International Assistance and Media Democratization in the Western Balkans: A Cross-National Comparison


  • Kristina Irion University of Amsterdam
  • Tarik Jusić Center for Social Research Analitika


democratic transformation, media institutions, international media assistance, Western Balkan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania


International media assistance programs accompanied the democratic media transition in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia with varying intensity. These countries untertook a range of media reforms to conform with accession requirements of the European Union (EU) and the standards of the Council of Europe, among others. This article explores the nexus between the democratic transformation of the media and international media assistance (IMA) as constrained by the local political conditions in the five countries of the Western Balkans. It aims to enhance the understanding of conditions and factors that influence media institution building in the region and evaluates the role of international assistance programs and conditionality mechanisms herein. The cross-national analysis concludes that the effects of IMA are highly constrained by the local context. A decade of IMA of varying intensity is not sufficient to construct media institutions when, in order to function properly, they have to outperform their local context. From today’s vantage point it becomes obvious, that in the short-term scaling-up IMA does not necessarily improve outcomes. The experiences in the region suggest that imported solutions have not been sufficiently cognitive of all aspects of local conditions and international strategies have tended to be rather schematic and have lacked strategic approaches to promote media policy stability, credible media reform and implementation. To a certain extent, the loss of IMA effectiveness is also self-inflicted.

Author Biographies

Kristina Irion, University of Amsterdam

Kristina Irion is presently a Marie Curie fellow at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam where she will be implementing a research project on governing digital information. She is faculty (on research leave) at the Departments of Public Policy and Legal Studies at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. She obtained her Dr. iuris degree from Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany, and holds a Master’s degree in Information Technology and Telecommunications Law from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. She has worked in the field of audiovisual media, electronic communications and data protection regulation and policy for ten years as an academic and professional. Kristina Irion was key personnel of four collaborative European research projects on privacy, independent media regulatory bodies, and building functioning media institutions. She provided expertise to the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the OECD and ENISA as well as collaborating with the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS). She is a member of the international advisory boards of the Electronic Information Privacy Center (EPIC) and Privacy Int’l.

Tarik Jusić, Center for Social Research Analitika

Tarik Jusić, Executive Director and Head of the Public Communication Program at the Center for Social Research Analitika. Tarik holds a doctoral degree from the Institute for Media and Communication Studies, University of Vienna, Austria, and an MA degree in Political Science from Central European University, Budapest, Hungary. He has worked as Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science and International Relations, Sarajevo School of Science and Technology from 2009 until 2013. He was also a guest lecturer at the European Regional Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Democracy in South East Europe (ERMA) of the Center for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies at the University of Sarajevo from 2009 until 2012. He has worked as a researcher, program director and program adviser at Mediacentar Sarajevo from July 2002 until November 2011. From 2006 until 2010, he was also an editor of the online magazine "Puls demokratije". He has published a number of academic and professional papers and has edited several books dealing with the development of media in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region of Southeast Europe.


How to Cite

Irion, K., & Jusić, T. (2015). International Assistance and Media Democratization in the Western Balkans: A Cross-National Comparison. Global Media Journal - German Edition, 4(2). Retrieved from