The third EU-Western Balkans Media Days were held last week in Podgorica, Montenegro, promoting freedom of expression and independent journalism.
The EU-Western Balkans Media Days, held on 12 and 13 September, hosted around 350 media professionals, representatives of civil society bodies and policymakers from Western Balkan nations and EU Member States. The European Commission reaffirmed its support for the Western Balkan press and introduced an array of new initiatives aimed at shoring up media literacy; governance and accountability; and judicial support for freedom of expression: EU support for media freedom in the Western Balkans currently amounts to more than €20m, with regional initiatives including:
- ‘Reinforcing Judicial Expertise on Freedom of Expression and the Media’, which was established with the help of the Council of Europe to offer support to the judiciary in case law pertaining to the European Court of Human Rights, as well as ethics training for media regulators;
- ‘Regional Training Programme to improve Quality and Professionalism of Journalism’, which shores up the efforts of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) to provide journalism education, including offering exchanges between academic and media partners between the Western Balkans and the EU – this programme includes funding for the Regional EU Award Scheme for Investigative Journalism; and
- ‘Technical Assistance Programme to support Public Service Media in the Western Balkans’, jointly implemented by the European Broadcasting Union and the International Federation of Journalists to promote transparent, sustainably funded public service journalism.
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, said: “Freedom of expression and media freedom are part of the very foundation on which our Union is built; they are also key political indicators in the EU accession process. In view of the worrying developments across the region, from undue political interference to the spread of disinformation, this year’s Media Days shed the spotlight on the relation between media and politics and paved the way towards identifying concrete actions and opportunities to improve the current situation.”