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.
Even if the media succeed in holding politicians accountable, journalists remain the target of political attacks. The media regulator, IMC, has been ineffective and was recently involved in a corruption case. The independence of public broadcaster RTK has been called into question due to the election as director of television of an ally of the ruling party. Serbian-language media have complained of discrimination in the access to public information, particularly in the language of the constitutional minority.
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 killed since 2005, murders and disappearances that took place before and during the war in Kosovo (1998-2005) have gone unpunished. Journalists investigating drug trafficking or environmental pollution have been exposed to physical attacks and have seen their reporting hampered by criminal networks. Although the attacks are investigated by the police and prosecutor’s office, they rarely lead to legal proceedings. Attacks against journalists in the north of Kosovo increased during a period of political tension between Pristina and Belgrade in late 2021.