Aferdita Kelmendi

Radio/TV 21, Kosovo
Kelmendi co-founded the Media Project in 1995, aiming to train young girls in journalism, Internet skills and conflict resolution. In 1998, she became director of Radio/TV 21, the only independent station in Pristina and part of the Media Project. Since the station was not able to obtain a broadcasting license from the government, in January 1999 Kelmendi decided to transmit news via the Internet.

Her work was soon interrupted. In the span of a few days in March 1999, Kelmendi watched as her station was destroyed, found that a colleague had been killed and learned she was on a hit list. She escaped from Kosovo with her family and initially went to a deportee camp in Macedonia. From there, the family relocated to Skopje, Macedonia, where Kelmendi quickly re-established transmission on borrowed equipment and began broadcasting in exile.

But she wanted to go back “to help give people their voice back…I know we can start over even though we have nothing.” When the fighting subsided, Kelmendi returned to Pristina and on July 15, 1999, began live radio transmissions – Radio/TV 21 is the first Albanian-language station to broadcast from Kosovo.

By early 2000, Radio/TV 21 had completed work on a television studio and was preparing to begin production of independent political talk-shows.

Aferdita Kelmendi is the first Courage in Journalism Award winner from Kosovo.

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