Kosovo Remains Vulnerable to Disinformation, BIRN Report Concludes

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In the absence of sustainable funding, limited human resources, unclear editorial policies and external influences, in some instances, the media became creators and amplifiers of disinformation, a BIRN Kosova report on disinformation concludes.

Photo: Naser Fejza - KALLXO

The report “Story of our lies” which was published on Monday in Pristina has noted that Kosovo remains vulnerable to different to inside and outside disinformation as institutions and other stakeholders have not been able to establish mechanisms that monitor the dissemination of disinformation, whereas judicial institutions have been unable to handle these types of cases.

“The Disinformation Report has mapped various forms of disinformation in Kosovo, whose main aim is to change the course of Kosovo towards the Euro-Atlantic Integration and to deepen further the existing barriers between communities in Kosovo,” Jeta Xharra, the Executive Director of BIRN Kosova said.

Report shows that social media and internet platforms which specialize in fictitious news remain the key disseminators of disinformation, however, in some cases, even traditional, professional media have been guilty. This report also lists a lack of media literacy programmes and the capacity of the education system to deliver media education as the key challenges for the future.

“At times, unprofessional media outlets can contribute to the disinformation, this is why the citizens should make the distinction between fake and verified news while the Institutions should contribute to this by incorporating media education in school curricula,” Imer Mushkolaj, head of self-regulatory body Kosovo Press Council, said.

The report emphasized the presence of Russian influence and propaganda as evident especially since the war in Ukraine started.

“The risks of disinformation have become even clearer in the wake of Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine. Therefore, we must work tirelessly to safeguard professional journalism and promote the values of transparency, accountability, and truth,” the Head of the European Union Office in Kosovo, Tomas Szunyog, said in the launching ceremony.

Russian propaganda was notably present in Kosovo and this led to the banning of the media who were influenced by it. It is IMC responsibility to ban media which are a risk to national security,” Head of Board of Independent Media Commission, IMC, Jeton Mehmeti said.

The report focuses also on the narratives and misinformation that undermine security, undermine trust in the West and worsen inter-ethnic relations.

“The most vulnerable community on the sphere of the misinformation  in Kosovo continues to be the Serbian community in Kosovo, this due to the fact that disinformation in Serbian language is being widely spread across the Balkan,” Pajtim Gashi, Program Director at National Democratic Institute, said.

“It is important that Kosovo media editors know how to make the difference between the regime in Belgrade and Kosovo Serbs, since them are fellow citizens of the people living in Kosovo and thus prejudices need to be avoided,” Branislav Krstic, a journalist based in Mitrovica North, said.

“Disinformation regarding the Inter-ethnic relations can lead to inter-ethnic tensions, or in the worst case: inter-ethnic conflict… Propaganda is part of the political fight. Media in Kosovo have learned the lesson on what happened in 2004,” Lulzim Peci, the Executive Director of KIPRED, said.

The report offers recommendations to Kosovo authorities and other stakeholders, including media regulatory and self-regulatory bodies on how to work in order to build the necessary capacities to identify sources of disinformation and adequately address them.

This conference was attended by 90 participants, including 39 women representatives of civil society, institutions, journalists and others.

To download a copy of the report in English, click here.

To download a copy of the report in Albanian, click here.

To download a copy of the report in Serbian, click here.