Media freedom in the Western Balkans: state of play

04-05-2016

Media freedom is one indicator of a country's commitment to democracy, good governance and political accountability, and thus its readiness for EU membership. As such, it represents a key element in any aspiring country's EU enlargement agenda, along with other fundamentals such as the rule of law and economic governance. Each of the Western Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia – is at a different stage of the EU accession process. However, partly as a result of a common recent history, they face similar challenges in the area of media freedom, such as transition from the old regime and the Yugoslav wars, the global economic crisis, rule-of-law deficiencies, and widespread corruption. These factors directly influence the situation of media in the region and add to its complexity. As part of their EU agenda, the Western Balkan countries have largely aligned their relevant legislation with EU standards. However, inadequate implementation remains a concern. In all these countries, opaque media ownership, financial instability in the sector, intimidation and pressure on journalists, and poor working conditions, put spokes in the wheel of independent journalism, encourage self-censorship, and broadly interfere with the media's key role in informing the public. Solving media issues and transforming media institutions require long-term engagement, and largely depend on the domestic context and the countries' overall democratic consolidation. However, the EU is also committed to providing legal and financial support to enlargement countries, and to regularly monitoring how the media situation impacts on their overall readiness to join the EU.

Media freedom is one indicator of a country's commitment to democracy, good governance and political accountability, and thus its readiness for EU membership. As such, it represents a key element in any aspiring country's EU enlargement agenda, along with other fundamentals such as the rule of law and economic governance. Each of the Western Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia – is at a different stage of the EU accession process. However, partly as a result of a common recent history, they face similar challenges in the area of media freedom, such as transition from the old regime and the Yugoslav wars, the global economic crisis, rule-of-law deficiencies, and widespread corruption. These factors directly influence the situation of media in the region and add to its complexity. As part of their EU agenda, the Western Balkan countries have largely aligned their relevant legislation with EU standards. However, inadequate implementation remains a concern. In all these countries, opaque media ownership, financial instability in the sector, intimidation and pressure on journalists, and poor working conditions, put spokes in the wheel of independent journalism, encourage self-censorship, and broadly interfere with the media's key role in informing the public. Solving media issues and transforming media institutions require long-term engagement, and largely depend on the domestic context and the countries' overall democratic consolidation. However, the EU is also committed to providing legal and financial support to enlargement countries, and to regularly monitoring how the media situation impacts on their overall readiness to join the EU.