. In general we are free to publish all verified informations, but we publish only those that we think it is important for citizens to see. That means if we have 100 pages of some contract, we will publish only the one that is directly related to article.
But, I am now shure this is what you wanted to ask.
M.C.: When you do publish documents or information, what information do you post it with, if any (for example, background information or context, related documents, highlights of potential evidence of a wrongdoing)?
Juzne vesti: If we have them we publish everything we think it is important so readers can have a whole picture. Sometimes it is a photo, sometimes scaned document, and recently more often audio or even video.
M.C.: How many people generally help with reviewing and processing documents and information? Are these primarily journalists involved in juzne vesti? Have you ever asked for more information from the source (and do you have an anonymous method to do so)?
Juzne vesti: yes, primarely that is on journslist to do, but we now have a good "pool" of consultants - from former Supreme state auditor, former prime minister, former mayors,.. off course, if we need to publish some statement, we are mostly mentioning the name of source. It may sound a little irational, but from time to time we are publishing comments from current mayor or tax office director, but as "anonymus source" - which means sometimes they are our whistle blower. This is happening when they are personaly against some cause, but majority in their political party thinks different. If we think that his (mayors) standings is wright, we will signed him as anonymus - off course, this is very rare and we are always have their statement recorded in case we have to go to court.
This can be a matter od code of etic, but I am just saying how we works.
M.C.: Do you think of leaking and whistleblowing as synonyms or different terms? How would you define each of them (or one of them if you think of them as synonyms)? And how do you think of Juzne Vesti in terms of whistleblowing and leaking?
Juzne vesti: hmm.. I personaly see whistleblower as person who believe in justice and is blowing in whistle to alarm on some wrongdoing, now expecting special reward for that. On the other side, leaking can be motivated by some other goals (political, social, economical,..). but, it is a matter of definition in each country. In Serbia we still do not have a word for whistleblower. We are curently using word "uzbinjivač" which in literall means "the one who started the alarm"..
From my perspective, I do not care who gave me information if it is correct, not false. Sometimes we receive info from political opponents, sometimes from ex-girlfriend.. but, when I have some documents in my hands that are showing some ilegall stuff, I have a story. Off course, if "source" is asking from you to do story under some conditions (such as "not mentione me in story" and so), we are alwaly having a discussion on that.
 Part Three
M.C.: What is the hardest part of the document and information processing, leaking, and release process? What is the most time consuming part of the process?
Juzne vesti: Depends on situation. Usualy it is collecting the statements of peoples we are mentionig.
M.C.: Are there any tools that might make document processing easier for you? What would these be?
Juzne vesti: hmm.. no.
M.C.: Is there anything else you want to say or tell me about Juzne vesti?
Juzne vesti: We have started experimentaly work in August 2009, but official start was in Januar 29th 2010. In that moment we had 3 journalists, now we have 12 and lot more that we are cooperating with. We have 22-24.000 visits per working day (on weekend we have 40-45% less visits per day), and monthly rise of more than 15%.
All members of our team are younger than 35, and avarage age is 27.
Among daily news, we are focused on topics related to corruption. I believe that we have become recognizable because of that -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHBvyM0k8ek&feature=youtu.be&t=20m57s
I wish you all luck with your work, and I would be happy to se resault of it :)