May 18, 2008, Skopje – In order to analyze the media coverage of the situation of Kosovo and promote quality reporting on this issue in South East Europe, the Macedonian Institute for Media hosted a two-day conference in Skopje on May 16-17, 2008. Forty international media professionals and the representatives of numerous Macedonian news outlets participated in the event which was part of a larger research and advocacy project implemented by the South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM). In the framework of the program the Network monitored how print media in South East Europe covered the situation in Kosovo in the first two months of 2008. The country reports, a regional overview and the summary of the discussion at the Skopje conference will be published in English, Albanian, and Serbian. The project is supported by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (Pristina), the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the Media Program SEE of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), and the Swiss Embassy in Skopje.
The first session of the Skopje conference compared how media in Serbia and Kosovo reported on the same conflict. Then, based on the findings of SEENPM media monitoring, panelists analyzed to what extent local politics influenced the press coverage in neighboring Albania, Macedonia, and Montenegro. Finally, experts from the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia discussed how the conflict and the declaration of independence of Kosovo were presented by news outlets in these countries. Alongside with media researchers from SEENPM countries, panels included Agron Bajrami, Editor-in-Chief of the daily newspaper Koha Ditore(Kosovo); Bosko Jaksic, columnist for the daily newspaper Politika (Serbia); Willem Houwen, Director of the Kosovo School of Journalism and Communication; Gabriel Partos, media analyst from the United Kingdom; Giuseppe Zaccaria, correspondent of the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa; and Agnieszka Skieterska, reporter from the Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborza.
During the discussions several speakers emphasized that declarations by politicians and developments in diplomacy prevailed in reporting, and the coverage of everyday life situations was often missing in news stories. Furthermore, many media outlets relied predominantly on news provided by wire services instead of having correspondents in Kosovo and using multiple sources of information. It was also noted that in their coverage of Kosovo most media outlets mirrored the official policies and stances of the political players in the respective countries. At the conference several participants urged dialog among media professionals from South East Europe. A multicultural approach in news coverage was also encouraged in order to contribute to more accurate and balanced reporting and reconciliation between communities burdened by a long lasting conflict.