Proposed changes to the legal framework governing freedom of association sparked concern among civil society. The Law 06/L-043 on Freedom of Association in NGOs drafted by the Government of Kosovo with civil society’s support in December 2017, went to the Assembly of Kosovo for its first and second reading. While the law was adopted without any changes during the first reading in March 2018, the second reading saw a number of amendments to the bill.
Proposed changes to the legal framework governing freedom of association sparked concern among civil society. The Law 06/L-043 on Freedom of Association in NGOs drafted by the Government of Kosovo with civil society’s support in December 2017, went to the Assembly of Kosovo for its first and second reading. While the law was adopted without any changes during the first reading in March 2018, the second reading saw a number of amendments to the bill. In fact, contrary to the advice of civil society, the Assembly proceeded to propose 36 amendments during the draft's second reading on 7th November 2018. While a great number of these amendments are technical in nature, some could curtail freedom of association if the law is adopted in its current form. As documented by the CIVICUS Monitor partner, the Kosovo Civil Society Foundation (KCSF) below are some of the amendments viewed as problematic:
Concerns by civil society have been echoed by multilateral institutions. On 25th January 2019, the a representative from the European Union (EU) met with a coalition of civil society organisations. In a statement, the EU commented on why the amendments could be detrimental to freedom of association in Kosovo. They said:
"The original draft law, reflected Venice Commission best practices and an inclusive drafting process involving civil society was changed in important ways. Particularly concerning is the possibility of non-profit assets being privatised when NGO's are dissolved, if amendments proposed by the President that are currently before the Assembly are not adopted. This would represent a fundamental breach of non-profit principles, and would open the door for corruption and misuse of donor funding.
The EU joined the chorus of over 300 civil society groups in Kosovo who have mobilised to reject the amendments.
We share concerns w/ #civilsociety over the amending process of the law on NGOs which was returned to Assembly by @HashimThaciRKS. Original draft reflected Venice Commission best practices & an inclusive drafting process involving CSOs was greatly changed https://t.co/tVZJVGDxAt pic.twitter.com/DwTBC6sZLs— EuropeanUnion Kosovo (@EUKosovo) January 25, 2019
On 28th October 2018, the Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK), took part in a discussion on a draft law on the protection of classified documents organised by the Government of Kosovo. During the consultation, AJK raised concerns that article 71 paragraph 3 of the proposals were problematic. The draft provision stipulates a jail sentence of between five and twelve years for anyone publishing classified information. Thus, AJK claimed that the law, in its current form could violate freedom of expression by censoring and persecuting media whistleblowers. Similarly, the draft provision could be used to prevent information of vital public importance being published or shared with media sources. Deliberations on the draft continue.
As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, journalists in Kosovo can also face threats while conducting their work. On the 8th of November 2018, journalist Edona Kutleshi was insulted by the chief of cabinet for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Baton Dushi. Mr. Dushi proceeded to call Ms. Kutleshi a “monster” and “unprofessional” over her reporting of the cabinet’s spending. Kutleshi is well known for her investigative journalism. Her work covering education issues in Kosovo was recently recognised, after she was awarded the annual award for the protection of children in December 2018 by the NGO Coalition for the Protection of Children (KOMF). The prize was awarded for her article detailing how 42 students from Penuhë village of Podujeva municipality make a daily 3 kilometre commute on a mountain road to go to school.
A number of articles supported by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network were awarded for covering human rights issues in Kosovo, focusing on the field children’s rights.https://t.co/w8J2rUsFlK— Prishtina Insight (@PrishtInsight) December 20, 2018
The end of 2018, saw a variety of protests in Kosovo on a variety of political and social issues. There are no reports of any protests being unwarrantedly disrupted or prevented. Below is an overview of protests that have taken place recently:
Every person in Kosovo has the right to form and join an association.
Every person in Kosovo has the right to form and join an association. The Law on Freedom of Association governs the registration and operation of non-profit organisations and foundations. An organisation must register with the Ministry of Public Administration and the process is fairly simple and can be done online. However, subsequent legislation contains broad terms that authorities have used to suspend organisations’ activities. Human rights defenders working on politically sensitive issues, such as corruption, LGBTI issues or women’s rights can, at times, be vulnerable to harassment and intimidation.
The right to freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the constitution.
The right to freedom of assembly is guaranteed by the constitution. The organisation of demonstrations and public gatherings is regulated by Law no. 03 / L-118. The law is not clear as to whether organisers simply need to notify authorities in advance, or actually secure approval before a demonstration takes place. Although Article 6.1 of the law only establishes a 72-hour advance notification process, the same article later states that: “Kosovo Police authorities shall inform the organiser no later than forty- eight (48) hours prior to the gathering on permission or prohibition of the public gathering.” Numerous demonstrations take place in the country and some protests have ended with clashes between demonstrators and police. In some instances, the police used excessive force to disperse protestors.
Kosovo’s constitution and legal framework provide for freedom of expression.
Kosovo’s constitution and legal framework provide for freedom of expression. The Civil Law against Defamation and Insult regulates civil liability for defamation, and the 2012 amendment of the Criminal Code fully decriminalised defamation. Although the media landscape in Kosovo is diverse, it is also subjected to political interference, which has led to self-censorship and censorship on issues that are critical of the government. Journalists and media workers are subjected to threats, intimidation and physical attacks. The Association of Journalists of Kosovo documented 27 cases of threats against journalists in 2015. Furthermore, in a recent survey, more than 62% of journalists surveyed reported that they feel threatened with violence. Kosovo enacted a Law on Access to Official Documents in 2010.