58 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 10,877 sq. km.
Languages: Albanian and Serbian
Head of state: Fatmir Sedjiu, since 2008
Its self-declared independence, on 17 February 2008, made Kosovo the youngest state on the European continent. Though its official recognition continues to fuel disagreements within the European Union, the EU decided to send its European Rule of Law Mission to Kosovo (EULEX) there to take over some of the duties carried out since June 1999 by the UN Mission to Kosovo (UNMIK), including in the areas of police and justice. Media can take advantage of the mission’s expertise to develop more independent ways of working and to free itself from the still very strong financial and political pressures.
Distribution of the written media is still embryonic leaving a lot of space for the more influential broadcast media. The leading channel Radio Television Kosovar (RTK) continues to expand under the direct influence of the government. Its funding depends on the goodwill of parliament, which is unlikely to want to deprive itself of the leverage that comes with this situation. The contracts of station directors have not been renewed after expiring three years ago, so the former management remains in place but without any standing and at the mercy of government pressure. If it can manage to stabilise its investments, the growing influence of privately owned KTV could soon counterbalance that of RTK.
Access to information and to public data remains difficult and has still not been guaranteed under law. The basis of written media self-regulation has been established with the creation of the Press Council of Kosovo. The regulatory body is made up of journalists and editors and can impose a right of reply or fines on journalists who breach the code of conduct and media ethics. But like the Media Commission, the Press Council is under government sway.
There are eight national dailies in the privately owned sector, but some of them are linked to political parties or financial groups that develop in their sphere of influence. In the absence of foreign investment in the sector, these groups regularly practice “blackmail through advertising”, in which they exchange their financial backing for advantageous media coverage. The independence of editorial lines suffers hugely from this lack of financial independence. Self-censorship that undermines part of the profession is moreover aggravated by the absence of any real social status for journalists.