Media Mapping and Dealing with the Past

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    “Media Mapping in Kosovo and North Macedonia” is a project that will serve both policymakers and the journalistic community to identify conflict sensitive journalism patterns and possibilities to develop further opportunities for better reporting on dealing with the past. News beat of dealing with the past includes conflict reporting, inter-ethnic reporting, post-conflict reporting, court reporting of conflict and war-related causes, as well as other transitional justice coverage such as rape as a weapon of war, reparations, and institutional reforms.

    To tackle the challenges ahead, a better understanding of the media landscape is needed, namely, to understand the state of media from the structural point of view and the perception of journalists on their own profession. This media landscape includes a media typology where the structure of media is seen from the perspective of coverage such as national, regional, and local media, as well as from the agenda setting perspective – looking at the salience of content that media produces from an expert perspective. Furthermore, this media landscape also includes perceptions of journalists about dealing with the past and their role in the society and processes concerning the newsbeats that relate in diverse ways to past events, which extend into today’s public narratives.

    Despite their differences, both Kosovo and North Macedonia have shared challenges with regards to reporting about the past. Problems with violence and trust building in the communities is a field of reporting that does not often go beyond borders of ethnicity and political landscape. Reaching across the ethnic lines and political division, puts journalists in a dichotomous role between reporting on own community and revealing the truth which jeopardizes the true nature of journalism and the use of objective methodology in choosing sources.

    This media landscape report for Kosovo and North Macedonia also includes an overview of the self-perception of role of journalists in the society as it pertains to dealing with the past. Journalists stand in the center of journalistic concepts of professional ideology of independence, neutral reporting, and eye-witness accounting in one hand and their duty to accompany nation building processes, deal with crimes, scrutinize former officials of prior political structure and keep current political leaders accountable. This puts journalists in a particular position of being public defenders of the state, nation, and society building but also of development in post-conflict which is part of a wider political agenda. Hence, media actors are almost exclusively part of the political landscape. They argue that media and politics go hand in hand, both in Kosovo and North Macedonia. This, in itself, is challenging. Such interdependence of politics and media make is difficult for media to keep political actors accountable and jeopardizes the role of media in society.

    The media landscape in Kosovo and North Macedonia incorporates both expert views and empirical research findings that can help structural interventions to continue enhancing the professionalism of journalists with regards to making ethical choices in reporting on dealing with the past. It also guides them to care more about sensitive cases where privacy, the rights of families and victims, and their dignity take the spotlight while leaving sensationalist and celebritization of news reporting for other news beats. Arguing for a bottom-up and conflictsensitive reporting in dealing with the past, Kosovo and North Macedonian journalists will build themselves pathways of dealing with the past through content that cares about the about truth and dignity while respecting human rights and the rights of victims of conflicts. This enables peace and reconciliation among communities serving the general interests of the people first.