Journalism in Kosovo faced with many challenges

Journalism in Kosovo faced with many challenges
President of the Board of the Press Council commented on major issues in the media sector in Kosovo, in view of the media indicators set by the Council of Europe.

Imer Mushkolaj, President of the Board of the Press Council, points to the major problems of media sector in Kosovo.

The general conclusion is that the legislation and regulation are well developed in many respects, but that implementation mechanisms are weak. Mushkolaj believes that in some respects a lot of progress has been made, in particular when it comes to equal treatment of political candidates in the media. As he said, media today are quite professional in this respect, and he added: “This matter has been regulated strictly and lots of sanctions have been imposed towards media, especially during the work of Temporary Media Commission. OSCE has also played a great role in this aspect.”

Other media-related issues are also regulated well on the formal level. For example, stipulations concerning free access to public information, or stipulations against hate speech are in place, but Mushkolaj mentions downsides in the implementation. As for Law on Access to Public Documents, Mushkolaj said that the officials “do not take responsibility for this law. Journalists have somewhat given up seeking the right to access to public documents due to delays in responding to their requests”. The overall impression is that the state officials are much more protected than the media and journalists, which Mushkolaj illustrates with several recent cases: “Recently, when a citizen threatened the Prime Minister’s son and the government spokesman through Facebook, the prosecutor took immediate steps to prosecute and sentence the citizen.  On the other hand, there are lots of cases of journalists, who have also been threatened but the police never undertook anything”. Moreover, he said: “We often see that state officials accuse political opponents, or use hate speech in public debates, but the police does not undertake any measures”.

Problems of working conditions of journalists in Kosovo involve work without contracts, financial pressures, pressures by the editors to align with owners’ interests, as well as auto-censorship. An additional problem is the lack of trade unionization: “The Association of Journalists cannot deal with this issue if journalists are not organized in trade unions that would deal with work contracts and other issues”.

Mushkolaj also mentioned the lack of transparency of media towards their readers, as well as the close connections between the media and major stakeholders in the country: “If a journalist writing for the economic section in a certain media, through the reporting or while conducting an interview, favors a public company... and then, after a period of time, we see that journalist working for them [the company]. So, there is no transparency. Unfortunately, there are lots of such cases”.

Media Policy and Reforms