The Albanian Serb Information Exchange Forum
It is eighteen months now since Beta, KosovaLive and the CDRSEE started up this website as a place for genuine dialogue and high quality news resource for a deeply divided and troubled part of the Balkans. It is with a sad heart that we are forced to announce the end of this project as you know it. Bluntly - the money has run out.
We will continue to put up a selection of news items in Albanian and Serbian as well as a selection of photographs, but we can no longer afford to offer a trilingual service just like we can no longer sustain the dialogue between prominent members of the Albanian and Serbian community. Successful as we have been in the actual job itself, we obviously did not manage to attract enough attention by the donors to keep this valuable project up and running. We are particularly disappointed that despite the fact that the project stands for�everything that the EU wants to achieve in Kosovo, and despite repeated attempts, we never managed to attract EU or European Commission funds for the project.
We would like to thank those donors who believed in us and helped us to get this far. Our gratitude goes out to the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs (through the Institut fur Auslandsbeziehungen e.V.), USAID (through IREX), the OSCE, UNESCO and in particular, to the Balkan Trust for Democracy and the Open Society Institute.
What have we achieved in the year and a half? Firstly, as we close, we are registering around a thousand unique "hits" and about 7000 pages read on a daily basis. For this kind of a website, it is a remarkable achievement. We have managed to become well used news resource that has offered unbiased, good quality news and an exchange of views. We are proud to note that in 18 months, we have not had one single disagreement between us along ethnic lines, nor any disagreements whatsoever that we could not resolve through dialogue. We have tackled controversial and highly sensitive issues, and have done it with a fine sense of balance and impartiality. The website was edited one day by KosovaLive in Pristina and the next by Beta in Belgrade. Being aware of the sensitivity of the issues we would be dealing with, we set up a mechanism whereby the CDRSEE would jump in and arbitrate in the case of an editorial disagreement. It gives us great pride to say that in 18 months, such arbitration was not sought even once. Furthermore, there have been occasions when the two teams worked and signed news items together. We have also built up a friendly working atmosphere of mutual respect in both news agencies, not a small feat in these days. The overall result has been the creation of a news resource website which was not necessarily to everyone's liking, but IS /was/ a site which earned everyone's respect. From other media colleagues, news organisations and political institutions.
The sociological research which was led by Dr Colin Irwin (still available free in PDF format on the website) has resulted in a comprehensive report which brings to the fore the full complexity of the problems that Albanians, Serbs and the international mediators have to deal with in the coming months and years. It is a serious piece of sociological research which is very worrying with the data and conclusions it came up with. But it is also very useful as a realistic platform of where things stand. We believe that it is impossible to try and build peace based if the premises are false. This research is rife with realistic ones.
We are once again appealing to the donor community to help us return this website to its full strength, to resurrect it as a forum where Kosovar and Serb journalists (but also the general public, civil society, domestic and international decision makers) can read, discuss, and debate a variety of informed opinions on the issues surrounding not just the future status of Kosovo, but more importantly, what will that Kosovo be like for the people living in it. Help us make their voices heard!
Contrary to common prejudices, there is a core mass of critically minded intellectuals in the region who are working against violent conflict, who are working towards higher standards in public debate, who are committed to seeing a better society for their children, in contrast to the wars that they had to live through. WWW.KOSOVAKOSOVO.COM was the place for them to debate and find peaceful solutions.
We hope to be able to bring the dialogue to a higher level, to reach the wider public, and to have a greater impact. Our dream, to which we are very close, is to see a wide range of journalists from Kosovo and Serbia cooperating for the sake of impartial information, thus raising the standards of journalism.� This is a brave and concrete step towards strengthening democracy in the region.
Please contact any of us below with your opinions, suggestions or even donations!
Ljubica Markovic, Director, BETA Media Centar, Belgrade firstname.lastname@example.org
Nenad Sebek, Executive Director, CDRSEE, Thessaloniki email@example.com
Kelmend Hapciu, Editor in Chief, KosovaLive, Pristina firstname.lastname@example.org