Civility by Decree

When is official control of the press necessary? Never, say U.S. press freedom advocates. But in Kosovo, many local journalists support a new regulatory board designed to censor hate speech.

Pristina — As Kosovo’s Albanian majority takes over institutions once controlled by minority Serbs, the international authorities who now police Kosovo want the power to stop Albanian journalists from inciting ethnic violence against the province’s dwindling Serb population.

Though Kosovo remains a province of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, it has been governed by NATO and the United Nations since June, when Yugoslav army and Serbian paramilitary forces agreed to withdraw in the wake of NATO’s bombing campaign. Ethnic Serbs have since faced frequent revenge attacks, despite the presence of the international peacekeeping force (KFOR). As more Kosovar Serbs flee the province, their numbers have dropped from ten percent of the total population last spring to only five percent today.

NATO and UN officials believe that Kosovo’s history of ethnic violence demands a formal mechanism to regulate hate speech. As a result the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which operates in Kosovo under UN authority, recently invited seven Kosovars to form a new Media Policy Board. Its function is to advise the OSCE, which retains final authority to regulate the press. The seven-member board features one ethnic Serb, the leader of a Serbian political party called the Serb Movement of Resistance. The Albanian contingent includes human rights activists, intellectuals, journalists, and one former member of the Yugoslav Communist Party.

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–Frank Smyth, a freelance journalist, is a former elected officer of the El Salvador Press Corps Association. He writes regularly for and contributed to the volume Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know, edited by Roy Gutman and David Rieff ( His website is