The majority of the Western Balkan nations are experiencing a resurgence of civil society after years of war and stagnation following the collapse of Communism in the region in the early 1990s, One pillar of European society that has, however, lagged behind the robust economic and social development in the region is that of independent journalism.
As each of the countries gears up for further integration with the European Union, Brussels has stepped up its support to media freedom and development in the Western Balkans, with a focus on media accountability, funding, capacity building, regional cooperation, and young journalists.
“Protecting and safeguarding the fundamental rights such as media freedom is of crucial importance for (the Western Balkans’) further progress on the EU path. While our Western Balkans Strategy has triggered a new dynamic for the EU’s integration of the region, we haven’t seen much progress in the area of media freedom. To boost progress also in this area, this year’s Media Days puts a strong emphasis on the education and training of young journalists and on actions that strengthen media literacy, foster reconciliation, and support the independence, protection, and economic sustainability of a vibrant media scene,” said Johannes Hahn, the Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, while speaking at the second EU-Western Balkans Media Days conference on September 17-18 in the Macedonia/FYROM capital Skopje.
Freedom of Media freedom is one of the fundamental principles of the European Union and a part of the political criteria for EU accession. Brussels has pledged to strengthen its support for the growth and development of the independent media in the region and enhanced assistance to young journalists with regional initiatives.
These initiatives aim to facilitate education, enable professional training for media operators, and strengthen media and digital literacy of young people. In addition, the new programmes hope to foster exchanges within the region to build safeguards – including a vibrant media industry – which helps prevent the possibility of future conflict and give journalists the sort of breathing room without the fear of threats and attacks.
For the period 2014-2020, the European Union has developed a long-term strategic approach to support media freedom in the Western Balkans by improving the quality and professionalism in journalism and building the public’s overall trust in the media.