“Cancerous” Practices put Media and Democracy at Risk

In the Western Balkans, Kosovo is the “sui generis” case par excellence. In this small country, reporters have scored heavier hits than the prosecution in fighting corruption, crime, abuse of power, and have even fought harder than the opposition to demand institutional accountability and guarantees for human rights and freedoms. Even opinion polls show that the media are a more reliable resource to combat and denounce corruption than state mechanisms, and their track record confirms this fact.

The data show that most of the debate and public pressure to fight corruption has come from the media, and media research have resulted in the uncovering of large corruption cases. The simplest example is the indictment against 6 former ministers for the hydropower affair. Everything happened only after media reports.

Idealistic journalists have given a lot to this small country. They were there to guarantee solid opposition and raise criticism in the face of inactive political opposition or state mechanisms that are required to act.

In short, in every field of life, reporters have nurtured the hopes and trust of the citizens of this country.

The likelihood of media scrutiny and reporting of abuse, has deterred many individuals from undertaking illegal actions.

This has been demonstrated by examples and cases of media reports that have managed to change the culture of governance, accountability, and use of public funds.

In their mission, reporters have also had to deal with and overcome rotten practices within their own profession.

These “rouge” reporters have been systematically exposed and publicly shamed for their ghost-writing and gas-lighting practices.

All along the way, honest reporters were always victorious. They were victorious because they had the public on their side, an audience that firmly believed in what they were being told.

Today, in 2022, with our inefficient government and justice institutions – at least according to international reports – the country still has hope in reporters as a key player for the advancement of democracy and accountability.

But those who look a little further, can easily observe a cancer that has started to undermine what has been built over many years, public confidence in independent media.

The culprits for this cancer are many, from all too willing reporters who exploit journalism to get rich to politicians who, in order to cover their scandals, view the crucifixion of the media as the easiest way out.

Today, it is evident that political and organized crime bosses have an interest in acquiring control over the media, to make sure they are biased and express not criticism.

In a country where businessmen, politicians and criminals are more afraid of a reporter than a prosecutor, this trend can only grow.

But professional reporters must not stop fulfilling their mission. Today, professionals must work to protect journalism from groundless attacks, as well as to denounce those who exploit journalism for personal profit and harm the profession.

The battle will be long and hard-fought, but the war will be won. The struggle will be fierce for many reasons, including security, financing, justice, and credibility.

It is a known fact that journalists face security issues, while the state has failed to prosecute those who attack and threaten journalists.

It is a fact that private businesses are the only available funding source for the media in the country, and this is especially dangerous when it is known that the private sector is controlled by a couple of business empires in Kosovo.

Challenges are also great in the justice system. Smear campaigns against reporters are not deterred by the justice system, as lawsuits filed by reporters are kept in court safes. But these are factors can be dealt with, if domestic reporters manage to preserve the trust the public have in them.

Energy must be focused on preserving trust and sacred value of independent journalism. This way to safeguard democracy and keep the cancer ‘from metastasizing’.

04 May 2022 - 10:52

Kreshnik Gashi

04/05/2022 - 10:52

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Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.