Opaque Transparency in Kosovar Media

When asked about their ownership and revenues from advertising, media outlets in Kosovo are not transparent. A comprehensive investigation into the ownership of Kosovo's media has revealed a lack of transparency in the country's media landscape, stemming from a legally muted framework that fails to guarantee transparency.

International standards require transparency to ensure that the public is informed about media ownership and the beneficiaries of media activities. In collaboration with the Global Media Register and with the support of the European Union Office in Kosovo, BIRN has investigated whether media outlets in Kosovo have adequately disclosed information about their ownership.

Forty-four media outlets were selected to be part of the investigation based on data extracted from MediaMetri, Google Analytics, and their presence on social media.

In late August 2023, BIRN requested information from the media regarding their ownership. Out of the 44 media outlets, only 15 provided data, while the majority did not disclose information.

To ensure accurate information, BIRN Kosovo exercised the right to access public documents from institutions such as the Business Registry Agency of Kosovo, the Independent Media Commission of Kosovo (IMC), and the Ministry of Finance.

The Business Registry Agency responded positively to 44 requests for the files of each business and their registration histories.

The Independent Media Commission (IMC) also provided access to documents related to the licensing of television and frequency-based media. However, the IMC refused to grant access to financial data.

In instances where information about the ownership of media operating in Kosovo is required, it must be sought from sources outside of the country. This is because media companies owning these outlets are registered in other countries. 

BIRN sought and obtained data from North Macedonia, paying for access to the database. However, accessing information for media registered in the Netherlands proved impossible, as the country does not disclose business data.

The IMC is a constitutional institution regulating audiovisual and frequency-based media in Kosovo.

In several instances examined, the BIRN team discovered shifts in media ownership over the years. As per existing legislation, media entities are mandated to promptly declare changes in ownership to the relevant institutions. However, in the case of Klan Kosova, delays were observed in updating this information.

"In the case of licensing, information about each owner/shareholder is required, and this matter is regulated through an IMC act, specifically through the 'Terms and Conditions of the License.' These terms delineate the obligations of the legal entity being licensed by the IMC, encompassing the rights and responsibilities applicable to all audio-visual media services provided by the licensee," states an official response from the IMC.

On the other hand, the Press Council of Kosovo currently oversees 56 members, including online media in Kosovo. The Press Council of Kosovo is a self-regulatory body for online media in the country, where members voluntarily join and adhere to a professional code of ethics. 

Membership in this mechanism is voluntary, and the Press Council of Kosovo requests certain documents from media outlets when they wish to become members.

"Joining the Council is entirely voluntary. To become part of the Press Council, media outlets are asked to submit a business registration certificate from the Business Registry Agency, along with information about their address, contacts, and an imprint detailing the editorial board," clarified Imer Mushkolaj, the head of the Press Council of Kosovo.

The Business Registry Agency states that all businesses involved in media activities must provide a list of data and documents to this institution.

"In cases when a media business is established in Kosovo, the Business Registry Agency requires the submission of a business registration certificate and business information not older than three months, along with the passport of the legal representative of the company," stated the Agency in its response. 

The call for transparency has surged, particularly with the emergence of new media outlets. Kosovo, which has  one of the highest internet penetration rates in Europe and leads the region in social media usage, has become a hub for media, generating a flood of information each day.

  • Project by
    Global Media Registry
    Funded by European Union