Media in Albanian and Serbian – is there enough cooperation?

Barabar Centar KoSSev događaj

Debate: Media in Albanian and Serbian – is there cooperation and why isn’t there enough it…

Why is there no trust between newsrooms reporting in Serbian and Albanian in Kosovo? Is there cooperation between them, or are there only individual cases of colleagues helping each other? Is there an initiative to improve and connect the two media ecosystems in Kosovo? What needs to be done to make that happen?

These questions were discussed at yesterday’s debate „With different media platforms to better understanding between communities“ organized by the KoSSev portal, and held in the Barabar Center in Pristina.

The gathering of journalists from different newsrooms who report in Serbian and Albanian was marked by a discussion about pre-existing cooperation initiatives, such as the „Aequitas“ podcast, jointly hosted by RTV Kim editor Zorica Vorgučić and ATV editor Leart Hoxha.

Moreover, the participants discussed ways to improve cooperation, as well as problems journalists face in their work, including issues faced by all journalists working in Kosovo.

How to obtain information? SL’s lack of transparency, the current government in Mitrovica, and central institutions

Leart Hoxha, the editor of ATV television, said that a big problem for journalists, and therefore for the public, is that Srpska Lista is not “open to the media.”

„If Srpska Lista were open to the media, there would be much more willingness of some newsrooms in Kosovo to deal with and see the municipalities in the North as equal to the others,“ he said.

He emphasized that there is a „complete boycott“ of SL of both Albanian and Serbian newsrooms in Kosovo.

The editor of Radio KiM, Zorica Vorgučić, agreed with Hoxha’s assessment.

„It’s really horrible. During those 10 years while they were in power, I did not have the opportunity to get a statement from Goran Rakić, who until recently was the head of the SL. I took a statement from the current president, Zlatan Elek, only once,“ adds Vorgučić, pointing out that this party selectively invites the media to its press conferences.

Since November 2022, after leaving institutions, Srpska Lista has not exercised power in the municipalities in the north of Kosovo. The positions of the mayors were taken over by ethnic Albanians – after local elections in 2023, which were boycotted by local Serbs.

The editor of KoSSev, Tatjana Lazarević, commented on the similarities in the treatment of the two government structures towards the media.

„I can say that we are going through absolutely the same thing with the new government in North Mitrovica, a race to the bottom for transparency between the previous experience with Srpska Lista and what is happening today.“

Hoxha, however, pointed out the lack of communication between the central authorities and the media, which Vorgučić also agrees with.

„Since Albin Kurti came to power, he has never been a guest in any media that reports in the Serbian language… It is impossible to work when you have no interlocutors,“ concludes Vorgučić.

She emphasized that journalists from Serbian newsrooms can only ask the Kosovo PM questions at press conferences, however:

„It often happens that there is no translation at certain press conferences,“ Vorgučić added, noting that even when translation is provided – it is „barely usable.“ On the other hand, she praised the Kosovo presidency, stating that the translation provided there was always good.

Political agenda in the media, journalists not to encourage nationalism, but to defend civic values

The editor of Radio Goraždevac, Darko Dimitrijević, said at the debate that it is „very challenging“ to be critical of the authorities, especially those in Belgrade.

„You often come across open threats, maybe not public, but they always happen through some channels. I believe that all independent journalists working in Kosovo, especially in Serbian areas, face this issue,“ he stated.

Dimitrijević claims that the political agenda is widely reflected in the reporting of mainstream media, both in Belgrade and Pristina.

„It is devastating when you hear a journalist use the word ‘so-called’ – regardless of whether it is used about ‘so-called Kosovo’, ‘so-called Kosovo police.’ We can hear this more and more often in Pristina, when many journalists use the word – ‘the so-called Office for Kosovo“, it is not a proper journalist’s vocabulary,“ underlined Dimitrijević.

He emphasizes that the pro-governmental media in Belgrade „act more openly when it comes to defending the government“, but also that „certain mechanisms“ are used to promote the government in Pristina, „without any basis and critical awareness“.

He added that it is up to the media to be the first in the defense of civic values, but also: „We are not only in the back rows, but we often encourage nationalist values“.

From trust to cooperation

He went to say that it is important to encourage and gain trust between journalists reporting in Serbian and Albanian.

„It is essential that we have trust in when it comes to production – everything else drags us into ethnic distance in media reporting. This is important if we want to build the values of democracy and civil society in Kosovo. The media play the biggest role in this,“ concludes Dimitrijević.

Although there are examples of individual cooperation between journalists who report in Serbian and Albanian, there are no initiatives for greater inter-editorial cooperation, including institutional ones.

The President of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, Xhemal Rexha, similarly to Dimitrijević, highlighted the lack of trust, saying that it is one of the reasons behind the lack of a greater level of cooperation.

As one of the reasons for the lack of trust, he cited diametrically opposite reports of certain reactions in Albanian and Serbian when covering the same event, that is, the same topic.

„When we go out on the field, we have an excellent relationship with each other, but that’s why the final product on television, the portal, depends not only on the individuals on the field but also on editorial policies. I believe that it affects the personal relationships of journalists on the ground the next day. They followed the same event, but you have two connotations, two completely different languages, for example – on Prva TV or ATV,“ he said.

Rexha also pointed to positive examples of relations and cooperation between journalists from the Serbian and Albanian communities, recalling the events in Zvečan on May 29 last year.

„We had exceptional solidarity between Albanian and Serbian journalists when we were blocked in a cafe for three hours, and when our Serbian colleagues offered to move us to a safer place,“ he said.

Rexha: Journalists from the Albanian community also criticize the Kosovo government’s approach to the north

According to Rexha, apart from journalists from the Serbian community, journalists from the Albanian community also „criticize“ the authorities in Pristina in connection with their approach to the north of Kosovo, as well as the announcements of the Kosovo Minister of Interior.

„The statuses of Xhelal Svecla are also criticized, where he automatically declares people guilty as soon as they are arrested, as if the arrested person has already been convicted, as if the minister arrests a person, charges him and then convicts him,“ said Rexha, stating that such manner of speaking should not be used by politicians.

An initiative needed for the cooperation of journalists from Belgrade and Pristina, not the transmission of the narratives of political centers

The editor and journalist of Gazeta Express, Besnik Velija, said at yesterday’s debate that journalists must launch an initiative to improve cooperation with colleagues from other communities.

„I think that there is a lack of initiative by journalists themselves in Kosovo in order to achieve greater cooperation with fellow journalists in Serbia for the benefit of the journalistic community,“ said Velija.

He alleged that media reports are often one-sided.

„The Kosovo journalist reports only on the Kosovo political narrative, and journalists in Serbia, as far as the issue of the North is concerned, only take the narrative of Belgrade’s official policy,“ added this journalist.

He stated that journalists must perceive each other as colleagues, and not as „Serbs and Albanians“. Moreover, he cited the example of his recent self-initiated trip to Serbian cities and talks with Serbian colleagues.

A possible association that would gather both Serbian and Albanian journalists

The director of the Association of Independent Electronic Media of Kosovo (AMPEK), Ardita Zejnullahu, addressed the audience yesterday.

She said that the Association she manages brings together television and radio media, which report in Serbian and Albanian, testifying that cooperation exists.

At the same time, she advocated that these media become part of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, instead of being divided into Albanian and Serbian organizations.

Marinković: The media used to be a corrective factor, and politicians would choose their words carefully

Speaking about the situation in Serbia, Miodrag Marinković from the „Casa“ organization, which encompasses the „Barabar“ center, says that the media used to have a „corrective character“, but that it was „lost“ in 2012: „Because a complete monopoly over the major media was set up in the Serbian society“.

„We had a society in which political representatives were very careful about what they said in the media, and the media had the role of uncovering affairs and thereby initiating court proceedings. I remember the period before 2012, the media had a corrective character in society where media stories influenced the electorate, and the electorate punished those political elites who did not do their job properly,“ he stated.

While today:

„In the media space, the truth is not important, it is dictated and created in some centers and imposed on a large number of people, which drives intellectuals to madness and motivates them to run away from here as far as possible. New Zealand is not too far away, judging by the kind of things we see on television,“ concluded Marinković.

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