Civil society criticises parties' manipulation of media prior to snap elections
As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, new measures designed to protect journalists sought to improve the media situation ahead of Kosovo's snap election on 11th June 2017. While reports from the ground note that the elections took place without any major incidents involving journalists, in the run-up to the vote, concerns emerged about the use of "fake news" on social media that aimed to slander prominent political figures. Similarly, evidence of political parties attempting to manipulate the media to gain an unfair amount of airtime were sharply criticised by civil society groups. Many journalists and media freedom groups viewed the move as an attempt to distort the media's impartiality during the democratic process.
In a closely fought election, the coalition of the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), and the Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA), also known as PAN altogether, emerged as tentative victors. While the coalition secured the largest share of the vote, it still lacked a sufficient number of seats to form a government. On the other hand, the opposition leftist movement, Vetëvendosje, won the largest number of seats of any single party, representing a move away from traditional political forces in Kosovo. Therefore, PAN, with its former ethnic-Albanian fighters in the parties, faced increasing international pressure to work with other political parties to form a government and prevent a prolonged political crisis. Although the president of Kosovo granted the leader of PAN, Ramush Haradinaj, a mandate to form a government on 7th July 2017, Kosovo's political stability faces a bumpy road ahead.
Recent snap election failed to fix Kosovo's political deadlock, raising questions about formation of new government https://t.co/6XOZT44JLi pic.twitter.com/melwRjAt0L— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) July 15, 2017
On 2nd July 2017, a journalist working for news outlet Koha Ditore was threatened by angry residents while covering a story in the Dardania neighbourhood of Pristina. Salie Gajtani-Osmankaq had arrived on the scene to interview the residents who had recently been evicted under orders from local authorities, when the situation escalated. After verbally threatening her and attempting to take her phone, the unknown individuals then chased the journalist back to her car. In a statement, Gajtani-Osmankaq commented on the incident:
"People were rushing at me right away and we avoided a physical attack by getting into the car".
Despite attempting the flee the confrontation in the car, residents blocked the road and continued to threaten the journalist and her driver. The episode was later condemned by the news outlet Koha Ditore and the Association of Journalists in Kosovo, who viewed the threats against Gajtani-Osmankaq as indicative of a decline in respect for journalists in Kosovo. While no one was injured in the altercation, the police were later notified.
As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, attacks against journalists have been a key concern for freedom of speech advocates in Kosovo. In a separate incident on 14th June 2017, the Kosovo Journalist's Association (AGK) met with the Council of the Judiciary to discuss the efficiency of court cases of threatened or attacked journalists. The meeting hoped to raise awareness of the need to improve investigations into attacks against media professionals in Kosovo.
Studentët në Pejë fajësojnë menaxhmentin për mosakreditim të 7 programeve https://t.co/QG7J8Ycz44— Koha Net (@portalikohanet) June 30, 2017
Over the past few months a variety on protests on different issues have been held in Kosovo. Given the political context of the elections, a range of political gatherings were organised by political parties. There were no reports of any of these gatherings being unjustifiably prevented or disrupted. Some examples of protests include:
- The Kosovo Association of Poultry protested against the import of eggs from Albania, and drew attention to the resulting decline in egg prices;
- The Egyptian community protested in front government buildings demanding equal treatment of minorities in Kosovo society;
- The line 3 of urban traffic in Prishtina organised a protest in front of Prishtina municipality over illegal mini-buses; and
- Students in Peja gathered to protest against the non-accreditation of seven university programs.
Civic Space Developments