Sunday, May 19, 2024


Freedom of the media remains an essential dimension of democratic developments and the process of EU membership for the Western Balkans. The “EU Media Days-Western Balkans” conference held in Podgorica has reaffirmed the imperative for free media as a fundamental dimension of integration. The strengthening of the media sphere remains a permanent commitment of the European Commission.

Author: Bardhyl Zaimi

Podgorica has opened another horizon for the Western Balkans media. Over 350 media and civil society representatives attended the three-day conference “EU Media Days -Western Balkans” organized for the third time in a row by the European Commission. In all panel discussions of the conference, media freedom is seen as a key predisposition for democratic developments. Regional collaborations in promoting quality journalism have also been the focus of the conference participants.

The EU senior officials have stressed the need for more commitment to protecting and guaranteeing freedom of the media and freedom of expression. They have emphasized that the path of the Western Balkan countries passes through free media, which cultivate quality journalistic content. At the opening of the conference, EU Enlargement Commissioner, Johannes Hahn, through a video message, stressed that there will be no progress for any Western Balkan country on the road to the EU, unless they ensure and guarantee media freedom and free expression.

“Our message is crystal clear: There can be no progress on the road to the European Union without the protection and guarantee of media freedom and freedom of expression. That is why we are beginning and ending the accession process with Chapters 23 and 24 of the rule of law,” emphasized Hahn. He recalled that media freedom is a key element of the rule of law and is at the heart of EU strategy for the Western Balkans.

At the same frequency has also been the Director for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations at the EC, Christian Danielson, who has emphasized the need to respect media freedom as a value underlying at the European Union. Now is the time for our Western Balkan partners to undertake serious reforms in the media sector and thereby prove credible commitment to European values ​​and standards. Freedom of the media and freedom of expression are the foundations of European Union construction. There are no negotiations with the EU without the guarantee of freedom of media and expression” he said. Danielson has announced that since 2014, EU has provided 20 million euros to support media in the Western Balkans

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera of the European Commission’s Enlargement Directorate said in a press release that it is time to enforce rule of law in the media sector and put an end to political interference and a lack of transparency. She has noted that the EU will continue to encourage political actors and encourage civil society to continue to work for improvements across all the sectors. “The message is clear: There is no progress in the media, no progress in the rule of law, this means there will be no progress in the EU accession process,” she said. In previous reports, the European Commission reemphasized the permanent assistance received by the media in the Balkan countries amounting to 20 million euros. This support has been for five regional programs and for initiatives with partners in the six Western Balkan countries. These programs include strengthening judicial expertise on freedom of expression and the media, a regional training program to improve the quality and professionalism of journalism, and a technical assistance program to support the public service media in the Western Balkans.

There is no doubt that the media in the Western Balkans are undergoing a long process of transformation. Freedom of the media has often been threatened by various forms of political pressure, while there is no consolidated legal framework that would enable their normal functioning on the basis of EU-based principles and promotions, which always come in the form of recommendations. .


However, the EU Media Days-Western Balkans conference has created another moment to reflect and enhance the interaction between the media in the countries of the region with European media policies, which see the freedom of the media as the main pillar of all democratic developments, but also of the process of accession of the Western Balkans.


This conference and previous conferences have unveiled the need for regional collaborations to promote and establish quality journalism as a counterpoint to all the media chaos that has produced the fake news phenomenon that poses a permanent threat to fair information and to the qualitative debate of the whole community on all issues related to the European future of the Balkan countries. 


The conference in Podgorica, in all its dimensions, has put forward the need to consolidate the media sphere as a vital disposition to advance the process of EU integration of all Western Balkan countries’. It is now clear that the European Commission will remain committed to deepening the dimension of independent media and freedom of expression as a fundamental value of merging with standards already set in European countries.


Throughout the integration process the media will be the focus of the EU. In all statements at this conference, it is warned that media freedom remains non-negotiable for Balkan countries. In fact, it is already known that the quality of democracy depends largely on the quality of the media. The media remain indicators of democratic developments and the internalization of other political freedoms, which are always sought and recommended by the EC.


Of course, political pressures, favoritism, the lack of a correct and respectful legal framework by state institutions and public life actors are black holes that absorb the normal functioning of the media. Under these conditions, it remains very difficult for professional media to survive, those medias that do not have political dependence. This aspect has also been discussed at this conference, looking for models for sustainable functioning and self-financing.


There are a number of problems that impede the normal functioning of independent media. But despite this, from Podgorica, the European Commission has already delivered the big message of unimpeded media functioning, the message of encouraging and affirming the media that cultivate professional journalism. This battle to create a favorable space for the normal functioning of the media on the basis of professional principles already has a permanent and dedicated ally and that is EU. Media freedom remains the essence of democracy, and this disposition was strongly reaffirmed by all participants in Podgorica.








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