Life in Kosovo on Final Status Plan

BIRN Kosovo will have a live debate tonight, February 2, at 20:30 on UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo, which will be revealed in Pristina at 16:00.

BIRN Kosovo will have a live debate tonight, February 2, at 20:30 on UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo, which will be revealed in Pristina at 16:00.

The panelists in the studio will be.

– Nexhmedin Spahiu, an analyst from Mitrovica
– Adrian Gjini, a minister and member of the final status negotiating team
– Arlinda Desku, an independent journalist
– Dardan Gashi, a member of final status negotiating team

During the programme, BIRN will also broadcast an interview with Hashim Thaci, head of opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and member of the Team of Unity, the decision-making body mandated to deal with the UN proposal.

The programme will be the first televised analysis of the plan which will pave the way for the resolution of Kosovo’s political status in the coming months.

According to a section of the draft proposal obtained by BIRN, the UN proposal will bring Kosovo “de facto” independence, though the word does not figure explicitly in the document.

Internationally-mediated negotiations on Kosovo’s final status started in Vienna, in January 2006. After several months of meetings, Kosovo’s and Serbia’s negotiating teams failed to achieve an agreement, refusing to budge from the original negotiating positions, the former demanding full independence and the latter autonomy.

With the negotiating process close to collapse, the international community decided to have Ahtisaari draw up a proposal for Kosovo’s final political status, which is due to be presented in Belgrade and Pristina today.

Life in Kosovo Focus on Returnees

RTK, Pristina
The BIRN-organised TV show Life in Kosovo on January 26 will turn its attentions on the people who have returned to live in Kosovo.

This programme aims to raise public awareness about issues related to the return and reintegration process, looking primarily at groups of ethnic minorities living in Kosovo.

The programme will include field interviews with some families that returned to live in their rebuilt homes, key stakeholders who have been involved in the process of return, representatives of local government, international organisations and also religious representatives.

The edition of the programme will be broadcast at 20:30 on Kosovo’s public television channel, RTK.

Life in Kosovo Documentary on Gender Issues

The BIRN-organised televised show Life in Kosovo will present “Whose Security?”, a documentary exploring how women in Kosovo have been affected by war and how they now perceive the notion of peace and security in their day-to-day lives.

The documentary includes interviews with Kosovo’s prime minister, head of UN Mission in Kosovo, and many female activists, politicians and citizens, attempting to reveal how the successful integration of women’s perspectives and participation into democratic society is an uphill struggle, and how international resolutions are much easier to ratify than to enforce.

BIRN Debates Big Hit with Viewers

In its special New Year’s edition, Koha Ditore, Kosovo’s daily newspaper, ran a short review of the Life in Kosovo debates, saying the show is the “most watched TV programme in Kosovo after the Latin-American soap-operas”.

“Life in Kosovo” is a weekly TV debate show that is organised by BIRN Kosovo and broadcast on RTK, Kosovo’s public TV station.

The programme deals with current political and social affairs and was launched in October 2005 as a bi-weekly show. Since September 2006, it’s gone weekly and is broadcast on prime time, every Friday evening from 20:30 hours.

Reactions to BIRN Debate on Religion

A storm of comment was provoked by the BIRN-organised “Life in Kosovo” debate on Islam. Over 70 emails were sent to BIRN after the television show was aired on December 8.

“I was waiting for your show to be transmitted as I was told it tackles a very taboo topic of our Islamophobic society. I encourage you to go on, as other media are avoiding such topics, especially those about gender discrimination within religion”
Sadat, Pristina

“I feel sorry for those who support fundamentalist Islam. We inherited this religion from our conqueror, the Ottoman Empire and we still suffer from the consequences. For example, my mother is illiterate because at that time it was said that Muslim girls should not go to school.”
Ramush, Pristina

“How can somebody say that it is forbidden for a woman to shake hands with man? If this is correct than I don’t want to be a part of it. This is in direct conflict with our traditions as Albanians. We don’t need Saudi traditions as we have our own.”
Adelina, Sweden

The full report on the debate can be found at:

BIRN Contributor Commended for Reporting on Corruption

Arbana Xharra, a BIRN contributor, won first prize in a journalism competition organised by Kosovo’s Anti-Corruption Agency, AKA, the UN Development Programme, UNDP, and the OSCE mission in Kosovo, on December 11.

The jury, which consisted of seven members, selected Xharra for her numerous articles on corruption published in the daily Koha Ditore and BIRN’s online publication Balkan Insight.

Xharra, a senior journalist with Koha Ditore, has been a regular BIRN contributor since January 2006. She has published a number of investigative and analytical articles for BIRN, mostly regarding mismanagement of public funds in Kosovo’s institutions.

Nis Workshop for Albanian and Serbian Journalists

An editorial workshop for six journalists from South Serbia was held from December 8 to 10 at the Nis Media Centre, as part of BIRN’s ongoing Minority Training and Reporting project.

Nis Training

The group comprised four Albanian and two Serbian journalists who work for local electronic and print media outlets in Bujanovac, Presevo and Vranje.

The journalists were: Rijad Destani of Albanian TV Spektri; Faruk Daliu of RTV Bujanovac; Skender Saqipi and Fesnike Rexhepi from the Albanian weekly Perspektiva; Nikola Lazic from the weekly Novine Vranjske; and Ardita Behluli and Ivica Stepanovic from RTV Presevo.

Over the course of the three-day training session, BIRN editor-in-chief, Gordan Igric, and the director of BIRN Serbia, Dragana Nikolic Solomon, discussed how to write features and news analysis and pointed out common mistakes.

Jeta Xhara, BIRN Kosovo director, gave the participants tips on interviewing techniques based on her experience of hosting a highly successful TV debate show in Kosovo.

Miroslav Jankovic from Youth Initiative for Human Rights, YIHR, talked to the group about access to information legislation and journalists’ rights.

Igric held a session on libel law and why it’s important to understand it in advance of Serbia’s integration into Europe.

Nikolic Solomon spoke about the importance of steering away from hate speech and stereotypes when writing articles, especially in post-conflict societies such as Presevo.

Vukasin Obradovic, editor-in-chief of Novine Vranjske, discussed his own experience of editing the multi-ethnic monthly Korak – Hapi, urging the group to write as professionals, not as Albanians or Serbs.

Suzana Trninic, a B92 radio editor, held a session on election coverage and provided tips on how the journalists could improve their contacts with mainstream parties in Belgrade.

During the last day of training, Igric and Nikolic Solomon worked with journalists on the preparation of articles on South Serbia, due to be published beginning of January.

Those who attended the workshop thought it very useful.

“I think we learned a lot from the experienced journalists who trained us in Nis. The knowledge we gained in the last few days will be very useful for our day-to-day work,” said Saqipi.

The workshop was organised with the help of British Embassy in Belgrade as well as the National Endowment for Democracy, NED in Washington.

RFE Interview BIRN Kosovo Journalist

Krenar Gashi, BIRN Kosovo Assistant Editor, was interviewed by the Serbian programme of Radio Free Europe on a BIRN investigation into the illegal trade in passports.

Gashi, who co-authored the report, “Ex-policemen Run Kosovo Passports Scam”, spoke about the desperate situation of people who try to get hold of passports illegally and the lengths they go to acquire them. He also discussed the way he went about researching the report.

The RFE interview followed extensive republication of the December 1 BIRN investigation in most of the daily newspapers in Kosovo and Albania.

Diplomats Interviewed for “Life in Kosovo”

The positions of the American, Russian and French governments on Kosovo’s final status will be featured in a special edition of the BIRN-organised RTK programme “Life in Kosovo” tonight, Friday, November 10, at 20.20. The show will feature interviews BIRN Kosovo director Jetta Xharra conducted with Richard Holbrooke, the ex-US envoy to the region; and Frank Wisner, Andrei Dronov and Thierry Reynard, the current US, Russian and French envoys in Kosovo, respectively.

In the interviews, Holbrooke says that Kosovo will be an independent country and blames the Bush administration for the delays in the final status process; while Dronov insists that if there’s a decision that’s unacceptable to Belgrade, Russia will exercise its veto in the Security Council. The interviews look at Kosovo’s importance to America and Russia and whether Kosovo is important enough for the two countries to fall out over. The programme will be in English with Albanian subtitles.
For an extract of the interview with Richard Holbrooke go to:

“Life in Kosovo” debated festivals

The second BIRN-organised RTK debate on cultural topics dealt with local festivals.

Since 1999, a number of cultural festivals have been organised, most of them traditional. Organisers’ main complaint is lack of funds.

The main points discussed in this debate were the challenges of organising festivals in Kosovo, with the main focus of discussion on financial problems.

The panelists invited to debate the topic were: Veli Bytyçi, public relations director on the ministry of culture; Aliriza Arenliu, director of the international documentary and short film festival Dokufest; Zana Krasniqi from the International students film and theatre festival SKENA UP; and Ilir Bajri, director of the Pristina jazz festival.

Arenliu insisted that the ministry of culture “doesn’t have a proper strategy for festival funding”. He said funds tend to arrive late because of the absence of a signed agreement between fundraisers and granting organisations. He added that everything gets done on the basis of trust.

Bytyçi maintained that funding delays were due to the late hand over of project proposals. But he also said that the ministry should not be seen as the sole source of funding and organisers should look to private donors.

Bajri said he was aware of the ministry’s limited budget and asked about other ways it could lend support.

Krasniqi highlighted the trouble he has persuading members of the international community to attend the SKENA UP festival, because they still have the impression that there’s conflict in Kosovo. “The key problems is to convince foreign participants to come,” she said.

The discussion moved on to the lack of public interest in cultural events, in particular plays.

Bajri blamed the low quality of plays, “I’m not enthusiastic about the theatre any more, as it doesn’t offer anything interesting.”

All panelists agreed that there were a large number of festivals in Kosovo, but their quality was uneven.