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OSCE Criticizes Media Coverage of Kosovo Violence - 2004-04-22


The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, has criticized what it calls irresponsible and sensational reporting by the media in Kosovo, and says this contributed to recent violence in the region.

The OSCE representative on freedom of the media, Miklos Haraszti, presented a 17-page report from the media watchdog to the 55-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

He told reporters that television coverage of violence in Kosovo was a factor in the deaths of at least 19 people last month.

"Our three main findings were lack of objectivity, professionalism on a mass scale, so much so that plurality has disappeared, the second most important finding," he said. "And the third one being that, even that powerful counterbalancing institution, the public media, has collapsed in its function as provider of objectivity in those days."

The report refers to what it describes as the spin by the media in accounts of the drowning of a group of children that it said appeared unsupported by journalistically valid accounts.

Mr. Haraszti said local broadcasters portrayed the death of the children as a cruel, criminal, ethnically motivated killing.

He also said broadcasters displayed unacceptable levels of emotion, and falsely applied what he said was patriotic zeal. The OSCE media watchdog concluded that, without such reckless reporting, events might have taken a different turn.

Mr. Haraszti called for a full investigation into the performance of the electronic broadcast media in Kosovo, both Albanian and Serbian language, to look at the footage that was not aired, as well as film that was broadcast.

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