Balkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence – at World Press Freedom Day

Selvije-BajramiAn occasion to briefly review the media situation in Kosovo: By coincidence together with the World Press Freedom Day on 3rd. May started the 2011 Balkan Fellow-ship for Journalistic Excellence programme. Accor-ding to the organizer, this year’s programme sets a focus on justice in legal and social dimensions. Ten journalists from the Balkans attended the opening presentations in Austria’s capital city Vienna. Main speakers were Christoph Prantner from Austria’s daily "Der Standard" and Igor Stiks, research fellow at the Scottish University of Edinburgh. The event lasts until the end of this week.

Kosovo is represented by Selvije Bajrami, from the Kosovar daily ‘Zeri‘. Further participants came from Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Romania. Two participants came from Serbia. The programme in general tries to "… advance balanced coverage on topics that are central to the region", – whereas a main topic in ‘the region’ on this regard seems to be the media itself. 

On the occasion of the ‘Press Freedom Day’ the Kosovo Association of  Professional Journalists, AGPK, published a report saying that 69 percent out of 101 interviewed journalists see the Kosovar Government as the main threat regarding freedom of media in Kosovo. Still 60 percent judged the situation for media in Kosovo as "bad" or "very bad". Meanwhile the independent organization Freedom House in its evaluation report ranked Kosovo on the last place in terms of ‘freedom of press’ throughout the Balkans. As to ‘Freedom House’ in all Balkan countries the media is only "partially free".

Hashim-ThaciAlready in March 2010 a report from the Kosovar research institute KIPRED stated that "Institu-tions put pressure on print media by conditioning positive reporting of their activities and perfor-mance in exchange for publication of advertise-ments in newspapers, which is crucial for their sustainability". The same report shows that the Government of Kosovo under Prime Minister Thaci spent 28 percent of foreseen budgets for advertisements in the Newspaper "Infopress" and 15 percent for advertisements in "Epoka e Re" – although both papers, according to KIPPRED, only reach 4 percent of the respective public.

Subsequently Shengyl Osmani from Balkan Insight concludes, that "Thaci’s PDK, the leading force in the … government, had built up a stable of reliably supportive newspapers: Infopress, Epoka e Re, Tribuna Shiptare and Lajm." This reportedly has helped to "create a culture of self-censorship in Kosovo", a representative of the Kosovar GAP institute was quoted as saying.

Recently observed changes concerning the linkage of press and politics may refer to PDK internal disputes, which are due to the coalition with the "political" party AKR of businessman and former short-term Kosovo President Pacolli. The nomination of Pacolli and – later on – of the current President Jahjaga for the Kosovar presidency was opposed by a significant part of Thaci’s PDK. This internal opposition included former Transport Minister Limaj and the head of the parliament of Kosovo, Krasniqi, who himself showed ambitions for the highest position of the republic.

Some of the mentioned papers ‘reflected’ this PDK internal dispute. The newspaper ‘Infopress‘ for example is said to have changed its approach from a "cheerleader for the PDK" to an "arch-critics of the new Thaci government." 

Nevertheless, also in these cases journalism remains an instrument of personal ambitions, patronage and dependency. Independent media is an exception in Kosovo.

For more opinions from Korrik Sofalia and news about Kosovo go to KON!

This article was first published on Technorati

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