By Alessandra Roccasalvo, Resident Representative a.i.

Today we celebrate International Press Freedom Day, pay thanks to journalists who work in the public interest, and remind governments of their duty to respect and uphold the right to freedom of expression. This freedom is a basic and inalienable human right, and each person or community is entitled to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.

UNDP worldwide has been committed to fostering independent media, the freedom of expression, and minority media throughout the past 50 years.

Over the past 20 years UNDP has contributed significantly to the development of independent and minority media in Kosovo. UNDP was instrumental in establishing the first independent public service broadcaster, Radio Television of Kosovo. Additionally, we drafted the law on the establishment of the Serbian-language RTK2 station, which was later adopted and implemented. We thank the Government of Japan and the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark for their financial support in these projects. Today, RTK is the largest broadcaster in Kosovo and transmits in Albanian, Serbian and other minority languages.

UNDP is also committed to supporting the critical role of journalists within Kosovo society. Through the poverty and anti-corruption prizes, some of the most powerful, moving, and shocking stories have emerged. For more than a decade, we have celebrated the work of brave journalists who are dedicated to uncovering the truth and bringing light to stories that impact everyone. Without the work of investigate journalists who hold the public sector to account, there would be no successful fight against corruption. Stories that dealt with petty bribery of public officials, to multi-million-euro procurement fraud schemes. Stories about nepotism, health risks in food and medicine, and safety risks in air travel. Stories that show us how damaging corruption is and its impact on society.

Through the poverty prize, journalists stimulate debate around the issues and causes of poverty within Kosovo. If we wish to build a sustainable society it requires the intense effort towards the eradication of extreme poverty, fighting discrimination, and ensuring that everyone can exercise their human rights. Our long-standing support and work with the Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) is critical to the further development of independent media and freedom of expression in Kosovo.

Regionally, there has been a regression in media and press freedom, which has critical consequences for society at large. However, over the past four years we have seen press freedom in Kosovo rise, from 90th in 2016 to 75th In 2019. This is a sign that things are on the right track, but there is room for improvement. Media outlets run by Kosovo Serb journalists are sometimes the target of verbal attacks or cyber-harassment and more needs to be done to ensure that they have freedom of expression without retaliation, censorship, or intimidation.

As we celebrate this day, we give thanks to the journalists who work to improve our societies. We think about their critical role in society, and we endeavour to support them and their invaluable work.

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