Launched in 2017 by the European Commission, the EU – Western Balkans Media Days aim to ensure that media freedom remains a priority while tackling the complexity of pressing political, economic and social issues the region experience at present. Moreover, the forum has reached out to the professional challenges of journalists and media: their need to adapt to a rapidly changing media environment. The conference aims at having result-oriented discussions that could afterwards be reflected in adjusted assistance approaches to media related issues within the European enlargement policy.
This year’s edition intends to take stock of what has been achieved since the first edition, including a launch of some new EU funded initiatives. Business models, regional cooperation but also challenges caused by the increasing manipulation of the information space, will also be discussed during the event. For the first time, the EU Western Balkans Media Days, will also involve political representatives in the region directly in charge of information and media for a “Policy meets media” discussion.
The conference will be opened by Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and Duško Marković, Prime Minister of Montenegro. This will be followed by a grand panel focusing on “Ensuring media freedom and sustainability of independent media in the Western Balkans”.
In the afternoon, discussions will be framed around three parallel workshops.
The second day will feature the presentation of conclusions from the workshops and a panel discussion “Policy meets media”.
How to cope with the manipulation of information space
By polarising public views and interfering in democratic decision-making processes, disinformation can have long-term adverse effects on the democratic development of our societies, and it requires a whole-of-society response. According to 2018 Flash Eurobarometer on this topic, most of the Europeans consider journalists to be at the first front of defense against fake news. The workshop will be the place to discuss how impactful professional journalism is in the era of information manipulation? What are the most recent trends in this field, and what are the best ways forward to deal with disinformation and build societal resilience in the Western Balkans?
The previous edition of Media Days in 2018 comprehensively covered the needs of media organisations for reaching a new level of sustainability for journalistic production, and the role of international help in this regard. It is now time to carry out a “reality check” and hear directly from the supported media organisations about the advantages and limitations of the help received so far.
A particular factor influencing the effectiveness of the support is the current media ecosystem in the Western Balkans. The media business environment there, as reflected in the regular Country Reports, indicates continued undue political interference and jeopardises the very existence of independent journalism. The position of independent professional media is, on the one hand, undermined further by the increased contamination of the information space by product-backed opaque media ownership and on the other by manipulated narratives and disinformation.
These phenomena require political attention and creative rethinking of assistance strategies by all donors committed to media freedom in the Western Balkans. The effectiveness of the assistance against the backdrop of reaching long term sustainability for independent quality journalism will form the core of the discussion.
Among the subjects to be examined:
– Donors long-term direct engagement with beneficiaries as opposed to the project-based approach;
– Criteria for such an engagement and withdrawal strategies to avoid donor dependency;
– Criteria for granting a commensurate core support to media organisations to compensate for the current market failures; assessment of possible risks of this type of assistance in terms of retaining independence and the audience trust.
– Advantages and limits of the business support instruments in the Western Balkans media business environment, known for the hurdles to affordable modernisation and startup capital.
Consequences and prevention
“While in some of the countries from WB the trends of physical assaults are declining the impunity remains, in general, a serious issue that demonstrates the lack of capacity and potentially the lack of political willingness for the punishment of the attackers towards journalists and media workers.
This is why the associations of journalists from the WB are joining forces to fight this together by reacting vocally on each infringement of the rights of journalists and creating a public register of attacks that will motivate the national authorities to understand that the safety of journalists is a precondition for their freedom and for the democracy.
The joint project that the associations have started in 2016 in cooperation with the EC, had an impact on decreasing the number of attacks towards journalists in WB and also in boosting the solidarity among professionals in the media sector. Our lessons learnt from this are that the tactics used for putting pressures on journalists are repeating in the countries in WB. Thus we, as member-based organizations, need to remain together on a regional level and to continue developing tools and mechanisms that will protect the journalists – the main prerequisite for their independence”.
Join us for wine tasting at Yugoslav-era aircraft hangar! The wine cellar is situated 8km southeast of Podgorica and it is operated by Plantaže, Montenegro’s largest wine company. It occupies a 356m-long tunnel which was once a secret underground passage for military planes. Partially destroyed in 1999 and abandoned immediately afterward, the revamped hangar now houses millions of liters of wine, aging gently in oak barrels and bottles.
The event will be hosted by Deputy Prime Minister for Political system, Interior and Foreign Policy Zoran Pažin.