The purpose of the visit was to learn more about local affairs and the most serious problems affecting people in the region, one of the poorest in the country.
The principal problems that were discussed in our meetings were the inadequacy of the government’s Coordinating Body for South Serbia; the absence of dialogue between the representatives of local ethnic communities; the lack of a Serbian government economic and political plan for the region; as well as discrimination against the ethnic Albanians in the area of the privatisation.
Most participants in the discussions pointed out that, in their view, we could not expect any substantial progress in South Serbia until after the final solution of Kosovo’s status.
BIRN Serbia country director, Dragana Nikolic Solomon, met up with the editors of the only Albanian television broadcaster in the region, TV Spektra; the editor of Albanian-language weekly, Perpsektive; the editor-in-chief of RTV Bujanovac; the chairman of the Bujanovac Human Rights Committee; the principal of the primary school Sveta Sava in Bujanovac; local Presevo politicians; the editor-in-chief of the weekly Vranjske; the editor of Vranje-based OK Radio; and Martin Brooks, OSCE South Serbia Coordinator.
The BIRN visit also included meetings with BIRN contributors Nikola Lazic, Ardita Beljulji, Ivica Stepanovic and Faruk Daliu. The discussion focused on activities conducted so far; the expansion of journalist networks and topics covered in the BIRN special edition on South Serbia.
An agreement was reached that the journalists from this region should take part in the seminar dedicated to the problems facing South Serbia to be organised in Nis.
This visit is a part of the journalist-training programme covering multinational regions in Serbia, which is implemented by BIRN Serbia with the generous support of the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Belgrade and the National Endowment for Democracy, NED, the US foundation.