The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network’s regional media conference, entitled ‘Media Freedom Challenges’, will be held on Friday June 12, in Sarajevo, where BIRN’s directors and media experts will debate the main obstacles to media freedom in the Balkans.
“Media across the region are in complete slavery to both business and politicians. In some countries the situation is alarming,” said Gordana Igric, BIRN Regional Network Director.
“I believe it is important to look at the regional picture. Some of the problems are specific, but some are common all over the Balkans. In order to deal with them, we need a unique, joint initiative,” Igric said.
Johannes Hahn, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, will address the participants via video message, while Florian Bieber, a professor at the University of Graz, will present a list of recommendations to Balkan governments to improve the media situation in the region.
The recommendations are a joint effort by more than 30 media professionals and experts who gathered in Sarajevo the day beforehand at a regional freedom of expression workshop to discuss labour rights, state funding of media and public broadcasters, the media market, transparency of media ownership and the representation of vulnerable and marginalised groups.
BIRN Celebrates 10th Anniversary
The regional media conference ‘Media Freedom Challenges’ is a part of BIRN’s 10th anniversary celebration.
BIRN has a presence across the Balkan region, with country-based organisations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia.
For editorial purposes, it also has a network of journalists and editors in Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece and occasionally Moldova.
The organisation has a wide media presence – online, in print, on TV, and on radio. BIRN’s flagship website, www.BalkanInsight.com, one of 15 sites in different languages that BIRN runs, is read in more than 200 countries worldwide.
Key issues in the Balkans that BIRN has identified include lack of freedom of expression, loss of media independence, lack of good governance, an absence of anti-corruption efforts, poor access to justice and rights and civil society organisations’ inability to address issues of public interest.
Some of the experts who took part in drafting the recommendations were Remzi Lani from the Albanian Media Institute, Asja Roksa Zubcevic from the Bosnian Regulatory Agency for Electronic Communications, Sasa Lekovic, the president of Croatian Journalists’ Association, Sami Kurteshi, Kosovo’s Ombudsperson, Dejan Georgievski from the Macedonian Centre for Media development, and Tatjana Jakobi from the Serbian Centre for the Development of Trade Unionism.
The experts gathered in Sarajevo as a part of the Western Balkan Civil Society Forum, a joint project of the ERSTE Foundation, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung and the Karl Renner Institute, in close cooperation with the Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs.
The Western Balkan Civil Society Forum offers a unique opportunity to civil society representatives from south-eastern Europe to voice their opinions and formulate concrete demands for high representatives of the European Union, its member states and the governments of the countries of the Western Balkans.
The suggestions that will be presented in Sarajevo will become part of a broader package of recommendations from civil society at the Vienna Western Balkans Summit, which will be held in August.
The summit is a continuation of the so-called ‘Berlin Process’ which was initiated in August 2014 by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to show further political commitment to the future enlargement of the European Union into the Western Balkans.