By Sonja Ludvig ZAGREB, Croatia,Published on
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Projects and activities of Croatian NGO ZaMirNET have been for a long time dedicated to the promotion of civil society and its values through ICT and development of new media initiatives. Serving as a transnational and regional information dispatch network, ZaMirNET developed its media programme and ran several sucessful projects aimed at promoting activist journalism and creating opportunities for the use of electronic media.
ZaMirNET’s current media project ZaMirZINE (www.zamirzine.net) is an electronic newsmagazine specialised in themes related to civil society and issues such as human rights, gender, ethnical and sexual minorities’ rights, environmental, animal rights, information and communication technologies (ICTs), urban culture, etc. News on this web-portal is published on a daily basis, while more extensive articles, columns, analyses, reports and interviews are published weekly.
ZaMirZINE has a useful segment called NGO Market, which contains news items and announcements on conference calls, donation proposals, job vacanties, educational opportunities and the like – all information that activists or non-government organisations need for their plans and activities, but that are usually scattered among dozens of wesites and mailing lists.
Since the development of ZaMirNET’s media programme, it has been noted that the mainstream media tend to represent civil society organisations with a sensationalist and sometimes biased perspective, while NGO members lack the journalistic skills to systematically report the news about their sector in a professional way. Therefore, ZaMirZINE was developed as an inclusive media environment, based on knowledge transfer between activists, young journalists and established journalists. Since its beginning, ZaMirZINE editors dedicated their efforts to the strenghtening of journalistic skills with the help of daily publishing, development of educational web-pages and organising live and online trainings and discussions. The inclusion of NGO activists in journalistic work and professionalisation of young journalists interested in civil society themes and independent reporting is now achieved through mentoring sessions and collaborations with experienced journalists.
So far, ZaMirNET has gathered excellent response and feedback from other NGOs and Croatian mainstream media – articles from ZaMirZINE are regularly quoted in various commercial and independent web portals, as well as in newspapers. Articles originaly published on ZaMirZINE have so far been translated into English, Slovenian and Macedonian, and quoted on several international web portals, such as Indymedia and OneWorld. A recent article on OneWorld.net for example, mentions this e-newsmagazine as an important tool for improving media coverage of the non-profit sector in Croatia.
ZaMirZINE currently has about 16.000 readers per month and has been voted the best Croatian electronic zine for two consecutive years (2004 and 2005) by ‘PC Chip’, a Zagreb-based leading ICT magazine. All contents published on ZaMirZINE are licenced under Creative Commons – some rights reserved.
During the daily publishing work on ZaMirZINE, it’s editorial board noted the need for better cooperation among independent media that aim to empower and support civil society organisations and advocate advancement of human rights, promote tolerance and empowerment of marginalised groups. With that in mind, ZaMirNET founded the network of indepentent electronic media of Croatia. Until now, it thereby established collaboration with seven independent websites run by different NGOs and grassroots organisations. Unlike ZaMirZINE, which acts as a catalyst and is oriented towards a wide variety of social movement related issues, other websites in the network are mostly specialised on specific themes such as youth issues, environmental protection, gay and lesbian rights, gender issues, animal protection and the like. The network is based on content sharing among websites that provide the wider citizenry with civil society values and a good example of tolerance in public dialogue.
Most journalists involved in this network are NGO activists that, unlike professional journalists, are thoroughly informed and deeply involved in issues they write about. Through adding RSS-feeds, news syndication  among these websites should become faster and easier over time. Such a network will enable people that were previously not familiar with the Croatian NGO scene’s activities to become involved in themes and discussions that contribute to the democratisation process taking place in the country and the entire region.
1 Syndication refers to the automatic sharing in information through advanced exchange language.
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Sonja Ludvig, sonjal