Support to independent media helped citizens in several Balkan countries rid themselves of authoritarian, ethno-nationalist regimes. International assistance proved itself an effective way to promote democracy in the war-torn area in the period from 1996 to 2006, says in the Report – Ten Years of Media Support To the Balkans: An Assessment. (19-JUL-07)

This article is based on the Media Task Force of  the Stability Pact for South Eastern Countries and Press Now press release, which has republicated here by HRH / Mirsad Pandzic.

This is concluded in a research report released yesterday. The report assesses the impact and efficiency of ten years of international assistance to media in the Balkans. In this period, the international community promoted free and professional reporting by providing at least €270 million in aid to independent and reconciliatory media outlets.

Grip on media broken
“Donor support has broken the government and political party grip on media”, concludes the author of the report, Mr Aaron Rhodes. The report was carried out under the auspices of the Media Task Force of the Stability Pact for South East Europe, while the research work was coordinated by Press Now from the Netherlands and interviews were held in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia.

Direct support
“Support has been most efficient and effective when given to ongoing projects led by those who have demonstrated competence and commitment” writes Mr Rhodes. “The efficiency and effectiveness of direct support is enhanced by simple procedures, rapid action and flexible approaches that allow for a margin of failure.”. He also concludes that international aid has been effective in introducing and promoting fair and transparent media legislation in new democracies in South Eastern Europe.

The report also points to weaknesses and a lack of impact in certain areas. It shows that international support did not improve the relatively weak position of journalists, or managed to strengthen journalists unions.

“Social engineering”
Moreover, Rhodes writes that support efforts aimed at “social engineering” in the form of nation building, confidence building, ethnic reconciliation and minority rights were “less successful”. He is, finally, least positive about efforts to train journalists in reporting with “Western standards” and concludes that “training has been overemphasized by donors and often poorly implemented”.

The full report can be found here: