Kosovo media outlets' microphones. Photo: BIRN

Media Freedom in Kosovo ‘Undermined by Political Pressure’

International media freedom organisations said after a study trip to Kosovo that political pressure, smear campaigns and a lack of transparency is undermining Kosovo’s progress in improving the media environment.

A conference held on Wednesday after a two-day visit to Kosovo by international media freedom organisations heard that although the country has made progress in depoliticising the public broadcaster and introducing a legal framework for improving the media environment, this progress is being undermined by problems like politicians’ toxic rhetoric and smear campaigns against journalists.

The underfunding of the public broadcaster and a lack of official transparency are other issues, the conference in Prishtina organised by the Council of Europe’s Platform on Safety of Journalists was told.

Verbal attacks on journalists and media outlets by state officials, politicians and people connected to the ruling party Vetevendosje are also disturbing, the conference heard.

“Divisive rhetoric and smear campaigns directed at journalists by some politicians and public officials, including from the governing party, is creating a growing climate of hostility against the media,” said the International Press Institute, one of the organisations that participated in the visit.

It said that such rhetoric could cause “threats, online harassment and physical violence”.

Flutura Kusari from the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom also told the conference on Wednesday that in addition to the positive findings about “the advancement of press freedom, the legal framework for the protection of journalists and positive developments in the public broadcaster”, derogatory language towards the media and journalists from politicians, mainly from ruling party Vetëvendosje, remains a problem.

Kusari claimed that “the safety of journalists, impunity, non-handling of cases of missing journalists, problems in access to information in the Serbian language, and the lack of transparency of the current government continue to be one of the main challenges journalists face”.

Pavol Szala from Reporters Without Borders said that “verbal attacks by politicians on journalists create an unsafe climate that can encourage physical threats and intimidation against journalists”.

Roberta Taveri from Article 19 also highlighted the lack of government transparency as worrying.

“This issue raised by journalists must be improved, since access to information is also an obligation of the government,” she said.

Attila Mong from the Committee to Protect Journalists noted meanwhile that progress has not been made in following up cases of physical attacks on and threats against journalists.

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, also said in a report in October that Kosovo is not doing enough to protect journalists from violence after a rise in attacks and threats in 2021.

and 17/11/2022 - 15:24

17 November 2022 - 15:24

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