Governments and EU failing to tackle threats to journalists in western Balkans

Governments and EU failing to tackle threats to journalists in western Balkans
(Image: Jon S under a CC licence)

1 December 2016

According to the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), over the course of 2016 national governments and the EU have failed to deal with obstacles to media freedom in the western Balkans — new cases of attacks on journalists are regularly appearing, while many previous incidents remain unresolved.

“At a time when it has never been more important, independent journalism is up against the wall in the western Balkans. [...] That won’t change unless the EU makes absolutely clear to western Balkan governments that their European aspirations depend on a thriving and free media,” said Lydia Gall, a researcher on the region at HRW, referring specifically to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Macedonia.

Among the most shocking instances mentioned in HRW’s latest media freedom report was the case of the editor of Kosovo’s Gazeta Express, who received death threats for his documentary on war crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army. Journalists’ associations in each of the countries reported high rates of assaults on media freedom, for example Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national journalists’ association registered 40 cases of assaults on media freedom between January and September 2016 alone.

HRW’s report affirms that, while the European Commission and the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, have voiced concern about media freedom in the western Balkans, only the European Parliament has provided more specific suggestions with regard to the issue.

Source: Balkan Insight