Civility by Decree: The view from Kosovo

Kosovar journalists interviewed in Pristina this month, however, were almost unanimously in favor of press regulation. “We need rules for what is news and what is a lie,” says Baton Haxhiu, the editor of Pristina’s most respected daily, Koha Ditore. Haxhiu is voting with his feet, having recently agreed to serve on the Media Policy Board as one of two ethnic Albanian journalist representatives.
The other journalist on the board is one of Kosovo’s leading broadcasters, Aferdita Kelmendi of the Albanian independent station Radio/TV 21. Along with nearly all Kosovo’s independent media, Radio 21 emerged only last year, as Serbian control of the province began to slip. Despite having accepted the OSCE’s invitation, Kelmendi has nuanced views on press freedom issues.

While Kelmendi argues that it’s the responsibility of journalists to “keep a line of professional journalism,” she does not oppose regulatory authority over the press. But she also suggests that bureaucracy may not be the only solution to the problem of media hate speech. After the Yugoslav army withdrawal last June, Kelmendi recalls, “we had one caller who said let’s clean the Serbs,” using a common slang term for ethnic cleansing. “So we asked our listeners [what they thought,] and there was a huge reaction against it.”

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Part 1: Continental Divide / Part 3: Strange Bedfellows / Part 4: Comparing Rwanda