Pandemic leaves Kosovo without printed daily newspapers

Full Screen
1 / 6

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Vendor Ibrahim Gashi, arranges weekly and monthly magazines at his newspaper kiosk were he has been selling newspapers downtown for 35 consecutive years except one, in the capital Pristina, Thursday, April 29, 2021. The printing presses stopped running at the start of the pandemic in Kosovo. The country's five dailies all stopped printing physical newspapers and turned into online media portals. But these do not reach all the people as before, and many fear they prioritise speed over accuracy. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

PRISTINA – Ibrahim Gashi sold daily newspapers in downtown Pristina for 35 years, until they didn't come anymore.

Azem Qerkini, an accountant and newspaper collector, misses the time when he went to Skopje, the capital of neighboring North Macedonia, in search of a copy he needed.

Imer Mushkolaj, a journalist, dreams of once more drinking his morning coffee while flipping through the daily papers.

Until March last year Kosovo had five daily newspapers, though they all had small circulations. One of them, Koha, sold about 10,000 copies a day at times when the news was most interesting.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been no more newspapers physically printed in Kosovo, only online versions. The pandemic was "the final straw, unfortunately turning Kosovo into the only country in Europe, maybe wider, without a daily paper,” said Mushkolaj.

Agron Bajrami, editor-in-chief of Koha Ditore, would like to get back to printing. “Many, probably more older-generation people still would like to read the newspaper physically, to touch it as a paper,” he says. "But at this moment, it’s not possible economically.”

Online newspapers are a different business model, however, that has tested Koha Ditore. The newspaper is facing an uphill struggle trying “to educate the people that they need to contribute by paying for the news that they get," Bajrami says.

It was the lockdown that brought an end to printing. For months, people were stuck at home, unable to go into the streets in search of news, and advertising accordingly reduced. People turned to smartphones and TVs.