- October 19, 2021
On October 19, 2021 the Aspen Institute Germany hosted a closed-door online expert workshop on “Media Freedom in the Western Balkans”. Media freedom is a crucial component of the reform and democratization processes of the Western Balkan countries, but it is faced with numerous challenges throughout the region. The recent developments in the context of the pandemic have once again highlighted the importance of independent and fact-based reporting, among other things concerning the disinformation surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccination as well as the role of the EU and its support to the region. Therefore, the workshop convened journalists, experts, academics, and think tank representatives from the region as well as decision-makers from the EU, its member states, and international organizations to discuss the main challenges to independent reporting and media pluralism in the Western Balkans. Key topics of discussion were the issue of media ownership and the institutional and regulatory frameworks in the field of media. Furthermore, the situation of journalists in terms of physical safety, working conditions, and professional standards was critically assessed and the widespread disinformation and hate-speech in the region were addressed. The second part of the workshop focused on the role of the EU and its role in strengthening media freedom and pluralism in the Western Balkans region, both through financial support as well as through its political engagement with the region. The workshop was part of the project “Aspen Western Balkans Stakeholder Forum 2021,” kindly supported by the German Federal Foreign Office.