If the Pristina media, while reporting on the north, are collectively accusing the Serbs of something, how can the Serbs in the north be interested in following their news? How can we expect the Kosovo Albanians to have a positive opinion on the dialogue with Serbia when the Serbian Prime Minister stated that Albanians came from the woods and that it is impossible to negotiate with them? If the media are unable to get rid of collective responsibility in their reporting, then we cannot expect any improvement in our relations. We know that our wars started as a consequence of the tendentious statements of politicians and the same statements are still being used for personal interests. We –the media – have not yet managed to isolate this phenomenon. Politicians know this is a tried-and-tested formula and whenever they feel a decline in their popularity, they share tendentious statements, attacking each other, which we then report…
This was said in a discussion that gathered a group of Kosovo female journalists yesterday in Pristina. Seventeen female journalists from Kosovo recently gathered in Budva, where they created a joint declaration on how they see their position and the importance of their profession; what can be done to improve the journalistic profession. In the upcoming months, the signatories will invite their fellow colleagues to join the declaration before launching a wider action in the institutions, but also the entire region.
Hate speech & fake news
Political and media space is polluted by hate speech and fake news. Politicians changed the way they communicate with the public. They switched from direct and open communication with journalists to press releases, which often contain problematic content, propaganda, and which are stained by national and other types of intolerance, often directed against individuals or a group.
Hence, apart from the professional editorial policy, news consumers’ media literacy is vital as it plays a corrective role as such. The media themselves are in a tough position.
KoSSev initiated the joint declaration with the support of UNMIK. The declaration was originally based on interviews with female journalists from Kosovo – Serbs, Albanians and Bosniaks – who spoke about their position in this profession. Read the text of the declaration in Serbian, Albanian and English
„It seems that journalists face many problems when it comes to reporting on a politician’s statement. On one hand, you cannot ignore it, because it is in the public’s interest to be informed about it. On the other hand, you don’t want to participate in spreading ethnic or any other kind of hatred. And when you report on such content, there is a risk that you will do this – albeit unintentionally. This is happening because the media literacy of the public is not at a satisfactory level for such radicalized, aggressive political narratives and often fake news,“ KoSSev journalist&editor and the initiator of the declaration, Milica Andric-Rakic said.
Professionalism against social antagonism
„We, the journalists face a debate about where is the limit between informing the public about what politicians are saying while not wanting to participate in spreading hatred and violence.I want to believe that none of us want to“, she added.
„We set out less ambitiously, in a small group as possible, in order to see if it is doable to reach an agreement in order to unite in our efforts to report professionally and avoid social antagonism,“ Andric-Rakic underlined.
Speaking about this social antagonism, she listed certain parts of the declaration, referring to the fact that there are political representatives who differently interpret different topics, including the most sensitive ones, which further antagonize the public, most often against another ethnic community, or against the factual state.
She urged her female colleagues from Kosovo to add their signatures to the declaration, pointing out that the universality of values expressed in the declaration is such that male colleagues, but also the entire region, would also want to show their support.
Unequal representation of women in the media
Freelance journalist, Una Hajdari spoke about the visible gender-based stereotypes in the profession, saying that men are still dominant in certain segments of journalism. She stressed that there are prejudices about the qualitative contribution of women in the media, especially when deciding and preparing serious political content, as well as commenting on the political process.
„In the declaration, we pointed out the fact the media are run by women – which is a good example, while men still dominate in decision-making,“ she said.
Hajdari added that female presenters and journalists are often seen on entertainment shows, but their absence is noticeable when it comes to serious political debates.
She also recalled that reports with a political character, either commented on or analyzed by female journalists, are not frequently seen in the media.
„We have educated, emancipated women, but male analysts are established in society, and in the declaration, we pointed out that it is necessary to include a larger number of female voices who would analyze and comment on events and political and social processes,“ she stressed, citing good examples of international practices.
Hajdari also pointed to the part of the declaration that points to sexist behavior towards female journalists and women in the media, adding that Kosovo lacks the right approach when it comes to recognizing and dealing with such behavior.
Media as a filter against misunderstanding
„We do little reporting around the region and this is something that creates barriers, because there are journalists and media companies that are unable to make their professionalism a priority, the essential importance of the news above everything else, but we notice that reporting is being done according to a certain political agenda,” said Hajdari.
We have still not outgrown the 1990s, and in fact, as journalists we can be a filter of misunderstanding – she added.
„The only filter we have is to react while reporting, one media outlet does something, and then another one reacts to it, which is not good,“ Hajdari stressed.
Politicians’ obligation they forgot about: to answer to the media
„In order to realize why this declaration is necessary, you just need to attend a session of the Kosovo parliament,“ the journalist and editor of the portal Gracanica online, Andjelka Cup said.
„In the Parliament, we can hear everything that is wrong and that needs to be changed, there are some exceptions, of course“ – she added.
She said that the signatories of the declaration, while pointing out common problems and proposing measures for their resolution in the declaration, expressed hope that they would receive the support of institutions. According to Cup, without such support, they cannot solve their problems.
“Getting to information of public importance and reaching a VIP – believe me when I say that my hair turned gray while waiting for them to show up their presence on my show; though that is their job,” Andjelka Cup said.
“The most terrible thing is that despite the fact that politicians have an obligation to respond to our calls, the media somehow gave them the right not to respond. It is partly because of our defeatism and partly because of our fan-like attitude“.
„The moment we start watching some channel, we can immediately recognize who is standing behind that media. I still want to believe that there are independent media. I still want to believe that there is a possibility that there are media in Kosovo that work independently and not as a spokesman for some institution,” she added.
The declaration reminds the institutions and politicians of what they are obliged to give the journalists by law, Cup added.
„Politicians will give you information about their rival, but when it comes to where was money spent – it is a taboo topic for them,“ Cup said, providing the following example:
„I asked the Assembly Speaker on the cost of a one day Parliamnet session, where everyone comes and goes whenever they want, bringing in coffee cups, randomly selecting debate topics, etc.. He replied by saying that the Kosovo Serbian community has rights. I told him that I did not ask him about the Serbian community, asking him him why he was discriminating against me by giving such a response. I want to believe that most of us are still working in the public interest“.
The language rights
The Kosovo Assembly fails to provide translation in minority languages. This is a problem that the media in Kosovo reporting in SR/BSH have been dealing with for years.
Cup explained that the journalists could not reach a consensus on the language issue at the Budva gathering, namely, on the problem definition and the proposed measures. Therefore she appealed with her Kosovo Albanian colleagues, institutions and international stakeholders to demonstrate their willingness to assist the minority media with this issue.
„In the declaration, we stated that it is important that we know each other’s languages. Languages are a treasure, and it is something we are in need of. I am now urging colleagues and donors to organize language learning courses, but I want to emphasize that this does not reduce the responsibility of institutions to respect the Law on the Use of Languages,“ she said.
There is however a positive example to this issue.
„I have to commend the Government of Kosovo and their service – which is perfect. We always have translations for all events, which is commendable. Perhaps these translations are not always of the best quality, but we get them in due time. Their efforts are noticeable“.
Cup finally stressed the importance of solidarity. She claimed that while on one hand, there is cooperation between two journalists’ associations at a managerial level, with a signed memorandum of understanding, on the other hand, there is still a lack of cooperation among members themselves.
15 journalists from Kosovo were murdered and were reported missing. Their nationality is not important but the fact that they were killed or went missing on a journalistic assignment.
After presenting the declaration in Pristina yesterday, a presentation will be organized in June in North Mitrovica. The declaration is part of the project „Women in Media“ supported by UNMIK. Part of the project includes the correspondence of four journalists from the Serbian and Albanian communities on journalistic ethics and reporting standards. You can read these correspondences on the special theme pages: Novinarska beležnica and Razmediavanje.
Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.