The OSCE initiative has drawn howls of protest from Western press freedom watchdogs. “The best way to combat hate speech is not to ban it,” read a New York Times editorial last month, “but to ensure that Kosovo’s citizens have access to alternative views.” Marilyn Greene of the Reston, Virginia-based World Press Freedom Committee agrees: “While the independent media in Kosovo needs foreign assistance, it does not need direction from the outside.”
Interestingly enough, several prominent, well-respected local journalists take a different view. “We need rules for what is news and what is a lie,” says 33-year-old Baton Haxhiu, an Albanian who edits the Pristina daily Koha Ditore. Haxhiu recently agreed to serve on the Media Policy Board, and he is not alone. “We need a code of conduct for the press,” says Shkelzen Maliqi, a chain-smoking Albanian intellectual with a salt-and-pepper beard who writes occasionally for Koha Ditore and works for the George Soros-funded Open Society Institute in Pristina.
Maliqi has also agreed to serve on the new media board, arguing that Kosovo should adopt “a European and not an American approach to this matter.” In effect, Britain and other European nations have long had legal as well as professional codes of conduct for their media. The United States has no such binding standards, which may partly explain why U.S. media watchers have been quick to denounce the OSCEÕs proposal.
“What they are setting up establishes a precedent for continuing restriction of the press. These structures will last long after the fighting is over,” says Greene of the World Press Freedom Committee, an organization funded largely by Western newspapers that is active worldwide. She adds that the proposed board sets a course that Kosovar journalists will come to regret.