Kosovo Media Sustainability Index (MSI)
About the MSI
IREX designed the MSI to measure the strength and viability of any country’s media sector. The MSI considers all the factors that contribute to a media system—the quality of journalism, effectiveness of management, the legal environment supporting freedom of the press, and more—to arrive at scores on a scale ranging between 0 and 4. These scores represent the strength of the media sector components and can be analyzed over time to chart progress (or regression) within a country. Additionally, countries or regions may be compared to one another. IREX currently conducts the MSI in 80 countries, and produced the first Europe & Eurasia MSI in 2001.
MSI Kosovo - 2013 Introduction
Overall Country Score: 2.46
Kosovo faced protests from the start of 2012 when, on a cold January day, opposition party Vetvendosje organized a massive protest that aimed to block all goods coming from Serbia to Kosovo through the border at Merdar. The protest turned violent when Kosovo police brutally intervened. Journalists covering the event were not spared; a freelance journalist was knocked unconscious when an officer struck him, though he recovered without serious complications. The attack was filmed, but the police never apologized.
In late October, Vetvendosje organized another protest that met an even harsher police response. This time more than 60 protesters were arrested, some brutally beaten by the police, many were hospitalized, and one remains in a coma. Though the event was without doubt the top news of the day, with some media covering it live, it was not a breaking news item on Radio Television Kosovo’s (RTV) main news telecast. To critics, this was a major signal of state financing putting the editorial independence of public television at risk.
Despite these events, the overall MSI score slightly increased from last year, showing that some progress has been made. Two major media achievements marked 2012. One was the removal of Articles 37 and 38 from the government’s draft of the penal code. Two infamous provisions, one extending criminal liability from a publisher to its reporters, and the other requiring disclosure of confidential sources, were finally removed from the bill after extended lobbying by journalists’ associations and the parliamentary opposition.
The second achievement was the government’s decision to exempt broadcast media from the 16 percent VAT, a long-term demand of the media community. Still, 2012 was a year of financial crises for the media in Kosovo. Two daily newspapers that had operated for more than six years closed due to financial constrains. The resulting job losses, especially considering the increasing number of young journalists graduating every year from university, were particularly jarring for media professionals in the country.
The plurality of news sources remained a positive force in the Albanian-language media, with 105 radio and televisions stations, eight daily newspapers, and 11 cable operators, and 50 percent of the country with Internet access. While quantity is sufficient, however, the quality of journalism leaves much to be desired.
Crimes against journalists continue. While no journalists were killed in 2012, at least five were physically assaulted and 10 were threatened or intimidated. The perpetrators usually come from business groups, though occasionally from political faction. As a country that aspires to become a member of the European Union, Kosovo needs better mechanisms to protect the mission of the free press. When a judge issues a €200 fine to a businessman for threatening an investigative journalist with death, the Fourth Estate cannot be regarded as an important asset to a democratic society.