Another journalist from Insajderi.com attacked
Physical aggression towards journalists
As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, journalists in Kosovo frequently face threats and violence that impede their ability to fully conduct investigative reporting. On 13th October 2017, a journalist from the website Insajderi.com was assaulted by unknown assailants in a crowded bar in central Pristina. Vehbi Kajtazi, who manages the well-known investigative journalism website, claims the attack is part of a broader campaign against journalists who expose corruption and crime among officials in Kosovo. As a result of the attack, Kajtazi sustained light injuries to his face and head. While police arrested one individual on the spot, after an investigation, another suspect later confessed to the attack and is being held in pre-trial detention for thirty days. In a statement, the Kosovo Association of Journalists (AJK) condemned the attack, declaring that:
“Such attacks represent a serious concern about the safety of journalists and the freedom of press in our country,” the statement continues, adding that attacks against journalists has marked a significant increase this year".
As covered in the last Kosovo update on the CIVICUS Monitor, on 16th August 2017 an editor from Insajderi.com was attacked outside of his apartment as a result of his work exposing corruption. This pattern of violence against investigative journalists, particularly those affiliated with investigative website, is broadly thought to have become more pronounced in recent months, with AJK documenting 11 attacks on journalists in 2017. In addition to the attacks, both Kajtazi and his colleague were threatened in September 2017 by Milaim Zeka, an MP who accused them both of being Serbian spies.
Verbal aggression towards journalists
In the context of such heightened aggression against journalists, slurs by high ranking politicians have become even more worrying. On 13th September 2017, for example, Prime Minister of Kosovo Ramush Haradinaj reacted angrily when questioned by a journalist on the controversial border demarcation between Kosovo and Montenegro. After taking office, Haradinaj dismissed the state commission for border demarcation and established a new commission comprised of individuals who stand against the 2015 agreement with Montenegrin authorities. A question over the U.S. embassy's support of the 2015 agreement provoked a terse response from the PM, who reacted by saying:
“I have a lot of respect for the media, believe me, but many of you either don’t know how to read in English, or don’t want to understand what they said — the problem is yours. I don’t have a comment. Believe me, you are reporting without knowing how. Go to school more, listen to what they tell you".
The remarks drew sharp condemnation from freedom of speech groups in Kosovo that claim such behaviour is unacceptable and insulting. AJK called upon the PM to cooperate fully with journalists and ensure that transparency of his government is upheld at all times.
In a positive step, on 3rd October 2017, a concept document to improve government communication was drafted by Kosovo's PM office with input from civil society groups. It includes an analysis of the government's current communication strategy as well as recommendations for improving future communication with both the media and public. The draft is being analysed by the AJK, which will follow-up closely on this process due to its importance for transparency and communication of public institutions with media and journalists.
A number of protest have been held in Kosovo over various political and social issues. While many political gatherings were organised by political parties during the local elections campaign of 21st September to 20th October, there were no reports of the right to freedom of assembly being violated. Below are some examples of recent protests:
- Bus company owners offering transport services in Kosovo protested in Pristina;
- Pupils of Pristina’s middle schools gathered to call for justice in the case of their murdered peer, Aulon Zeka. The protest took place in front of the Ministry of Justice, where the demonstrators met the minister;
- War veterans gathered at Skanderbeg Square asking for pensions that were suspended due to the lack of a budget review;
- The first Pride Parade was held in Pristina organised by Kosovo's LGBTI community. Although a counter-protest was also organised by a small group of people rejecting the march, the inaugural Pride Parade was broadly considered a success and garnered support from several prominent public officials. Despite the support, reports emerged that two people were injured in a confrontation which was later investigated by police. No further details on the incident were available at the time of writing.