Interviewed by: Evliana BERANI/infoglobi
In the 15th anniversary of the Kosovan daily “Koha Ditore”, editor of this newspaper, Agron Bajrami, in an interview for Info Globi talks about the challenges newspaper faces. Bajrami reveals details about the work of the newspaper and talks about the pressures exerted over the newspaper. As far as professional media standards are concerned, Koha Ditore’s editor says that many media in the country have close ties with interest groups and there is much to be done in this regard.
InfoGlobi: “Koha Ditore” marks its 15th anniversary. How do you evaluate its development from establishment to today?
Agron Bajrami: 15 years have been full of challenges that the newspaper shared with the whole society and country, and which, we have fortunately overcome successfully. Today, I think I can look into the past 15 years with pride to the results obtained, the type of journalism that we have built and cultivated in “Koha Ditore”, and professionalism standards that we have established and we have respected. I hope this does not sound self-praising, but I think the debut of the “Koha Ditore” marks an overturn in journalism in Kosovo. It is the moment when political pluralism, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression have found their media.
InfoGlobi: Has “Koha Ditore” had political pressure from various interest groups? How have you resisted to them?
Agron Bajrami: There has been continuous pressure. Of course, the most serious ones were those of the early years of our work, when Kosovo was still under the Serbian occupation, and when the newspaper has been a permanent target of Slobodan Milosevic’s regime. Consequences of those attacks against “Koha Ditore” were great, especially when NATO bombing started, when Serb forces except burning of publishing house and demolition of offices, targeted the newspaper’s staff. Unfortunately, they also killed Uncle Rexhë, who guarded offices of Koha Ditore- he was the victim of police violence.
After the war, pressures, threats and attacks against the newspaper because of its critical writings did not stop, and they continue even nowadays, although, in some cases in more sophisticated forms. The newspaper has always been determined to withstand these pressures, because we always knew that obedience to the pressure does not remove it, but increases it. And really, the more we resisted, the more hesitant were those who tried to impose pressure. Thus, resistance to pressure is the only way to win against it!
InfoGlobi: Financial position of the media in Kosovo is aggravating. Are you optimistic that their economic situation will improve?
Agron Bajrami: I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic. As a realist, I think the whole of Kosovo is in a difficult economic situation, and state institutions, especially government, have no strategy and policies to address this fundamental problem. Moreover, corruption and clientelism that has been installed by the current government in Kosovo, makes the situation even worse.
But, on the other hand, if we move towards creating conditions for a truly free market, I do not fear about the future of professional journalism, because we have experienced over these years that the citizens of Kosovo want professional media, and not those that are subservient. Therefore, the survival of professional media is guaranteed if we build a democratic and functional state, where there is rule of law and applicable rules and standards. And, if we fail to build such a Kosovo, then everyone, not just the media will fail!
InfoGlobi: You are one of those who have always insisted on high professional standards.What is the position of Kosovan media as regards the professional standards?
Agron Bajrami: I think there’s more to be done, and ruling structures are in many respects hindering the professionalism of the media rather than helping it. Instead of creating legislation that guarantees press freedom, they are establishing control over the media. See the case of the public broadcaster. See what’s happening with it! RTK, in my opinion, although there are many professionally capable people, is not a public television, does not serve the public, but is in the service of the ruling structures. And this is the result of a deliberate government’s policy to install political and even financial control over RTK. After all, these things have been very well noted in the Progress Report of the European Commission and many other reports on media situation. Regarding other media, I think we have a bad situation when it comes to media ownership – a large portion of them are owned, or have close connections with groups of political and economic interest, and this makes them be in the service of such groups, who sacrifice their own professionalism for such interests. Journalists, in general, are blackmailed by the editorial policies, and editorial policies, in most cases, are blackmailed, or controlled by political or economic interest groups. I lead a newspaper that does not face such a problem, but such a thing is in our interest and in the interest of the whole country, to be addressed so that we create room for a really free journalism.
InfoGlobi: What do you recommend media and your colleagues for the future? What should be done that Kosovo has more democratic system and its citizens are more informed?
Agron Bajrami: We need to insist on media freedom. We must insist on professional standards. We must insist on equal rules in the market. We must insist on combating corruption and clientelism, in the ruling structures and the media. Finaly, we must insist on the model of journalism that works only in free and democratic states: an impartial, professional and free journalism.
InfoGlobi: Does media have a role in the development and deepening of democracy? What’s its role in your opinion?
Agron Bajrami: Certainly it does. Media is a pillar that helps society move forward, and we can not speak of a free society or people without free media. So, I think it is essential to have free media. Of course, not all will be good. But, as Albert Camus said: A free press can of course be good or bad, but, most certainly, without freedom it will never be anything but bad!