Investigation into police conduct at opposition party protest; several other protests staged
Protests demanding justice for gender-based violence
The Kosovo Women’s Network, joined by numerous citizens and activists, protested in Lipjan, demanding justice for a 13-year old homeless girl who was raped. Collective for Feminist Thought and Action also carried out an action in Vushtrri, covering walls around the town with feminist graffiti messages “depicting systemic violence against girls and women”. In addition, Kosovar Center for Gender Studies organised a protest in Ferizaj after the murder of an 18-year old girl by her husband. More than 200 activists and public figures joined the protest. The protesters threw red paint and eggs at police, claiming that this case of femicide demonstrates institutional failure in tackling domestic violence against women as a priority. The case has sparked outrage, particularly amongst young people and activists. The Youth Assembly of Ferizaj lit candles in the city centre in memory of the murdered girl. The Initiative of High School Students of Prishtina drew graffiti messages about the case, while the Group for Security and Gender Equality has called on the relevant institutions to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of the young girl and for justice.
Strikes and protests staged for labour rights
As previously reported, The Tax Administration of Kosovo workers went on general strike from 26th July to 2nd August 2021, preceded by three-hour strikes held by TAK workers for a week in a row. The general strike was suspended a week later in order to give the competent institutions time to fulfil their demands, the TAK Workers Union claimed. The Union warned that the general strike will continue again after 31st October 2021 if their demands are not met. The workers are demanding a proposal to change the status of the Tax Administration of Kosovo; creating better working conditions and reimbursements of expenses.
Student healthcare specialists have also continued with their protests and warned that they will pursue legal remedies available to enforce their rights if the silence of institutions continues. They also claimed that they have been threatened by University of Clinical Centre Kosovo (UCCK) with disadvantages in their exams if protests continue.
Protests staged by Social Democratic Party (SDP)
During a peaceful action in front of the government building, SDP activists released balloons containing electoral campaign promises of Prime Minister Albin Kurti, which have not been met since he took office four months ago.
A separate action, against the government’s decision (later suspended) for an additional 5 EUR taxation on car registration, resulted in the detention of eight activists after the latter damaged official cars with spray and stickers. The SDP called the police intervention against its activists “violent and brutal”, while police claimed that the action was not pre-announced and the intervention came after the activists disregarded the police’s advices and damaged 29 official cars. However, the action was followed by controversy. Following these events, the Police Inspectorate began criminal investigations and suspended the supervisor of police intervention. The government also reacted, expressing concern over the images of violence that appeared from the action. On the other hand, the opposition parties blamed the government for the excessive use of force by police. CSOs, such as the Council for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, have demanded that the Police Inspectorate investigate whether the police had exceeded its official authorisation by using excessive force.
No incidents were reported in another action carried out by SDP activists a week later in front of the Ministry of Infrastructure, where they demanded the dismissal of the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, who signed the decision regarding the tax.
Protest were staged by applicants dissatisfied with the employment process in Trepça mining company and continued for over 60 days from May 2021. Besides setting up a tent and protesting 24/7 in front of the company building in Stantërg (Mitrovica), they also protested in front of the government building in Prishtina. The protesters (applicants not hired) demanded justice and jobs, claiming that the selection process and employments in Trepça mining company were irregular.
Movement for Democracy activists protested in front of the Albanian Embassy in Prishtina, opposing the initiative of Albania, Serbia and North Macedonia to create the so-called “Balkan Mini-Schengen”, now known as “Open Balkans” - an economic zone of free movement of people, capital and goods, aiming to increase trade and cooperation between Western Balkan countries. The initiative was supposed to include six Western Balkan countries, however, it has been marred by controversy, and Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro have not yet joined.
Local news portal Shqip.com published leaked audio recordings in which important figures of media, the judiciary and the National Intelligence Agency of Kosovo are allegedly heard discussing plans to “capture” the main media and publish articles targeting various public figures in Kosovo.
During the recording, journalist Visar Duriqi, from the online portal “Insajderi” and another person are allegedly heard negotiating the price of publishing several articles targeting State Chief Prosecutor Aleksandër Lumezi, politician Behgjet Pacolli and the Institution of Car Confiscation. However, Duriqi claimed he had received no money from the abovementioned person and that no article has been published in his favour. A statement was also given by “Insajderi” confirming this, while the Special Prosecution has started investigations into the audio recordings.
Threats and obstructions toward media outlets and journalists
- The Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) has denounced the threats towards Bujar Vitija, a journalist at the online portal “gazetashneta.com”. Vitija was threatened after he reported on an anaesthesiologist who was fined by the Health Inspectorate for leaving his workplace during his shift. The journalist was also threatened by the anaesthesiologist’s father. The AJK has called upon the Kosovo Police to handle the case with priority.
- The AJK denounced the threats and obstruction towards Kallxo.com journalists by three persons on the hospital staff, while working on a story in the Mitrovica Regional Hospital. The Association of Journalists of Kosovo has stated that this “poses unacceptable pressure and endangers the safety of journalists while they are on duty”.
- The AJK has denounced the obstruction towards the Klan Kosova team’s work during a show broadcast live from Drenas. The audience, who consisted mainly of children, threw objects at the show’s hosts. The AJK has called on the public “to respect the work of media, especially when it is performed on public property, and with the relevant permits”.
Concerns over right to information
The Assembly of Kosovo has failed to elect three members of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) after no candidate received a majority of the MPs’ votes and the process had to be repeated. This provoked reactions from domestic and international civil society organisations, who claimed that the interviews during the selection process were conducted in a completely secret process, behind closed doors, and without journalists and CSOs present. They have called upon MPs to publish official transcripts of the process.
In another development, 19 CSOs and activists issued a joint statement opposing the request by the ad-hoc committee of the Assembly of Kosovo that organisations monitoring the selection of a member of the Media Complaints Board sign a confidentiality agreement, which prohibits them from publishing any information until the process is closed. CSOs called the confidentiality agreement “an attempt to silence civil society and activists” and to “infringe the public’s right to information and impede the work of civil society”. They have demanded that the committee withdraw its request and allow monitoring organisations to do their job freely.