While the Kosovo media market is diverse, its development is limited by the small size and strict separation along the ethnic lines. Media independence is threatened by poor regulation and dependence on partisan distribution of public funds.
Despite its small size and division along the ethnic lines, Kosovo has a pluralistic and vivid media market. The TV segment - featuring a high degree of concentration - is dominated by private Pristina-based channels, although the public broadcaster RTK plays an important role. Online news portals include strong brands such as BIRN or Kosovo 2.0, the latter being one of the few media outlets publishing in both Albanian and Serbian.
Although the media manage to hold the authorities accountable, journalists are regularly targeted by political attacks. The media regulator, IMC, has been inefficient and recently involved in a corruption affair. While the board of the public broadcaster RTK - elected directly by the Parliament just like IMC - is vulnerable to political influence, the selection process of its members in late 2021 was deemed transparent by organizations defending press freedom. Serbian-language media complain of discrimination in acccess to public information, especially in the constitutional minority language.
Freedom of speech, protection of journalists' sources and right to information are legally guaranteed, whereas defamation and libel are decriminalized. Recently, however, journalists have been increasingly targeted by SLAPPs initiated by business groups and politicians. In addition, the Copyright Law is not upheld in practice. The access to public information improved in June 2021 when the Information and Privacy Agency became operational with its first Commissioner.
Overall, the media are dependent on advertising either from the government or political parties, both of which are distributed in a non-transparent and partisan manner. Private media newsrooms are, in addition, exposed to interference of powerful political or business groups via the media owners. Serbian-language media face the extra challenge of a small market in which some media depend on funding from neighboring Serbia, while the independent media would not survive without international grants.
Although the journalistic profession enjoys society’s respect, independent media and investigative journalists are often victims of insults and fake news on social networks, and being unjustly accused of “collaborating with the enemy.” Such rhetoric is proffered by political and religious groups.
While no journalist has been murdered since 2005, the killings and disappearances before and after the war in Kosovo (1998-2005) have remained unpunished. Journalists investigating drug trafficking or environmental pollution have been exposed to physical attacks and prevented from reporting by criminal networks. While the attacks are prosecuted by the police and prosecutor’s office, the courts fail to uphold them. Media coverage of political events has resulted in an increased number of journalists threatened on social networks. Serbian-speaking journalists are intimidated for their independent reporting by the ruling party in Northern Kosovo.