Inside Out – October 07

There’s something startling about passing by the most hallowed Serbian monument in Kosovo en route to a bold new journalism school in Kosovo.

There you are driving by Kosovo Polje when you come across the monument commemorating the 1389 Ottoman Turk defeat of Serbia. On this  spot a young Communist leader named Slobodan Milosevic inflamed an angry crowd shouting: ” Nobody either now or in the future has the right to beat you.”

One hundred metres away you turn onto a country road, past the Field of Blackbirds, leading to an unmissable shocking electric pink and navy trimmed modern building housing the Kosovo Institute for Journalism and Communication or KIJAC as it’s called.

KIJAC opened its doors in January 2006 and is about to award post-graduate degree diplomas to its first crop of 23 students. Inside there’s a state of the art facility, equipped with the latest in digital technology, including a video conferencing system that is markedly superior to others I’ve seen.

It’s taken a committed Norwegian journalism school backed by the Norwegian foreign ministry in partnership with an American journalism school in Nebraska and the Ministry of Education in Kosovo to make this happen. More than 2 million euros plus some deft diplomatic manoeuvring by the former OSCE Dutch media adviser, Willem Houwen, who stayed on in Pristina after the war and became the first Head of School.

The students are mostly young working journalists, many of whom juggle their day jobs with enrolment in the Institute. About half come from print, many from Koha Ditore, Kosovo’s best-known newspaper that gained international prominence during the NATO war with Serbia in 1999. The others come from broadcasting and the new media. (There are now 30 television stations, 100 radio stations and 17 newspapers in Kosovo). Many work for RTK, the remade state broadcaster that appears to be struggling to become independent.

KIJAC has taken strides toward becoming a multi-ethnic journalism school. Houwen says they’ve already had four Serb journalists studying at KIJAC. When I was there visiting, a young Macedonian Serb journalist, who’s been working in Pristina, said that she was considering enrolling and said that what was happening at KIJAC was hugely important to the Balkans.

But will better-educated and trained KIJAC journalists be able to practice what they’ve learned, especially in a Kosovo that wants its independence from Serbia.

The International Crisis Group that closely monitors Kosovo noted recently that Kosovo was “likely soon to declare its unilateral independence in the absence of any alternative, and that Europe risks a new bloody and devastating conflict.”