New Independent Multimedia Network & Campus is aimed at offering to the journalists from all parts of the Western Balkans a new platform within the scope of which they will have the opportunity to do the following:
- to improve and perfect their existing knowledge and skills through cooperation with renowned journalists and media experts from the most famous regional and global media agencies.
- to apply the techniques and skills to be adopted during their occasional engagement in the projects NIMNEC within the scope of regular work in their editorial offices, but also within the scope of the new portal which will constitute a part of activities of our network.
- to jointly form a platform which will provide an opportunity to them, after acquiring the knowledge and techniques, to publish their works in print, video or audio form and to use the media space which will be certainly provided to this platform as a regional media initiative.
- to establish a professional network and database of contacts, topics, interlocutors and sources which will be required in their further professional and personal development.
- to gain a clearer picture of the Western Balkans region today, networking and connectivity of requirements, reform processes, challenges and opportunities involved in the integration process.
After almost a year of consultations, meetings and deliberations, both at the regional level and at the level of individual countries, cities, editorial offices and even individuals, journalists, media experts, young people who are still in the learning process, we have all together reached the conclusion that the main problem of the crisis in the journalistic profession lies in the obvious absence of some kind of a platform which would provide space, width, skills and techniques to all journalists and young people, who shall then, through writing and work, give their contribution to the recovery of the media sphere.
Early in 2014, several journalists and individuals well-known in the fields of culture and literature diagnosed the complete collapse of all standards of public communication at all levels in transitional societies of the Balkans.
With a great desire that these conversations do not remain at the level of observations but wishing to offer a specific solution which would help not only the active journalists throughout the Western Balkans but also those who are still to become a part of the public scene, the first contour of what we now call the Media Network and future campus was created.
It took a few months to exchange the ideas, to offer the solutions and establish the criteria and to form a platform.
The journalist Milan Jovanović and the director and publicist Stanko Crnobrnja were entrusted with the task to present and launch the network on behalf of a dozen of enthusiasts who had been engaged in this project for almost a year. Then, through the contacts with many professors, journalists, academics, writers and experts from the media community, they realized that there was a vast space which required more specific commitment in the implementation of such an idea. After many meetings in Belgrade, Sarajevo, Niš, Zagreb, Podgorica, Novi Sad… consultations with associates and colleagues, travels across the region, the formal conditions have been met for the establishment of the first regional independent network which will really function only for the journalists, through the journalists and for the journalism in the Western Balkans.
After the initial meeting early in February 2015 in Kragujevac, it was decided that the implementation of the network and campus project should be initiated.
On 20th February our network received its formal structure in the form of a web portal, the portal just for journalists, researchers and all those who want to improve, upgrade or publish their analytical work and texts in a place which is not compromised by politics, editorial policy or daily political turmoil.
In the Western Balkans countries nineties were marked by the war destructions, the fall of the communism, the rise of nationalism, economic and moral collapse. Political elites in the former Yugoslav republics completely instrumentalized the media and started to use the media as a tool for the spreading of nationalism, xenophobia, gender, religious and other forms of discrimination and intolerance. Start of the wars in the Western Balkans practically marked the downfall of the journalistic profession. The power of the media was abused, and the journalists themselves were in the function of the war machine. Information war often had more serious consequences than the war fought with weapons. This is particularly reflected in the situation which, as a society in a too long transition, we encounter even today, 20 years after the formal end of the ravages of war. The Western Balkans countries are still behind the rest of the Europe when it comes to the establishment of the basic infrastructure for the rule of law and democratic discourse in the public sphere.
According to the report of the Freedom House for the year 2014, all Western Balkans countries were rated as “partly media free” countries.
Packages of the media laws which were adopted by all Western Countries in the EU integration process, to the maximum possible extent comply with the legal framework in which the media of the developed countries function, but that is why they least follow the challenges faced by the media in this area. These challenges are directly reflected in continuous pressures imposed by different groups and interests – tycoons, politicians, criminal and underground bosses and even the members of the alienated and uncontrolled parts or remains of the security services. Under the guise of the freedom of the media, the anarchy has been established in which the media are used as a platform for the publication of ordered articles, political insinuations, sensational information, personal fights… Tabloid, dictated journalism has become dominant. “Improvement” to the media legal framework has long been characterized solely by the phenomenon of political and party parallelism, which means that each new government is entitled to regulate the media space according to its own discretion, by possessing the same “independent” journalists and media experts in working groups for the adoption of the law. The institutionalization of the media policies is completely absent from the reform processes in most Western Balkans countries.
The journalistic profession has only further deteriorated through the years of transition and post-conflict and post-authoritarian context. With no impact at all in terms of the improvement of the quality of profession, implementation of the codes and standards of journalism, the professional associations have become interest groups mutually conflicting about the political and financial objectives. The Media clientelism in the public space of the Western Balkans today is not only a phenomenon, but a permanent state of things, which seems to only be adding to the power of transformation, reorganization and regeneration of political and economic interest networks.
Complete absence of analytical journalism as a genre has resulted in the fact that fast, unchecked and often fabricated information in the form of brief news, semi-reports or ordered columns and “analysis” characterize what is left of the journalistic forms in print and online media. Journalism has reduced to the production of sensations, fabrication of false information, destruction of privacy, extortion and blackmails. Superficial analysis could justify this occurrence as a market need for the tabloid, sensationalist journalism; the consequence of criminalization and promotion of the show business in the whole society. However, detailed inspection of the contents and the long-term monitoring of the contents in the electronic media and the media in print and monitoring of the trends leads to the conclusion that the topics from the world of the show business and the criminal milieu were only used to attract the attention of the public. The “colorful” surface of scandals, affairs and sensations hides the serious attempts to destroy social reforms, obstructions of economic development, business interests and in some situations even the violations of the elementary right to life. That is why it would be quite imprecise to reduce the processes happening in the media to a negatively labelled term tabloidization – because there are tabloids everywhere in the world and they do not need to be problematic as such, if there is a counterweight: serious media and reading, based on the multiple checks of sources, contents based on the detailed research, analysis of facts. However, in the Western Balkans the term tabloid or “gun” journalism has become mainstream - dominant and almost the only thing existing in the media offer. Very profitable and in certain sense even “influential” it turns out to be a great media business.
The need for bringing literacy to the public opinion has long been set as a condition but also as the diagnosis for the region. Introduction of the media literacy into the educational curriculum is one of the main ways to, among other things, bring back to the media space what is meant by the term critical public. This is because the multitude of “analysts”, self-proclaimed “experts on everything”, commentators and bloggers (who, in addition to the media, often lack the general literacy) can in no way represent the critical public and the strong public opinion which has the social potential to change the current social situation.
The emergence of new technologies in the media, Internet and web journalism made some turbulences in the media market. The classic, traditional media, especially the media in print, began to lose the battle against the Internet portals. Turbulences in the media market and financial interests of the media owners have resulted in the fact that the only economically feasible and profitable journalism is the journalism ending already in the headline and reduced to the competition in brutality, mutual accusations and invasion of privacy. Thus, the public discourse has been reduced to a depraved, perverted form of communication: aggressive communication of unverified, inaccurate information, open lynch with complete absence of responsibility for the published content.
At the same time, the beginning of the stabilization of the Balkans, in political and economic terms, has reduced the interest of the international community for the local situation. The fact that the ravages of war ceased to exist, that the main war symbols are in the Hague Tribunal – has shifted the focus of the international donors in Europe and America, to the Brussels and Washington administration.
Such processes have particularly affected the members of the so-called civil society. Inherited stigmatization and old intolerance due to the former opposition to the regimes and politicians who were the main protagonists and promoters of national and armed conflicts, is now additionally burdened by the situation in which the expected social engagement of the civil sector takes the form of the market competition for the foundations, including the occasional attempts of disclosure and fabrication of affairs even where there are none.
It is undisputable that the civil sector and the media are extremely important for the functioning of the civil society. This primarily includes the education, training, knowledge and analysis of the facts, quality of competition. This is the best way to suppress the political beliefs, individual interests, fabrication of reports, production of affairs, of course with the codes of conduct, ethics and morality assumed by the democratic and humane societies.
“The journalistic profession is threatened!” – this is a slogan which can often be heard from the media professionals. This statement is true. Moreover, the current situation in this profession can be described in even harsher words – the journalism is threatened to disappear?! Unfortunately, the journalists themselves are to blame for this situation for the most part: wrong doing, but also the failure to act, political subjugation, guided by their own financial interests, and not by the professional standards has resulted that the media in this area have, instead of being the correction of society, become its anomaly.
After the years of war, in conditions of great economic crisis, financial exhaustion and political interests in the region, the Western Balkans is facing the challenge of finding the long-term solutions, attempting to identify all weaknesses and starting the systemic reforms. Any society with a tendency to change for the better must have the free, objective and professional media.
In order to solve the identity crisis of the journalistic profession, to establish the professional standards, codes and attempts to use an effective antidote (antitoxin) for treating the toxic media scene, the media platform called New Independent Multimedia Network & Campus was formed. After conducting the analysis and researches, within the scope of which the media associations and organizations have encouraged this initiative, the conclusion has been reached that, in addition to the existence of numerous professional associations, groups, networks and non-government organizations, the restauration of authority and reputation of the journalistic profession can only be achieved by journalists through devoted, dedicated and professional work, liberation from the influence of any government, political factors, financial capital, lobbying groups and individuals.
In this sense, in addition to affirming and restoring the reputation of the journalistic profession, we intend to concurrently implement the education and affirmation of the new generations of journalists faced with the financial, political and other interests which threaten the independence and autonomy of their profession. Our goal is to bring together all those who do not equate the independence with irresponsibility, who are willing to oppose the superficiality, sensationalism and accusations with no facts and evidence with their personal example and work. The space has been created for the journalists who are interested in a thorough and professional dealing with the topics, but also for all citizens who are willing to contribute to the work of the new network by nominating the proposals and sending of relevant information and suggestions.
Numerous analyses of specific events from the recent political history have emphasized the significant impact of the media on the real course of events, or abuse of the power of the public word with tragic consequence. One of the goals of this project is making sure that such situations never happen again, or unmasking the media professionals who are not that, at the same time, restoring the role to the journalism which belongs to it in a democratic society.