Civility by Decree: Strange bedfellows

The international presence in Kosovo has other important repercussions for local journalism. Many of the best local journalists are taking lucrative jobs as translators and media professionals for the many multilateral and non-governmental organizations that have set up shop in Pristina since the Yugoslav military withdrawal. “I can’t compete with their salaries,” says Margarita Kadriu, director of the independent daily Kosova Sot.
Editors and journalists at all of Pristina’s major newspapers say they hope for economic assistance from the OSCE, which may be another factor in their positive view of its regulatory plans. For its part, the OSCE denies it will be a damper on press freedom. “We don’t want to be some kind of Nazi overseer,” says Douglas Davidson, the OSCE’s Director of Media Affairs in Pristina.

But Davidson adds that Kosovo “is not a benign environment.” The board’s objective, he says, is to promote democratic debate by discouraging hate speech and by preventing the Albanian nationalist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) from exercising the same monopoly control of the press that the Belgrade government used to impose.

The OSCE has assumed control of Pristina’s major radio and television stations, and has started producing a few bilingual broadcasts. Meanwhile, local Albanians, many of whom are loyal to the KLA, have assumed control of nearly every municipal radio station outside Pristina.

U.S. advocates support financial assistance to help rebuild independent media in Kosovo, but reject the notion that international largesse should come with editorial strings attached. In an August 13 letter to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, the World Press Freedom Committee wrote: “While financial assistance would be welcome for rebuilding printing houses and broadcasting facilities, foreign direction in how to operate them is neither needed nor desirable. It could, in fact, defeat the purpose of helping independent media to flourish once again in Kosovo.”

“Flourish” is a relative term, of course. Until this June, the Yugoslav government controlled nearly all of Kosovo’s broadcast media, with the exception of underground Albanian stations such as Radio 21. National radio and TV stations in Pristina, along with local stations in villages and towns, were all run by Kosovar Serbs hired by the Milosevic government. The Serbs now have no local media representation in Kosovo, although Radio Kontakt, a culturally-oriented station that broadcasts in both Albanian and Serbo-Croatian and was relatively independent of Belgrade before the war, may reopen.

Click here to continue

Back to the Introduction / CPJ Home page

Part 1: Continental Divide / Part 2: View from Kosovo / Part 4: Comparing Rwanda