Media in minority languages are relatively well developed, but one segment is significantly neglected in the six countries of the Western Balkans – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. Namely, the Romani language.
The Thomson Foundation project Media for All (MfA) aims to address this by ensuring minority-language media are included in the project and that others have the facility to broadcast, publish and translate content into minority languages.
Out of all the participating outlets, three are in the Romani language – Radio Romano Avazo and Romtegra from Kosovo, and Portal Udar from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Fatmir Menekshe, director of Radio Romano Avazo, based in Prizren, says the mission and vision of their outlet is to become the connecting bridge between institutions and citizens, to inform the Roma community in its native language and advocate for the resolution of problems confronting the Roma community.
“The media have kept the language alive,” says Fatmir. “The media continue to cultivate, preserve and use the Romani language as a higher aesthetic language in order to be as clear as possible to the public in Prizren about the Roma community and where the Roma community lives.”
The media have kept the language alive... cultivating, preserving and using the Romani language.
Another important voice of the Roma community in Kosovo is Pristina-based outlet Romtegra which is part of a non-government organisation established in 2010. This outlet is focused exclusively on the improvement of Romani-language media and the needs of the Roma community in Kosovo, producing debate shows and media materials. A key aspect of its work is to change the perception of the Roma community by highlighting positive stories.
Avdi Misini from Romtegra says this is achieved “through advocacy for Roma rights and by translating the materials we produce into the languages of the majority communities in order to understand the problems and concerns of the Roma community.”
As a beneficiary of the MfA, Romtegra has successfully implemented a plan for the production of nine debate shows where various topics about the Roma community are discussed: political representation of Roma in Kosovo, economic recovery and Roma after the pandemic, violence against Roma women during the pandemic, celebration of April 8 World Roma Day, education of Roma and the position of Roma youth in Kosovo.
Portal Udar introduced a series of podcasts on pressing human rights topics in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This portal sees itself as a champion in promoting and advocating for the rights of the Roma community in the country, asking important questions and changing social practices.
Along with being an information media outlet, Udar aims to become an information hub where Roma diaspora, non-government and international organisations and state institutions can receive and exchange information and ideas on making visible and improving the position of the Roma population.
“We plan to publish at least 10 more editions of the podcasts,” says Radenko Udovčić from Portal Udar. “We are focusing on people whose ideas add to the political, cultural and ethnic diversity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the region in general.”
Portal Udar started in 2017, and unlike the Kosovo outlets, publishes in Bosnian, Serbian, and Croatian, while some of the key outputs are also translated into the Romani language.
We are focusing on people whose ideas add to the political, cultural and ethnic diversity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the region.
Apart from Roma-oriented media, Thomson Foundation, through its MfA project, works with several other media whose primary focus is to provide information for different minorities or ethnic groups.
In Serbia, the foundation works with Családi Kör, an outlet from the town of Senta that reports in the Hungarian language, while both VOICE from Novi Sad and Magločistač from Subotica provide information in the Hungarian and Croatian languages.
In the south, in Novi Pazar, Radio 100+ informs local communities, including Bosniaks, while InfoVranjske provides information for the Albanian community in the south of the country.
Portal Diskriminacija from Sarajevo has a focus on various issues related to human rights and equality. They report on minorities and vulnerable groups such as those with disabilities, girls and women, the LGBTI+ population and those living in poverty.
In Albania, RTSH Korca works on better representation of women, avoiding stereotypes when reporting on gender violence. RTSH Gjirokastra produces documentaries on socio-economics and around youth, women entrepreneurs, environment and the challenges of agro-tourism.
In North Macedonia there are several outlets that entirely or partly air their programme in minority languages, or translate content into minority languages. Gostivar-based TV Globi, whose working language is Albanian, focuses on diaspora living and working abroad.
There are also outlets where the main working language is Macedonian, but content is offered in minority languages. TV Kiss & Menada from Tetovo started producing 24 on-demand shows out of which half are recorded in Macedonian and half in Albanian and KumanovoNews from Kumanovo has a news section in Serbian.
Ulcinj-based media – RTV Teuta and UI.info – both provide programmes in the Albanian language, which is one of the most visible minority populations in Montenegro. While Teuta represents a crucial and reliable source of information for the Albanian and Montenegrin-speaking population of Ulcinj, their focus is on the Albanian-speaking diaspora.
With the foundation's support, portal UI.info managed to introduce a new, functional and bilingual website that will enable them more visibility and impact among their community.
In Kosovo, besides Romtegra and Romano Avazo, the foundation works with media reporting in the Serbian language and representing a crucial source of information for their communities. TV Puls from Šilovo, a suburb of Gnjilane, is a reliable backbone for the provision of information to the Serbian community in Kosovo and is developing its own solid production, prioritising local news, reportages and programmes all over Kosovo.
Elsewhere, the mission of Radio KIM from Čaglavica, a suburb of Pristina, is to assist the building of local democracy by strengthening the role of media in actual events, encouraging civic and democratic values, tolerance, peace, and respect for human rights.
The full version of this story and others can be be found on the dedicated Journalift platform: https://journalift.org/.
The materials we produce are translated into the languages of the majority communities in order to understand the problems and concerns of the Roma community.
Media for All: The aim of this media freedom programme is to develop and strengthen editorial independence of the media, enabling them to provide citizens with a more diverse range of media content, and thus to encourage open, informed and active discussion amongst target audiences in the six Western Balkans countries.
The programme is implemented by the British Council, Balkan Investigative and Reporting Network (BIRN), Thomson Foundation and INTRAC. The role of Thomson Foundation, as implementing partner of this programme, is to provide tailored and mentored support on business development to selected media outlets.
Images: Members of the Association of Young Roma AKSIOM with the Roma community in the settlement of Varda, courtesy of Portal Udar.
Community management and communications expert – Western Balkans
Ilcho Cvetanoski is the community management and communications expert for Thomson Foundation’s segment of the FCO-funded programme, Supporting Greater Media Independence in the Western Balkans.