The policy paper recommends possible solutions to overcome the current challenges in communication between the police and the media.
Media and the police play an important role in the democratization of a society, which is crucial for the Western Balkans, given that the entire region already shows clear elements of “captured state” – systematic and organized process aimed at taking over the resources of a particular country for the purpose of satisfying private instead of public interests.
Democratisation requires free and independent media, professional journalism, the willingness of the police to provide the public with objective information about their work without revealing confidential information, and communication between the media and the police, which provides easier, and ensures timely, receipt of information.
The policy paper identifies the problems of communication between the police and the media in the Western Balkans; advocate for the establishment of sound communication between the media and the police in the region; recommend possible solutions to overcome the current problems in communication between the police and the media.
The legal framework that governs the freedom of the media, transparency of the work of the police and the right to free access to information of public importance in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia) is satisfactory. Although the legal basis is sound, three problems arise in practice.
The implementation of regulations that oblige the police to be transparent in their work is incomplete. The protection of operational police data resulting from investigations is insufficient and sometimes even abused. The implementation of the right to free access to information of public importance is slow.
Challenges have also been noted in the cases of journalists and media who, in search of sensationalism and shocking news, frequently violate the professional and ethical rules of journalism contained in the codes.
All the above-mentioned challenges slow down the development of professional and accountable work of the police and the media, which negatively affects the process of democratization in the region.
- Ministries in charge of internal affairs need to implement the law fully and indiscriminately, in the part relating to respecting the principles that require that the work of the police be public, in order to ensure greater transparency and increase the trust and confidence of the citizens in the region in the police force.
- Organizational units in charge of internal control of the police must intensify preventive activities that will reduce and prevent “leakage” or intentional placement (“serving”) of information relating to investigations, by developing and monitoring the application of procedures for access to information from ongoing investigations.
- Journalists must report in accordance with their Code of Ethics, respect the statutory rules, and apply the principles of innocence until proven guilty and respect for others’ privacy in their work.
- International community active and interesting for the Western Balkans should continue to advocate for the respect of the freedom of the media and the rule of law in the region.
The first part of the policy paper analyses the legal framework that governs transparency of the work of police services in the region. Then goes description of the main problems that occur in communication between the media and the police: insufficient transparency of police work, leakage or intentional placement (“serving”) of information pertaining to ongoing police investigations, and violation of the professional and ethical values of journalism.
The second part of the proposal offers possible solutions. These solutions are not final, but they provide a solid basis for further discussion in the region on how to improve communication between the police and the media.
The publication was produced as part of the efforts of the POINTPULSE network to improve communication between the media and the police in the region. It was prepared within the project “Supporting the Improvement of Communication in Police Services in the Western Balkans” with the support of the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF) and the project “Western Balkans Pulse for Police Integrity and Trust” with the support of the European Union (EU) through the programme “Civil Society Facility”. The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not represent the views of DCAF and the EU.
Today and Tomorrow: Social Media and Police Services in the Western Balkans
April 26, 2018 | Marko Živković