Information has the potential to be a global threat to democracy that extends far beyond election results. Clear, accurate information is key to ensuring open and transparent governance. Manipulated information or otherwise harmful information can lower public trust in a country’s governing and oversight institutions and in the media. This damages democratic processes by impeding informed decision-making and political participation by citizens. Information disorders—language promoting political division, harassment, harsh and sexist language, hate speech, as well as false context, false, skewed, manipulated, fabricated and misleading content —threaten Kosovo’s democracy.
Given Kosovo’s history of conflict, partisan division, and long-standing ethnic tension, citizens face a robust domestic marketplace for disinformation. As public reliance on social media and the internet for news and information has risen, political discourse has rapidly moved online, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. NDI’s research has found that the country’s political environment features false, exaggerated, or harmful information which is reflected in the media. Whether intentional or inadvertent, the widespread sharing of such information disorders by political parties, leaders, and the media undermines the ability of citizens to gain factual information through which to elect their representatives and hold their governments accountable—and thus threatens Kosovo’s democracy.
In Kosovo, 74 percent of citizens believe portals regularly or occasionally report information disorders, although up to thirty percent do not discern some narratives as false or distorted. NDI public opinion research shows that 32 percent of citizens believe that portals regularly report false information stories, with another 29 percent believing that disinformation is shared on social media. Forty-two percent believe that this phenomenon happens occasionally. According to the research, 38 percent believe that this happens for financial reasons, and 17 percent believe that this reporting is done on purpose to push a certain agenda.
In March 2020, NDI launched a comprehensive, systematic media monitoring program to examine information in Kosovo’s online news portals and social media in both the Albanian and Serbian languages. As part of this effort, NDI monitored online news portals and social media in the lead up to the February 14, 2021 snap parliamentary elections from January 24 to February 13, 2021. This publication summarizes the main findings, describing the presence of widespread information disorders including false, exaggerated, misogynistic, or otherwise harmful information.