Election Campaign under scrutiny

10.01.2022 D4D

Elections are considered the most democratic instrument for the election of political representatives in the country, where the entire election cycle is regulated by the relevant laws of the Republic of Kosovo and the Rules of the Central Election Commission, from the announcement of Election Day until the certification of results. A very important part of this process is the election campaign, but with the development of information technology and the use of Facebook and Twitter, it is difficult to control the line that separates freedom of expression from that of violation, between the opposing parties. This report includes monitoring the news during the election campaign period and the race during the runoff elections, in relation to the distribution of news and the manner of informing citizens.

According to Kosovo Agency of Statistics latest 2021 report on the use of Information and Communication Technology, 96.1% of households in Kosovo have access to internet at home or apartment, where the frequency of internet use several times a day reaches 80%[1]. This in fact reflects the distribution of information in record time to the majority of the population, specifically to persons 16-74 years of age. It is essential that the dissemination of information is done fairly and without erroneous or partial information. In addition, the use of offensive, harsh and sexist language should be avoided. In fact, misinformation and dissemination of news with distorted content is done largely by various portals which operate in Kosovo, but also by individuals in various fields, be that journalists or representatives of political entities who have a great influence among certain groups. The impact on certain groups is even more evident during election periods, when political entities conduct election campaigns regulated by Law no. 03/L-073 on General Elections and Law no. 03/L-072 on Local Elections. In fact, political entities continue the practice of pre-election campaigning, even though the latter is not regulated by the above mentioned applicable laws. Apart from political entities, the media are the ones that have an essential role in disseminating information, and it is not uncommon for the dissemination of news to be one-sided, favorable, distorted, misinforming, with sexist language content, with exaggerated headlines for the purpose of arousing the curiosity of the readers. For more detailed definitions of these terms, see Annex 9.2.

Seeing the large number of news articles with such characteristics and in order to identify them, D4D Institute monitored the official election campaign for the local elections which were held on October 17, 2021, as well as the election campaign period for runoff elections, that took place from 8 to 12 November. The purpose of this report is to identify news aimed at misinforming citizens and inciting hatred against different individuals or groups, as well as to familiarize the public with the terms of misinformation and news verification. This report also provides recommendations addressed to online media, political entities, journalists and citizens.

[1] https://ask.rks-gov.net/media/6422/tik-ne-ek-familjare-2021.pdf