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Report: Kosovo journalists under political pressure

 Kosovo journalists under political pressure

A new report has revealed that some media owners are exploiting their outlets for political ends; Kosovo’s public broadcaster has been subjected to political interference, while working conditions for journalists remain poor.

According to the study, freedom of the media in Kosovo is increasingly being threatened by political pressures which include direct interference by politicians.

Kosovo’s constitutional and legal framework includes safeguards protecting the freedom of the media and freedom of expression, but their implementation in practice is weak, said the study, entitled ‘Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety’ which was published on Monday by the Association of Journalists of Kosovo.

Some media owners “dictate their editorial policy through editors to journalists, who are asked to write news in favor of a particular political party”, the report noted.

Thirty per cent of the journalists interviewed for the report said that censorship has some impact on their work.

Moreover, the report said that Kosovo's public broadcaster, RTK, has continued to suffer from political interference in 2017.

“The journalists who were interviewed underscored that political interference in the editorial independence of the public broadcaster has continued,” said the report.

Shkumbin Ahmetxhekaj, an editor at RTK, told sources that politicians see the broadcaster as a prize asset for influencing public opinion.

“The pressure on journalists is so great because they [politicians] all see [media] as a force that could affect citizens,” Ahmetxhekaj pointed out, adding “The pressure is continuous, it is not going to stop any day, but it’s important for journalists and editors to deal with it in the right way.”

Agron Bajrami, the editor-in-chief of daily newspaper Koha Ditore for his part noted “We have seen some increase in pressure and threats on journalists this year, but we also have a worsened economic situation for media in general and a great politicization within media themselves.”

 “The big problem in Kosovo is that the ownership of a large part of the media is unclear, it is not very transparent, which only adds to suspicions about political interference,” he added.

Ahmetxhekaj also said that a key problem is that the media market is being swamped by news websites which do not meet even the basic norms of professional journalism.

“It is important that there are media that still keep professional journalism alive,” he expressed.

Furthermore, the report said that poor working conditions, low wages and general insecurity at work remain journalists’ biggest problems in Kosovo.

“These days, journalists in Kosovo work in miserable conditions,” an editor at daily Kosovo newspaper Zeri, Anita Kadriu said.

“We are in a position when journalists cannot speak about their basic rights, so how can they speak out about the violation of the rights of Kosovo’s inhabitants?” Kadriu asked.

The report also said that 2017 was also marked by several cases of verbal threats, death threats, and physical attacks on journalists.

 “Justice and security institutions were more active in protecting journalists this year after the recommendations made last year by the [Association of Journalists of Kosovo’s] Report on Journalists’ Safety,” the report concluded.