UNESCO project “Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey” supported in 2018 a wide range of activities to strengthen the role of press and media councils in this region. Activities enhanced the visibility and functioning of press councils and thereby their long-term sustainability, a cornerstone of success of media self-regulation in the region.
“Press and media councils have a significant role to play in addressing the issue of disinformation. This presumes a recognition of their expertise in supervising journalistic professional standards and in providing complaints mechanism for any citizens who feels there was a breach of those standards,” said Marius Lukosiunas, UNESCO Programme Specialist.
Among those activities, an Ethics School for students of journalism and young journalists in Pristina in December 2018. Participants followed various lectures, such as the one from Besa Luci, editor-in-chief at Kosovo 2.0 on New Media and Slow Journalism, the interactive workshop of Ms Flutura Kusari on regulating insult and defamation or the lecture of Ms Lindita Tahiri, Professor at the Journalism Department of the University of Pristina on Free speech and Media Literacy.
Earlier this year, the Press Council of Kosovo organized a 12 years anniversary conference presenting the milestones and success since it started operating. A major success for this body is the increased number of its members, which count more than 22 news online portals this year. All decisions of the press council are available on their website, which has also been updated and improved thanks to the project.
Overall, improving the visibility of their work has been a focus for all press councils in the region. In Montenegro, the ombudspersons of Vijesti, Dan and a representative of the media council hold a joint press conference to present the new code of journalistic ethics of the country. After that, a social media campaign presenting promotion and explanatory videos on the role and importance of media self-regulation were widely disseminated.
In the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the media council (CMEM) organized an award competition but also hold its first open public session of its complaints commission. The goal of such open session is to increase the transparency and trust in the work of the media council. Since its establishment, four years ago, the CMEM already adjudicated on 250 complaints, a number that keeps increasing. Such open sessions are already very successful in Serbia where the Press Council organized regularly such activity in local areas outside of Belgrade.
Other initiatives were also implemented to increase the use of the press councils by citizens and journalists. In Serbia, the press council launched a mobile phone application to simplify the filing of complaints about potential breach of journalistic ethics. The new Albanian Media Council followed that example and launched its App called “Këshilli i Medias” targeting the younger population.
To improve the functioning, exchange visits between press and media councils of the region and capacity-building seminars for the staff of these bodies were organized. The need to adapt the new ethical challenges of the digital age are critical for them to remain credible institutions. For that, dialogue and relying on experts, knowledge from other countries has proved very useful.