Thirty-three journalists from Kosovo and 36 from Serbia met in Ohrid, Macedonia earlier this month. For many, it was an unprecedented opportunity for direct contact.
By Valentin Nesovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje - 26/05/03
Nearly 70 journalists, editors-in-chief and media directors -- 36 from Serbia-Montenegro and 33 from Kosovo -- met in Ohrid for a three-day conference from 7 May to 9 May. Sponsored by the Southeast Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), it was the first such meeting since 1991. For most of the participants, it was a first ever opportunity for direct contact.
"Besides great differences, Serbia and Kosovo have a joint feature. In any transition society, when order and stability are jeopardised, the freedom of the media and information is also at risk," said Friedhelm Frischenschlager, of the OSCE Department of Democratisation in Pristina.
"The legal framework for the media in Kosovo has yet to be regulated," he added. "Good legislation on access to information, on protection of the public opinion against incorrect or false information is necessary. In Serbia, after the prime minister's assassination, it turned out that in an emergency situation, it was the authorities who still influenced the freedom of media."
The way journalists talk about the past poses a great challenge, Frischenschlager said, but the past should not be allowed to overshadow the future.
Nagif Malici, chairman of SEEMO for Kosovo, agreed. He said there were many topics open for discussion and therefore such meetings were necessary.
The chairman of SEEMO for Serbia, Veran Matic, said he regretted the era of repression and war crimes that had occurred in Kosovo, adding that he wished that channels for exchange of information and not disinformation had been opened, and that bridges to determine the truth had been built, allowing reconciliation to take place. Matic said it was not necessary to talk about "Serbian journalists" or "Albanian journalists" because a professional journalist should not have a national prefix.
Participants at the SEEMO meeting advocated professional and unbiased journalism as a model for better mutual understanding. Gordana Stosic, the director general of Macedonian Radio and Television, wished the participants success and said that mediators should not be required to organise future meetings. Instead, regular and normal contacts among journalists should be maintained.
Radomir Licina, president of the SEEMO Board, said the experience showed that Balkan journalists could conduct discussions with each other, despite their differences. He announced plans for a meeting between journalists from Serbia and Croatia.