Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Kosovo's Press Czar

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Kosovo's Press Czar

Article excerpt

A plan by the United Nations to impose a 'temporary' dictator over the Kosovar press is exactly the wrong thing to do

When the great european powers of the time met at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 to impose their peace on the Balkans, occupation looked like an easy task. All it would take, boasted Austria-Hungary's foreign minister, a certain Count Andrassy, was "a company of soldiers and a brass band." In fact, the fight lasted months, involving 200,000 troops just to occupy the major cities -- and, still, much of the countryside was never "pacified," as a later generation of soldiers would learn to call it. By 1914, Balkan restiveness would trigger World War I.

We bring this up because the United Nations, coming off last year's liberation of Kosovo by the United States and its NATO allies, is about to impose its own version of an "easy occupation" on the sometimes unruly press in Kosovo. This peace, too, could prove dangerous now -- and in the future.

After itching for months to impose his own idea of discipline on Kosovar newspapers and broadcast stations, the United Nations' top civilian administrator, Bernard Kouchner, is ready to name a "Temporary Media Commissioner" who will have broad -- and broadly defined -- powers to punish journalists who don't toe the line. Under the powers outlined in two regulations issued unilaterally by Kosovo's U.N. administration, this press czar can order journalists to publish or air apologies and corrections, impose fines ranging up to $50,000, seize equipment, and even completely shut down stations or papers that get crosswise with Kouchner's appointee. …

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