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The complex state of peacebuilding is reflected in the media. This is one of the reasons why journalists have to be very careful in approaching situations that are sensitive to a particular society. Occasionally, workshops serve as very good tools for breaking different kinds of barriers. Such was the case at the workshop titled “The Role of Media in Peacebuilding” organized by the Association of Journalists of Kosovo and supported by UN Women, as part of the joint UN Peacebuilding-funded project “Youth for Kosovo”. The workshop was attended by local-level journalists gathered to get trained on conflict reporting and the application of the gender perspective therein, as well as on the role of the media in peacebuilding.

Throughout the 2-day workshop, there was a lecture by the well-known journalist, Gjeraqina Tuhina, who with her admirable reliability and preparation shared her knowledge through excellent lecturing skills. Ms. Tuhina is  an RTK correspondent and a Brussels correspondent for Radio Slobodna Evropa. It was fascinating to hear journalist stories from a living witness of the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. Considering that the workshop members included a post-war generation of journalists, the discussion with Ms. Tuhina unfolded some things we weren’t aware of before in regards to the conflict dialogue. She presented her work in Brussels while making us realize the significance of being a journalist and journalism in general. It made us realize the high level of responsibility and strictness that comes with reporting – especially in delicate situations such as the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue. The reporters from the Brussels dialogue, Gjeraqina and Agustin, have waited for hours for only one statement from the leaders of the two countries at any time, which adds value to our profession but also to the truth of the news.

Ongoing workshop discussion. Photo: UN Women Kosovo 2019.

As for the dialogue, it must be taken into account that its success depends on the mutual recognition of the other without excluding the history it carries. As long as the new generations, particularly those in the political scene, continue to infuse bias and to deny facts – peace will remain a big challenge for both parties. Dialogue is a prerequisite for good neighbourliness, so reflection is required, as it is in the interest of all communities. Particular importance in this regard should be devoted to non-majority communities in both states and particular respect for human rights. In this regard, young people are likely to contribute to the construction of new bridges because they have little memory of the war or were not born at the time, and find it easier to turn a blind eye to the future. The role of the media is not to spread hatred because history should not be forgotten, while all the good examples that will contribute to dialogue and a new European perspective should be encouraged and reflected, a goal that both parties have.

The discussions within the framework of “The Role of Media in Peacebuilding” gave rise to productive, yet contradictory thoughts – especially regarding the credibility of social media, fake news, and propaganda. Some regarded social media as an integral part of their work, while other journalists felt that social media had caused them more harm in practicing profession than good.

Citizen journalism was another contradictory topic of discussion. While some considered it as an easy professional tool, taking into account that anyone is able to send news-worthy videos and photos to the newsroom, others believed they have fallen prey to these photos and videos that come with an unintentional cost of generating fake news.

This experience showed that there are many problems in practicing our profession. However, we must focus on proper balance through fact-checking, which means checking the truthfulness of the news. We should not run after the first information that comes our way, as that risks feeding hate speech, creating additional barriers, and contributing to the opposite of peacebuilding processes. Peacebuilding journalism is a separate mission: it is respect for ethics, respect for the law, and respect for fair reporting.

Elion Kollçaku is an independent journalist and is involved with different NGOs as a freelancer. Elion was acknowledged as the best student of the Faculty of Filology in the University of Pristina in 2018. Currently, he is a second-year Masters student of Public Relations at the University of Tirana. His scientific works focus mainly on media literacy and gender-based stereotypes in media. Elion describes himself as “a warrior of propaganda and stereotypes, in a society almost suffocated by them”.

The article is a follow-up of the workshop titled “The Role of Media in Peacebuilding” as part of the joint project “Youth for Kosovo”, which is supported by UN Peacebuilding Fund. For more information, visit: https://www.facebook.com/unwomenkosovo/posts/731688537350685

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