Media of Kosovo
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Kosovo's Constitution and laws provide for freedom of expression and press freedom. Yet, these are often at stake due to political and economic interferences, fostered by media ownership concentration.
- 1 History
- 2 Legislative framework
- 3 Media outlets
- 4 Media Organisations
- 5 Censorship and media freedom
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
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In 2013, Reporters without borders ranked Kosovo at the 85th place in its World Press Freedom Index, below the average of the WesternBalkan and far away from the countries of European Union. This is a slight progress from the 86th place of 2012.
Censorship is forbidden, except in the cases of provocation of violence and discrimination.
A law on the protection of journalistic sources was passed in 2013 by the Kosovo parliament, based on Belgian standards, deemed among the most advanced in Europe.:32
The 2013 Law on Access to official documents guarantees access to information. Each ministry include an official tasked with dealing access requests, though implementation is uneven and overloaded courts are not a viable avenue for redress.
Online content is not regulated by law in Kosovo, besides generally applicable norms. The 2013 Code of the Press Council of Kosovo includes guidelines for online journalism, e.g. on responsibility for monitoring and control over published materials.
Kosovo media are free to enter the market freely, although the licensing system - and the politicisation of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) may be a hurdle.
There remain concerns about hate speech and defamation on the media. In September 2013, three persons were indicted for hate speech after protests against Kosovo 2.0 issue entitled 'Sex', also dealing with LGBT issues.:32
The main issue with Kosovo's legislation, rather than its broad alignment with EU standards, is its uneven implementation, due to the lack of experience of the policy and judiciary and the challenges of interpreting a fragmented anc growing corpus of laws.
Status and self-regulation of journalists
A definition of journalist was provided in the 2013 Law on the Protection of Sources. It defines a journalist as “each natural or legal person, who is engaged regularly or professionally to contribute directly in the gathering, editing, production and dissemination of information to the public through the media”.:34
The Association of Professional Journalists records around 20 cases annually of intimidation or threats against journalists, although physical threats violent attacks have not been recorded. Job security for journalists is not guaranteed, and cases of breach of contracts are often not reported to the authorities or to the public for fear of losing the job. Freedom House concluded in 2015 that “journalists have few professional rights, earn low wages, and often work without contracts, leaving them vulnerable to corruption and prone to self-censorship”
Two codes of ethics regulate the profession: the Kosovo Press Council’s 2005 Code of Ethics, and the Independent Media Commission’s 2010 Code of Ethics. Yet, the journalists' knowledge of media legislation is rather low. Investigative journalism is mostly lacking, as journalists end up reporting on protocol news, and no media has dedicated lawyers.:34
Journalists and editors are exempted from requirements to testify, according to the 2013 Criminal Procedure Code. They also have the right not to reveal their sources, except if necessary to prevent serious threats possibly leading to death, according to the 2013 Law on the Protection of Sources.:34
The Kosovo Press Council (KPC) is the self-regulatory body of the press, composed of 18 members from print and online media. It deals with around 100 claims per year, and its decisions are respected and published - though not self-executive. It is not yet financially sustainable and relies on foreign donors. It also has to face the issue of adjudicating on online media, particularly copyright and privacy violations, and hate speech.:34
Self-censorship is on the rise, due to the "permeability of editorial independence in the face of advertisers, political pressure through the close links between media owners and politicians and the global dwindling media revenues, particularly in the written press", according to the Kosovo NGO INDEP
Although several journalists' associations exist, there is no officially-recognised professional trade union.
According to IREX there were 92 radio stations and 22 television stations in Kosovo in 2012.
Media ownership is not regulated by law, but it was deemed "trasparent" by the INDEP institute in 2012. Private print and broadcast media have to register with the Kosovo Business Registration Agency and disclose their ownership structure. The Independent Media Commission requires media companies to send it annual ownership reports and to disclose the same information with tax authorities. Anyway, media that are not registered as companies have no such legal requirement.:33 Although ownership transparency rules are effective, the real backers of several print media remain opaque.
Commercial media are mostly funded through advertisement revenues. Dependence on big advertisers - particularly the public or state-owned ones - often leads media to self-censorship when their interests are at stake. The state only provides small funding for minority media.:33 In the analysis of advertising market in the Republic of Kosovo by Independent Media Commission 44% of the budget of public companies goes for advertisements in national televisions, 10% in local televisions, 8% in national radios, 9% in local radios, 11% for daily newspapers and 18% for other media. Kosovo lacks strong private advertisers, thus leaving private advertisers dependent on foreign donors. Most media outlets remain financially unsustainable, and operate only thanks to political or business supporters.
The financial crisis hit hard on Kosovo media, especially the independent ones, with two daily newspapers closed in 2012, resulting in job losses and lack of job security for journalists. Yet, media close to political interests seem to withstand the crisis better and to secure advertisement funds more easily.:33
Public service broadcaster
The public service broadcaster is Radio Television of Kosovo, RTK, regulated by the Law on Public Broadcasting. Its financing was originally guaranteed by a license fee paid over electricity bill, until the Constitutional Court declared that it was not due and shifted RTK's budget over state subsidy (0.7% of Kosovo's budget). The change raised concerns for the preservation of RTK's independence. The legal requirement for RTK to plan an end to the transitional state budget funding has not been enacted.:33
RTK has been criticised for lack of investigative journalism and political bias, e.g. in the extensive coverage of the ruling political party (including the annual meeting of the ruling Kosovo Democratic Party) as opposed to the short and misleading coverage of opposition Vetvendosje 2012 protests, which was deemed "a major signal of state financing putting the editorial independence of public television at risk" (IREX, 2013b). Moreover, RTK coverage only reaches 62.7% of Kosovo's territory RTK Board members are elected by the Parliament by majority vote, thus entrusting their appointment to the majority parties. Political pressures aside, RTK maintains an untapped potential thanks to good equipment and professional editors and journalists.:33
In Kosovo there are several operating newspapers. They include:
- Koha Ditore ('Daily Time'), the only newspaper published before 1999, remains the leading daily newspaper. Its founder and owner Veton Surroi founded the Reformist Party ORA (now part of LDK), and the newspaper is run by his sister Flaka Surroi.
- Gazeta Express ('Express newspaper') was established in 2005 as an independent daily, financed by IPKO, Kosovo's leading private telecommunications company. In tabloid format, it is known for its distinctive editorials and op-ed's, as well as focus on investigative journalism.
- Arbresh ('Portali arbresh')is a Kosovo newsportal
- Bota Sot ('World Today'). Headquartered in Zurich, it launched as the newspaper of the Kosovo diaspora in Switzerland. Its editorial line supported the Democratic Party of Albania and the Democratic League of Kosovo.
- Bota Press ('World Press') Pro-LDK.
- Epoka e Re ('The New Epoch'), established in 1999.
- Kosova Sot ('Kosovo Today') independent. Claims to have the highest circulation.
- Lajm ('News'), est. 2004, pro-AKR, owned by the businessman and politician Behgjet Pacolli.
- Tribuna ('The Tribune')
- Zëri ('The Voice'), owned by Blerim Shala, an analyst and journalist who also took part in the Kosovo status process negotiations.
Express, a newspaper best known for its front page on the day when Kosovo declared independence, since March 22, 2013 exists only online.
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There are six nationwide radio channels in Kosovo: Radio Kosova (part of RTK), Radio Blue Sky, Radio 21, Radio Dukagjini, and Radio K4 (the latter broadcasting in both Albanian and Serbian). There are then five regional-coverage channels (Radio BESA, Radio Drenasi 92.1, Radio HELIX, Radio MITROVICA, and Radio PULS - the latter in Serbian), and several local ones.
As the Kosovo Media Institute pointed out in 2010, local radios have a significantly larger share of the audience in comparison with national radios – 60.76% for local radios in comparison to 33.54% for national radio emitters (5.68% are for foreign and/or other radio stations). Likewise, there are around 30 radio stations in Kosovo that have the highest obedience in the regions where they operate
The nationwide TV broadcasters in Kosovo are Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK), with four channels; Radio Television 21 (RTV21), Kohavision (KTV) and Klan Kosova. The public service broadcaster in Kosovo is RTK, which is subsidized by the government and also receives money from advertisement. The law obliges RTK to broadcast programs in Albanian and in Serbian language too. According to IREX, a nonprofit organization, broadcasting ratings in 2012 are as follows: RTK 52 percent, RTV21 49 percent and KTV 28 percent.
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The fixed telephony penetration rate in Kosovo is among the lowest in Europe, with 4.48 lines per 100 inhabitants. On the other hand, mobile telephony has boomed. In 2007, PTK reported growth of subscribers from 300,000 to 800,000 in less than a year. In 2010, 74 percent of the population was subscribed to mobile phone services, or a total number of 1,537,164 GSM-services in Kosovo are provided currently by Vala Mobile, a subsidiary of PTK (+377 Monaco prefix), and by IPKO (Si Mobitel), a company owned by Telekom Slovenije, which has acquired the second mobile operator license in Kosovo and has started operations in late 2007(+386 Slovenia prefix). A Kosovo-specific +383 country calling code is in the process of being established. There are three virtual operators : D3 Mobile, Z Mobile , Zog Mobile
Around 84% of Kosovo residents have access to internet, which is not restricted by the authorities.
In the last years web portals have become very important source of information. According to Kosovo Association of Information and Communication Technology 72.1% of households in Kosovo have access on the internet and the number of internet users is constantly growing.
As IREX points out, web news portals are constantly becoming more useful and attractive, in proportion with the growing of the internet usage. Telegrafi.com is an online news portal which is visited by more than 60.000 people each day. There are also other web news portals such as Koha.net, Gazeta Express, Kosova Press and so on.
Internet coverage is widespread but it experiences frequent outages. As of September 2010, the number of internet subscribers was 105,061 or 35.02% household penetration rate.
The Independent Media Commission regulates the range of broadcasting frequencies in the Republic of Kosovo and other related issues.
In order for the media to start broadcasting they should have the license issued by Independent Media Commission. The license is renewed every seven years for radio broadcasts and every ten years for audiovisual media services.
Electronic media are regulated by the Independent Media Commission (IMC), established by law as an "independent body for regulation, management, and oversight of the broadcasting frequency spectrum". Yet, its composition and functioning remain under political influence. The IMC members are elected by the Kosovo Parliament, and are thus affiliated to the ruling political parties. The IMC board thus risks blocking civil servants' agenda for political reasons. The new IMC Board Chairmain failed to disclose its previous activities in local government, which would have disqualified him from eligibility.:32 
Censorship and media freedom
In 2015, Freedom House scored Kosovo as "partly free", with an overall score of 49. The organisation recorded the persistence of political interference, financial pressures, and high media ownership concentration.
Attacks and threats against journalists
Journalists in Kosovo face recurrent threats and attacks. The backlogs of judicial courts and the flaws in the judiciary (with inefficient prosecutions) lead to delayed investigations.:18–19
The Association of Professional Journalists records around 20 cases annually of intimidation or threats against journalists, although physical threats violent attacks have not been recorded. The Association of Professional Journalists of Kosovo (APIK) recorded 22 cases of threats and physical assaults against journalists in 2014, on the rise from the previous years;:19 AGK documented 25 cases in the same year. Although perpetrators are known, investigations tend to lag behind. Only one case was solved in 2012-14, resulting in a low fine. :19 HRW checked 63 claims of threats, of which only one (Life in Kosovo) had led to prosecution and finally acquittal.:21 The Kosovo interior minister Bajram Rexhepi told HRW in 2014 that they take crimes against journalists seriously and that the police is doing a good job, shifting the blame towards prosecutors and the judiciary. He also suggested that journalists share a part of the blame, as "not all journalists respect the ethical code".:23 The police told HRW that they do not differentiate among victims, but that cases involving vulnerable groups (journalists, children, women, minorities) are treated as priority.:24
- Jeta Xharra, chief editor at Life in Kosovo TV show, complained in 2009 against the major of Skenderaj for death threats. The EULEX prosecutor acted upon the police complaint only three years after. The courts then dismissed the case based on statutes of limitation.:21–22
- Vehbi Kajtazi, journalist at Koha Ditore, got a death threat in 2011 from the former dean of Prizren university and adviser to the Kosovo government, after he having exposed corruption involving him. The prosecution indicted the perpetrator only in November 2013. Kajtazi reported about 15 threats to the police, finally concluding that it was useless to do so.:23
- Journalists reporting on religious radicalism often complain of online threats. The Kosovo Police set up a cybercrime unit in late 2012. Artan Haraqija received hundreds of online threats, including death threats; the police arrested one suspect, but released him the day after and told Haraqija he had nothing to worry about.:20
- Arbana Xharra, chief editor of Zëri, started receiving death threats after reporting on radical religious groups in 2012 and reported them to the police, but with no consequences.:21
- In June 2014 a Serbian public TV reporter, covering a festival at the Gracanica monastery, was arrested for minor traffic violations and injured while manhandled in police custody.
- The satirical TV journalist Milot Hasimja from Klan Kosova channel was stabbed several times on its workplace in November 2014. The attacker was charged with attempted murder.:19–20
- Zekirja Shabani, APIK president and journalist for Tribuna, was attacked by the newspaper owner Sejdi Demiri in December 2014, allegedly for his trade union activities.:20
Prosecutions and convictions for crimes against journalists are rare. In March 2014 three men were convicted to two-years suspended sentences in a high-profile case related to a 30-people storming of the launch of a Kosovo 2.0 issue on LGBT rights and gender issues.
"Political intimidation can thrive" in Kosovo, the OSCE concluded in June 2014, due to the small size of the country and the dependency of media professionals on public employment. Advertising and fundings are seen as the primary avenues for direct or indirect pressures on media outlets. The public service broadcaster RTK is particularly vulnerable to direct and indirect political interference, often seen as "a mouthpiece of the government".
Journalists that are critical of public officials are at risk of being denounced as traitors or "Serbian spies". Stories critical of government have been obstructed by editors, and some journalists have been threatened with dismissal. Non-aligned media outlets have been intimidated with tax inspections or have had their access to public information obstructed.
- The Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AGK) complained about verbal threats and obstruction against journalists by government officials, business interests and media owners.
- In May 2014 the AGK chairwoman resigned due to allegations of improper connections with the ruling PDK party.
- In October 2014 a Koha Ditore reporter complained of threats of prosecution from EULEX officials if he had refused to hand over documents allegedly implicating EULEX in corruption activities.
- Jeta Xharra complained that her TV show Life in Kosovo on the public channel RTK, airing since 2005, had its airtime cut for political reasons and was replaced by lower-league soccer games. The budget for investigative journalism on RTK had already been proposed for cuts in 2009, but this was later avoided by the Parliament. The show has not received due payments from RTK from late 2013 to November 2014 (and possibly further), endangering its financial security. "Public TV is exercising pressure by not paying for the programs containing our production", Xharra told HRW.:39
A reporter at Life in Kosovo was subject to a 12-days smear campaign by the daily Infopress, calling her a Serbian spy and asking for her to be punished, after she reported on local politics in Skenderaj in 2009-2010. She later left journalism due to pressures. The five Infopress columnists who had threatened her were acquitted in 2013, with the court establishing that the op-eds did not constitute a threat.:22
- Freedom House, Kosovo 2015 Press Freedom report Cite error: Invalid
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- Reporters Without Borders
- Reporters Without Borders
- Elda Brogi, Alina Dobreva, and Pier Luigi Parcu, "Freedom of Media in the Western Balkans", study for the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights, October 2014, EXPO/B/DROI/2013/16
- Constitution of Kosovo
- Kosovo Press Council (2012), Guidelines of Code of Conduct. Pristina: Kosovo Press Council
- INDEP Institute for Development Policy (2013), The State of Media in Kosovo, 2012. Analysis.
- Independent Media Commission
- IREX (2013b), Europe & Eurasia. Media Sustainability Index 2013: Kosovo. Pristina.
- Independent Media Commission of Kosovo (2013), Annual Report for 2012
- Kosovo Media Institute
- List of the local radios
- Kosovo Agency of Statistics
- Freedom House
- Legal Political Studies
- Kosovo Association of Information and Communication Technology
- Independent Media Commission
- Kusari, Flutura (2013), Media Freedom in Kosovo. Report Presented to the CMPF, EUI, Fiesole (Florence).
- Human Rights Watch, "A Difficult Profession. Media Freedom Under Attack in the Western Balkans". July 2015, 978-1-6231-32576
- OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Freedom of Media and Safety of Journalists in Kosovo, June 2014