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Special Reports -> FR Yugoslavia (Kosovo)
26.03.2002: Faik Ispahiu

This text was written within a research project, started in September 2001 by Media Plan Institute from Sarajevo, whose goal was to collect basic information on education of journalists and media staff in countries of Southeast Europe (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FR Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova). In each of these countries there are different levels and types of education of journalists and media professionals. However, there is no systematic analysis or database on what is going on in this education field. Therefore, this report on Kosovo is supposed to offer an overview of the existing forms and projects in education of journalists. Within such a context, the report provides basic information on the level and existing forms of education of journalists and media staff, as well as on the activities and attitudes of key actors in the field. Finally, the report considers possible ways for further development of the system of education of journalists.


The great singnificance of the small number of media in the last 12 years

Throughout 50 years of socialism and recent years of more repressive rule under Serbia, Kosovars knew only of state-run media and had very limited access to independent sources of information in their own language. Kosovo had few independent media while under direct Serbian control. Therefore, freedom of speech is a highly regarded commodity in Kosovo after years of repression.

There was only one Albanian-language daily newspaper, Rilindja (Revival), which was shut down when the Milosevic regime took over in 1990. For almost a decade after that, most Albanian-language media in Kosovo were banned. Bujku (an agricultural periodical that was used and converted to a daily in order to substitute the former Rilindja) continued to publish with questionable legality towards the Serbian regime. In 1997 the private daily Koha Ditore was launched, giving Kosovo some degree of media pluralism for the first time in its history.

In general, Kosovo media were one of the strongholds of Kosovo’s struggle for democracy, especially since 1990. Although most media in Kosovo were banned by force or taken over by the Belgrade regime in the late 80's, some very few media managed to survive and in various ways eschew the huge pressure from the regime and, despite all difficulties, continue their work.

Thanks to international support and mostly to the hard work and self-sacrifice of Kosovo’s journalists, there was at least some reliable information and reporting that filled the information gap of that time and provided a counterbalance to the propaganda of other media that were serving the Belgrade regime.

Because of their work, Kosovo journalists gained a lot of respect among the population of Kosovo. It was very important to get the information out both to the population, as well as to the international community. The surrounding of high density events in Kosovo also required a larger number of journalists in order to ensure proper coverage and flow of information.

Most of these journalists were brave people with a strong sense of patriotism and at least some ability to write and report. Therefore, journalism education and training for this new core of journalists virtually meant being “baptized in fire”. Media outlets of that time had to find different solutions to survive the repression (the Rilindja and Bujku case), to work out financial difficulties, as well as to train new journalists, whose number was continuously increasing.

As the Belgrade regime expelled all of Kosovo’s Albanian intellectuals from their jobs – and as the upcoming generation of intellectuals and analysts had almost no other way of expressing themselves and presenting their work – journalism became a very common profession in Kosovo.

On the other hand, due to the importance that the media played in Kosovo and the whole region, the international community was also giving a lot of support to Kosovo journalists. All this resulted in an increase in the already high number of journalists in Kosovo.


Struggle for knowledge

The continuously increasing number of journalists and a need for proper education resulted in the opening of the first private Advanced School of Journalism "Faik Konica" in Pristina in May 1996. The school was established and is run by a respected Kosovo journalist, Mr. Ramiz Kelmendi, and is named after one of most famous Albanian publicists Mr. Faik Konica. The Advanced School of Journalism offers a two-year curriculum in journalism training. Some of Kosovo’s best journalists have been incorporated as teachers in the school. Enormous enthusiasm and very high expectations may be the reasons why the success and quality of the school are sometimes disputed. The fact remains that the Advanced School of Journalism was – and currently is – the only educational facility that provides journalism education training. Today there are approximately 200 students in this school.

On the other hand, the University of Pristina, as the only university in Kosovo, still has no Department of Journalism.

Earlier, there was only one partially successful attempt of starting journalism studies in the 70’s. This is referred to as a partially successful attempt because, despite all the political obstacles of that time, it managed to produce at least one generation of journalists. At that time, within the Faculty of Law, a branch of journalism was established. But after the graduation of the first generation, the branch of journalism was dismissed by the authorities of that time. All later attempts to start a department of journalism studies within the University of Pristina were unsuccessful.

Similar was the fate of the only advanced school degree in journalism. The only school in Kosovo that offered a journalism bachelor’s degree was also closed down by the Belgrade authorities.

Today, journalism is taught only as a subject in the first year of the Faculty of Albanian Language and Literature. The focus of the subject is the basics of journalism. As such, it does not meet even minimum requirements for the education of Kosovo journalists.


Level of education of Kosova journalists

The number of active journalists in Kosovo with proper education and a degree in journalism is very low compared to the overall number of journalists in Kosovo. Estimations vary and there are different figures on the number of journalists in Kosovo, ranging from 2,500 to 5,000.

Although the first impression from the above information would most probably be that the level of journalism in Kosovo is catastrophic, positive evaluations by the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, which is the media development body authorized by UNMIK (United Nations Mission in Kosovo) and positive evaluations by other relevant organizations that follow the media situation in Kosovo must be stressed.

Kosovo analysts, columnists, publicists and others involved in journalism have been a great catalyst of overall positive developments not only in Kosovo, but in the region as well.

This is mainly a result of a positive attitude of the largest number of Kosovo journalists towards their profession and their high professional responsibility. Of course, extensive contacts with international media were also an important factor, together with the training and experience exchanges organized at local, regional and international level, aimed at improving the skills of Kosovo journalists.

The majority of Kosovo journalists with a university degree have a degree in language and literature or other social sciences. These are individuals committed to journalism who have built their experience and knowledge mainly with the help of foreign journalism literature, on their own and with the help of older colleagues.

On the other hand, convincingly the largest number of Kosovo journalists have a high school degree followed by a number of different training programs, courses and other forms of establishing and improving their journalism skills. Additionally, almost without exception, all Kosovo media apply a procedure of organizing at least two-week training programs for all new staff joining their newsrooms.

Unfortunately, there is no proper and thorough survey on the education level of Kosovo journalists to provide a picture of the complete and real situation regarding the level of education of Kosovo journalists. However, some research shows that of the overall number of Kosovo journalists, some 5% have a proper university degree in journalism; 20% of journalists have other relevant university degrees; 20% of journalists have other relevant two-year faculty degrees; and approximately 55% of Kosovo journalists have a high school degree.

The other interesting information is that the gender representation of Kosovo journalists is quite encouraging. The presence of female journalists in Kosovo is quite high, especially in media based in Kosovo’s capital Pristina. This is a very important part not only of overall development of journalism of Kosovo, but also of Kosovo society as well.

A very important factor that needs to be stressed is that almost all Kosovo media apply a pattern of internal on-job training for all new journalists. However, this is mainly done with the help of organizations that provide such training programs as part of their own media development programs and projects in Kosovo and the region.

A lot of effort has been put into providing different kinds of training in order to enhance Kosovo journalism, especially investigative and corporate journalism. These training programs are organized by different governmental and non-governmental organizations such as: OSCE Media Department, Internews Kosova, KFOS (Kosovo Foundation for Open Society), IREX ProMedia, etc.

However, most of these organizations act in an individual and rather unorganized manner, thus lowering the impact of their work.

So far, Internews Kosova Journalism Training and Education Center is the only established and equipped facility that deals with media training – with focus on electronic media (especially radio). Internews Kosova is a local NGO (member of Internews Europe) and is mainly funded by the EC, with the participation of other donors as well (WUS Austria, US OTI etc). Internews Kosova is equipped with state-of-the-art audio and IT equipment for training and is heavily involved in training radio journalists and radio technicians, as well as IT training for students of the University of Pristina.


However, the university education is the best

The general problem with “NGO” training is that it cannot replace a proper university level education or degree.

After the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo in June 1999 and the return of the Kosovo education system to their legal buildings, there were serious discussions and attempts to start an education degree in journalism in Kosovo. The two most commonly present ideas on this subject were to establish a master’s degree in journalism and to establish a new Department of Journalism at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Pristina.

The idea of a master’s degree in journalism within the "Institute for Journalism Studies" at the University of Pristina has already exceeded the initial phase of planning and identification of complete funding for its budget is now expected. Internews Kosova has offered its contribution in facilitating the technical/practical part for students of master’s degree studies in journalism. Beginning in October of this year, thirty young Kosovar Albanians will have the chance to learn how to become journalists in a project that has been designed to incorporate the "best practice" of west European universities. It is part of the education rebuilding programme of the Organisation for Security and Economic Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Kosovo.

Mike Ungersma, the director of development and a lecturer in journalism at the oldest university journalism institution in Britain, the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies of Cardiff University in Wales, who has been working with the University of Pristina for the past year in developing the new Masters Degree programme, says that Kosovar journalists are handicapped in two ways: "Older journalists who learned and practiced their craft prior to the war then suffered from a ten-year hiatus and interruption to their careers. They also missed out on the chance to learn and use the huge technological advancements in journalism made during that period – especially in gathering and disseminating broadcast news – and of course, on the Internet.  Similarly, but from another age perspective, the young men and women who had hoped to enter journalism in the late 80s and early 90s found the opportunity blocked by the war."

Unlike many existing university journalism degrees in the Balkans, the programme in Pristina will emphasise practical skills training along side academic courses that will provide an intellectual and professional background.

While short courses and seminars are hugely helpful to journalists already well into their careers, Ungersma is certain that a longer term solution can only come from university-led journalism education and training. "Throughout the western world," he notes, "editors and journalists long ago agreed that the best source of young talent for the media can only come from universities. Either in undergraduate or postgraduate courses, journalism training and education can best be done in the structured setting of a university, where young people have a chance learn their craft while at the same time broadening their knowledge of the world through study of other subjects, from anthropology to zoology and everything in between because it is all 'grist for the mill' of journalism."

Kosovo is a small area with a devastated economy that will take many years to restore, and the process has completely distorted the media market. "With just over two million people, Kosovo has more newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations than most developed west European countries," says Ungersma and finds graduate studies more appropriate since "those students who graduated in three years would find no jobs to go to in a media market that is certain to shrink". He adds that "the feeling is that young people should have a chance to study for any undergraduate degree that interests them, and then have a year or two of intense journalism training and education. That way they are more mature, more focussed and more disciplined than undergrads, and the subject they study as an undergrad will only make them better journalists with a much broader understanding of the world around them."

The new Institute for Journalism Studies at the University of Pristina will take a multi-media approach to training. Over two years, students will have a chance to learn the fundamentals of newspaper, magazine and broadcast journalism as well as electronic journalism.

The Institute is supported by a consortium of British partners which include Cardiff University, Westminster University and the Thomson Foundation. The Institute will be a semi-autonomous unit within the University with its own board and staff made up of a director, two lecturers and a technical demonstrator. The lecturing staff will consist of teachers drawn from the ranks of the Kosovar media.

The other idea of starting a new Department of Journalism is a little bit vague for the time being, mainly due to financial difficulties and lack of properly qualified personnel.

This report would not be complete without mentioning the need for education in other journalism related fields – except short training programs, mainly organized and financed by international and local NGO’s, there is no proper training in technical media skills. There is a need for proper education in organizing, management, desktop publishing and printing, audio/video editing and engineering, etc. It is a common hope that this need will be addressed together with the need for contemporary journalism education.


Journalism depends on wider societal context

Journalism education is an urgent issue in the media scene of Kosovo. Years of scrutiny by Belgrade have left their scars on Kosovo journalists. Lack of proper education and on top of that lack of proper laws and security discourages Kosovo journalists from dealing with “dangerous” topics. There is a great fear of violence in the journalist community; organized crime is almost a taboo subject in Kosovo media for this reason.

It remains to find enough positive energy and highly qualified professionals, who would bear responsibility and put tremendous effort into developing a proper and full scale education system of Kosovo journalism, as well as to establish a healthy environment and opportunity for professional, unbiased and independent journalism based on western standards of contemporary journalism of our days.

This should be a process of much bigger effort and dimension to increase the level of the overall education system of Kosovo – starting with providing an undisputed education service to society, thus overcoming the problem of Kosovo youth and society in proper expression and accurate articulation of their thoughts and ideas.

Effort should also be made to increase the skills of active and already working journalists in contemporary journalism standards. Mid-career specialized training, human rights reporting, investigative journalism and enterprise journalism should also be heavily addressed in the process of media development in Kosovo as part of the overall democratic development of Kosovo society.



Media related organizations and contacts


OSCE Mission in Kosovo -- Media Department

Address: rr. Beogradit 32, Prishtin; KosovTel.: (+381-38) 500 162

Fax: (+381-38) 500 188


Internews Kosova

Address: Menza e Studentve, kati i par, Prishtin, Kosov

Tel: (+377-44) 115 788

Fax: (+381-38) 224 498



KFOS (Kosovo Foundation for Open Society)

Address: Aktash II, No. 38; Prishtin; Kosov

Phone: (+381-38) 549 116; 549 117; 549 118; 549 119



Advanced School of Journalism "Faik Konica"

Moving to another location !!!


School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University

Mike Ungersma, BSc MA

Lecturer and Director of Development


Tel- Voice Mail - Fax: 029 2087 4186

Portable: 07767 214 028


IREX (International Research and Exchange Board)

Address: Arbria, Johan V. Gte, nr.12; Prishtin; Kosov

Tel: (+381-38) 232 110; 243 005


Gani Bobi- Center for Humanistic Studies

Address: Aneksi i Pallatit te Mediave, Prishtin; Kosov



WUS AUSTRIA (World University Service)

Address: Fakulteti Filologjik, Nena Tereze, p.n.; Prishtin; Kosov

Tel: (+381-38) 501 472


Faik Ispahiu is Deputy Director of Internews Kosova. Media Online 2002. All rights reserved.

 FR Yugoslavia (Kosovo)
 FR Yugoslavia (Kosovo)