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The Struggle for Responsible Journalism in Kosovo: A Call for Transparency and Accountability
In the face of challenges, Kosovo must prioritise responsible journalism, transparency, and accountability to rebuild society and foster a well-informed citizenry.
Over the past two decades, Kosovo has faced various challenges, including a lack of rule of law, high levels of corruption, organized crime, and unemployment. These issues have had a detrimental impact on Kosovar society, systematically impoverishing and damaging the state's structure.
Kosovo is still suffering from the consequences of 22 years of misrule. A significant majority of online media platforms have distorted the truth for financial gain behind closed doors.
Those responsible must be held accountable for the harm they have caused to our society and political environment. We can no longer tolerate deception that interferes with our right and responsibility to make informed choices about our future and our country's future.
The primary function of the press is to inform, educate, and hold those in power accountable. Its primary purpose is not entertainment, nor is it to emphasize the trivial and sentimental, let alone "give the public what it wants."
Government at all levels, both local and centralized, must fulfil its obligation to provide people with the most complete information possible, without hindrance from the interests of a political party or any "national security" rationale.
In order to improve the quality of local media reporting, it seems necessary to have a legal obligation for them to disclose their sources of funding.
Additionally, Kosovo needs an independent body to oversee the quality of reporting and a law that holds platforms accountable for preserving it.
We must insist on a quality press that influences the improvement of collective thinking and action in our country.
An irresponsible press leads to criminal consequences for its victims, the readers, undermining the interests of the people and their country when it comes to domestic and foreign policy.
Therefore, intervention to regulate these issues is necessary.
Towards an Exemplary, Transparent, and Professional Media
Transparency and professionalism in the media promote trust and, in turn, open communication, strengthening the relationship between readers and the media they rely on for information. This, in turn, nurtures a collaborative and accountable environment between the public and the government, fostering mutual progress.
The best media regulation practices, such as those in the United Kingdom, stipulate that no news organization or individual news gatherer, be it an independent reporter, blogger, vlogger, photographer, photojournalist, or filmmaker, should be allowed to operate without first obtaining a business license from a media company. To obtain such a license, an organization or individual must be legally required to meet the applicable criteria listed below, which would vary depending on their level of operation:
The press can only operate in Kosovo if their company is registered in the country.
They must publish their license number, allowing readers to verify it.
They must promote qualified individuals for editorial positions and must not employ unqualified individuals lacking professional qualifications accredited by an independent body.
They must disclose their sources and the extent of their funding, including revenue from advertisements, and detail how it will be spent.
Their funders, on the other hand, must be transparent about the source of their finances.
The press must declare any affiliation with interest groups, such as political parties or business organizations, from which funding would be illegal.
They must publish the code of ethics guiding their editorial decision-making and make the process by which readers can file a complaint clear.
If they violate that code by publishing false news or including comments or opinions, they will be held accountable by an independent body of distinguished journalists and the national association of Editors, and their accreditation and/or license may be revoked.
The press must clearly indicate to readers whether a story, comment, opinion, or part of an analysis is sponsored or provided for publication free of charge by an individual or organization.
They must not publish an opinion or analysis under the category of news or reporting.
They must protect the privacy and dignity of individuals, avoiding sensationalism and unnecessary intrusion into personal matters, while prioritizing the public interest.
Furthermore, it is crucial to establish an independent regulatory body that oversees media organizations and ensures adherence to ethical standards and journalistic integrity. This body should be composed of respected professionals from the field who are not affiliated with any political party or interest group.
The regulatory body should have the power to investigate complaints, impose penalties for violations, and provide guidance and support to media organizations to enhance their professionalism and accountability. It should also have the authority to revoke licenses or accreditations in cases of severe misconduct or repeated violations.
In addition to regulatory measures, there needs to be a comprehensive effort to promote media literacy among the public. Citizens should be educated about critical thinking, fact-checking, and media evaluation techniques. This will enable them to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources of information, reducing their vulnerability to misinformation and propaganda.
The responsibility for fostering responsible journalism does not lie solely with the government and media organizations. Civil society and international partners also have a vital role to play. Civil society organizations should advocate for media freedom and support initiatives that promote transparency and accountability. International partners can provide technical assistance, training, and resources to strengthen the capacity of local media and regulatory bodies.
By working together, we can build a media landscape in Kosovo that upholds the principles of transparency, professionalism, and accountability. A responsible and independent press is essential for a thriving democracy and a well-informed citizenry.
It is time for Kosovo to take decisive action and create an environment where journalists can operate without fear of reprisals, where media organizations prioritize the truth over sensationalism, and where the public can trust the information they receive. Only through these collective efforts can we ensure a brighter future for responsible journalism in Kosovo.