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Huremović: FENA has launched two projects during pandemic

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SARAJEVO, June 29 (FENA) - FENA has responded to the growing need of factual and trustworthy news in BiH with two projects aimed at keeping the information flow functional while also supporting national media with reporting. Our experience shows that news agencies, regardless of the ownership structure, have turned out to be the most reliable source of information in this crisis as well, Elmir Huremović, FENA's director general said in an interview with the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA).

What was FENA’s approach to the corona-crisis in Bosnia in editorial terms?

During the coronavirus pandemic Federal News Agency FENA has launched two projects to meet the needs of its users, but also the needs of the public in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It launched a special site which only publishes news related to the pandemic and this content is available to everyone via our website www.fena.ba

At the same time, in cooperation with the leading telecommunication operator in the country, the fena.live project has been launched, which secures direct livestreaming of the most important events, with minimum presence of reporters and media crews. This way FENA supports the epidemiological measures in BiH and it helps keep media outlets secure and also maintains the public information from the press conferences and other events in real time.

FENA has been live streaming press conferences of health and other government representatives since the beginning of the pandemic and delivering the material to all media outlets. All events are also streamed via Agency's Facebook page.

Globally, the attention of the public towards corona-related topics was huge in the beginning of the crisis, then lower and lower. Nonetheless, a lot of disinformation was and still is circulating. Is it also the case of Bosnia & Herzegovina?

Unfortunately, there is a lot of unverified information on the instance, spread and treatment of Covid-19 in the BiH media space. It is mostly spread via unprofessional news portals and social networks. According to the information we have, the Appeals Committee of the Press and Online Media Council of BiH, as the competent self-regulatory body, received great number of appeals from the citizens on this subject.

How do you see the role of news agencies during crisis times? Do you think there are differences in roles generated by the different ownership structures?

Our experience shows that news agencies, regardless of the ownership structure, have turned out to be the most reliable source of information in this crisis as well. Unlike most standard commercial media outlets, truth and public interest is more important to news agencies than commercial interests and numbers, which is also closely related to marketing. 

Did you take any special measures (human resources, financial) to ensure FENA’s continuity of activity during the pandemic?

Apart from the aforementioned professional activities, I should emphasize that the number of videos that FENA produces usually has tripled since the beginning of the epidemic, as well as the number of published articles. We are also much more active on social media - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

Complying with the recommendations of the health authorities and towards protecting the health of our employees as much as possible, we have organized work activities in a way of enabling all those who can work from home to do so. The ones who are much needed in the newsroom, which includes editors, reporters and multimedia staff, are working in shifts so in case there is an infection in one group, the other group can continue working without any disturbance to the newsroom and the working process.

Unfortunately, due to budget cuts imposed by our founder (Government of the Federation of BiH within wider measures towards reducing public spending), FENA has lost over 30 percent of its financial resources needed for the correspondents' network, utilities and travel costs, fuel, etc. Even with these challenges basic activities of the Agency have not been questioned. 

Many specialists use the word “opportunity” when referring to the corona-crisis. Is it “just a phrase” or is there really opportunity in this very special situation?

Based on our experience I can say that the opportunity is seen in better use of remote working, imposing FENA as the most relevant source of information in BiH and promotion of our projects, whose aim is faster distribution of information and multimedia content (fena.live), said Elmir Huremović for the "EANA Top Voices" project.

(FENA) A.B.