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For the past two decades, Kosovo has been recognised as the Balkans' weakest link in terms of Freedom of the Press.
Press freedom in Kosovo remains a concern despite efforts to strengthen democracy. Journalists face obstacles hindering their ability to operate freely.
Over the years, the issue of press freedom in Kosovo has been a cause for concern. Despite efforts to strengthen democratic institutions, the media landscape in the country continued to face significant challenges. Journalists and media outlets encounter obstacles that hinder their ability to operate freely and without fear.
Amidst the diverse socio-political systems worldwide, the concept of freedom of the press remains an integral facet of justice. Whether it springs from the fundamental right to peacefully express oneself without fear of retaliation or emerges in a world dominated by a corporate oligarchy, the underlying idea remains constant: every individual possesses the right to scrutinize their society and report their findings to an interested audience.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) unequivocally declares:
"EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF OPINION AND EXPRESSION; THIS RIGHT INCLUDES FREEDOM TO HOLD OPINIONS WITHOUT INTERFERENCE AND TO SEEK, RECEIVE AND IMPART INFORMATION AND IDEAS THROUGH ANY MEDIA AND REGARDLESS OF FRONTIERS."
Such principles stand in stark contrast to the authoritarian regimes of the past, where the masses were deemed insignificant in state affairs, and a privileged elite controlled the flow of information, revealing as little or as much as they pleased. Popular sovereignty was practically nonexistent, then as it is now.
In the past, knowledge was tightly held by a select few, and intelligence agencies thrived on political intrigue, considering knowledge as synonymous with power. When examining press freedoms and freedom of speech in this historical context, the dire circumstances faced by many people around the world today come to light.
More recently, the University of Illinois published "Four Theories of the Press" by Siebert, Peterson, and Schramm in 1956, which significantly contributed to creating a typology of journalistic theory. One of the key arguments was that humans should not be seen as dependent beings susceptible to authoritarian rule. Instead, humanity is rational enough to discern truth from falsehood, seeking alternative perspectives to form balanced conclusions in any discourse.
The truth should not be government property, but unfortunately, events are often shaped by the de facto rule that might make right.
In the past, governments and monarchs wielded absolute control over the ownership and content of mass communication tools. However, even in the face of such control, dissenting voices persisted, albeit on a smaller scale compared to those of their oppressors (refer to Samizdat literature, for example).
Criticism of the political machinery and officialdom was near impossible in the past, as mass media today allows. John Perkins illustrates the effectiveness of mass media as a tool to defame and neutralize political opponents swiftly and ruthlessly, destroying careers, families, and lives.
With the fall of monarchical authoritarianism in England in 1688, libertarians endeavoured to reshape society, recognizing that freedom could not exist without free media. Consequently, they granted paramount importance to freedom of the press in their reconstruction of the governmental apparatus.
The right to seek the truth is an inherent and inalienable natural right of humanity. As eloquently expressed by Evelyn Beatrice Hall, speaking through the voice of Voltaire:
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
In the Balkans, Kosovo stands out as the weakest link in upholding freedom of the press. As the world progresses, it is vital to safeguard this fundamental right, ensuring that every society can benefit from an open and informed exchange of ideas and information. Only then can true progress and democracy flourish.
Despite efforts to improve the situation, the challenges persist, hindering the country's progress towards democracy and societal development.
In the next article, I will delve into the troubling findings of multiple Kosovan and foreign journalists who lost their lives during the two decades of rule by warlords, leading the country into destruction and forcing many young people to flee in search of better opportunities and meaningful life.
Press freedom is not just an abstract ideal; it is a concrete reality that affects the lives of countless individuals. Safeguarding this fundamental right is vital for a society to flourish, fostering an informed and engaged citizenry that can collectively work towards progress and democracy.