COVID-19 related protests staged; journalists face hostile environment
Several of the protests that took place in the reporting period were related to the COVID-19 situation.
- Representatives of public transport operators protested with their buses in front of the government building in Prishtina for not being included in the government’s COVID-19 recovery package.
- Activists of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) protested against the COVID-19 related curfew by violating the curfew with an action in front of the government building, while also criticising the government’s decision to reject vaccine donations from Albania.
- SDP activists also carried out an action in response to increasing reports of violence against women, targeting institutional negligence that strengthens patriarchy and existing gender inequalities in society. The massive increase in reported cases of domestic violence has been related to the COVID-19 measures that have locked in victims with their perpetrators. A silent commemorative event was held in Prishtina by lighting candles and placing flowers in memory of Sebahate Morina, killed by her ex-husband, demanding accountability and justice.
The SDP also carried out two other protest actions in the reporting period.
- During a peaceful action, activists demanded the dismissal of the Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning after he was indicted for misuse of official duties in the past.
- A separate action, against the government’s decision to allocate 11 million EUR to fund electricity used by Serb-majority municipalities in the north of the country, resulted in the detention of five activists after a clash with police officers who used tear gas to disperse the protest. Kosovo police claimed that the action was not pre-announced and that the activists damaged the government building significantly as activists were throwing paint and writing on its walls.
Two peaceful gatherings were organised in Prishtina to mark International Workers’ Day.
- A citizens march was staged demanding justice, equality and solidarity for all workers, under the motto “Workers united against oppression”.
- A protest was organised by the Independent Trade Union of the Private Sector demanding dignified treatment of all workers in the private sector. The protesters placed banners with quotes such as “We are not slaves. We are workers,” and “Stop Discrimination”, near the Government building while throwing their protective equipment on the ground as a sign of protest.
Other protests also took place with no incidents reported, such as the protest in Ferizaj by the residents of Prelez village against frequent power outages, and the citizens’ protest regarding irregularities in the employment process in the Trepça mining company. Finally, two protest actions were staged at the University of Prishtina – one by its doctoral students against a repeated admission test, and another by civil society activists demanding the dismissal of Ardian Kastrati, a professor in the Faculty of Philosophy and a Member of Parliament, for using sexist and offensive language towards the new President-elect of Kosovo, Vjosa Osmani.
- The Association of Journalists of Kosovo denounced the sexist and offensive language used against sports journalist Qendresa Krelani by a football coach, Tahir Batatina, during a sports TV show. The Association of Sports Journalists of Kosovo and Kosovar Gender Studies Center also reacted, condemning the insulting language used by Batatina against Krelani, and considers this a dangerous attitude in the efforts for progress and gender equality in sports.
“The sexist, offensive and totally inadequate language used by Batatina is extremely disturbing and unacceptable,” stated the AJK.
- The Association of Journalists of Kosovo denounced Kosovo police for interviewing the Director of Gazeta Insajderi, Parim Olluri, after he published an investigation that contains internal information of the Ministry of Health regarding the allegations about the refusal of Pfizer and BioNtech vaccines by the Ministry. The AJK said:
“For AJK, it is completely unacceptable to interview the Director of Gazeta Insajderi in order to reveal their source, as this is an essentially flagrant violation of the Law on Protection of Journalists’ Resources and the right to media freedom.”
- The Association of Journalists of Kosovo has expressed its concerns regarding findings of the U.S. Department of State report which emphasises cases where journalists have withdrawn from investigative reporting due to intimidation by public officials, politicians, business and religious groups during 2020. The AJK called the report an alarm for state institutions in order to create a better and safer environment for journalism.
Kosovo decreased by eight positions in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index 2021, falling from 70th to 78th place compared to 2020. The report said:
“Kosovar journalists and media are exposed to a hostile environment that includes physical and verbal attacks, cyber-attacks, pressure to censor themselves and a lack of transparency about media ownership.”
Civic Space Developments