Media Ownership Monitor Kosovo published by BIRN

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Kosovo has not established the necessary mechanisms and legal framework to prevent the concentration of media ownership in the hands of a single business or individual. This finding was determined through research conducted by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN Kosovo).

Photo: Naser Fejza - KALLXO

Since 2015, the Media Ownership Monitor (MOM) has been in development as a publicly accessible database mapping tool, and it is consistently updated to include all media outlets. The database allows for quality contextualization and analysis within the country where it is implemented, providing assessments of the market and the pertinent legal environment.

The research supported by the EU Office in Kosovo indicates that the media market in Kosovo has been diversified for a considerable period, providing numerous opportunities for individuals and companies to wield their economic and political influence in the creation and establishment of various cable and online media outlets. However, the presence of an inadequate legal framework has allowed many media organizations to conceal their revenues from public scrutiny.

Media, often referred to as the fourth pillar of government, holds significant importance in modern democracies. Thus, those who control the media often shape public opinion. Consequently, media ownership must be transparent, accessible, and known to the broader public.

“Political influence on media funding is another challenge that deserves attention. The Media Ownership Monitor underscores a concern regarding the association between individuals who previously held political positions and are currently involved in the media industry. This connection between politics and the media poses a potential risk to the independence and impartiality of the media,” stated Tomas Szunyog, Head of the European Union Office in Kosovo, during the launch conference of the Media Ownership Monitor in Pristina, which took place on Wednesday.

The website of the Media Ownership Monitor in Kosovo, launched in Pristina on Wednesday, represents the first comprehensive effort to thoroughly research and monitor media ownership in Kosovo, providing detailed information on media ownership in one database. The research reveals that the majority of media outlets in Kosovo do not disclose their sources of funding. Additionally, changes in ownership have been identified, particularly during the pandemic. Other data highlights the presence of former political officials working in the media sector, and it underscores gender discrimination in media ownership. Out of the 44 media outlets examined, only eight are owned or managed by women.

“This report is being drafted for the first time in Kosovo. This means that the report we are launching today is part of an organization that has been compiling a global database of media ownership for several years. This organization is known as the ‘Global Media Registry’ and is registered in Germany. Its representative is here with us today,” said Jeta Xharra, Executive Director of BIRN Kosova.

Speakers at the conference emphasized the importance of establishing secure information environments for media consumers, ensuring that citizens are well-informed, and promoting transparency in the media industry.

“When we began our work in 2015, media ownership transparency was not as significant of an issue as it is today; it has now become a matter of national security,” said Olaf Steenfadt, Project Director at the Global Media Registry.”

“Transparency is of utmost importance because the audience needs to be aware of the individuals or entities that own the media or the platforms which they consume content and information from. Owners have a significant impact on the transparency and editorial policies of specific media outlets, and I doubt whether the listed owners represent the true or ultimate owners,” stated Ardita Zejnullahu, Executive Director of the Association of Independent Media in Kosovo (AMPEK).

During the panel discussions, the significance of media market diversification was highlighted, but it was also stressed that market expansion does not always guarantee quality and trustworthiness for the audience.”

“The licensing process was initially quite stringent, but now it has become more accessible, allowing almost anyone to obtain a license. I don’t want to come across as unsupportive, given my extensive advocacy for the media sector in Kosovo. However, I do not endorse the idea of granting licenses solely based on meeting technological criteria, especially when this sector lacks appropriate regulation” – said Aferdita Saracini from RTV 21.

The European Union, through its regulations, has shown its commitment to matters of transparency, human rights, media, and digital rights. This commitment was exemplified by its proactive approach in Kosovo, where it provided support for this project, the first of its kind, aimed at mapping media ownership in the country.”

“During the website launch ceremony, the issue of insufficient cooperation with relevant media outlets and ministries regarding the collection and provision of data was emphasized.

Out of the 44 monitored media outlets, only 15 of them were willing to share their media ownership data. Consequently, our researchers had to invest over five months in diligent efforts through official channels, both within and outside the country, to obtain the relevant media ownership data,” highlighted Xheneta Murtezaj, Senior Researcher at BIRN.

Apart from transparency, this platform also aims to educate the public on the digital side, in order to enable citizens fair information and the possibility of choosing the news they receive.

At the launch ceremony, it was emphasized that media ownership and changes in media ownership are not solely a matter of updating information at the Kosovo Business Registry Agency. Instead, a series of steps must be followed.

“Currently, we have observed ownership changes that were not as prevalent in previous years, particularly over the last three years. There have been numerous requests for ownership changes, whether among family members, share allocations to different individuals, or the complete sale of businesses. However, the Independent Media Commission has not been adequately informed about these changes,” stated Jeton Mehmeti, Head of the Independent Media Commission.

Beyond its role in promoting transparency, this platform also seeks to educate the public in the digital realm, empowering citizens to access unbiased information and make informed choices about the news they consume.

This conference was attended by 68 participants, including 32 women.

To visit the Media Ownership Monitor, click here.