Investigative journalists face threats, harassment and smear campaigns
As previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, worrying attacks against investigative journalists have continued over the past few months. On 31st January 2018, the Association of Journalist in Kosovo (AJK) decried the ongoing harassment of anti-corruption journalists with Insajderi.com, specifically Parim Olluri. As previously reported, journalists working with Insajderi.com have faced threats, smear campaigns and even physical violence as a result of their work. Olluri was the subject of an online-hate campaign after criticising the government's decision to remunerate families of individuals convicted for their involvement in the 2015 gun battle in Kumanovo, Macedonia. Olluri's article came out after Kosovar authorities' decided to pay 219,000 EUR to the families of individuals convicted of terrorism in the 2-day shootout with Macedonian police which left 18 people dead. The journalist was previously attacked outside his apartment in August 2017 allegedly for his criticisism of the Kosovo Liberation Army.
Kosovo journalist Parim Olluri has been called Serbian spy, and worse, on social media after he published an article criticizing the government's offer to award relatives of ethnic Albanians convicted of involvment in 2015 gunbattle in Kumanovo, Macedoniahttps://t.co/CdQzPQ0B9s pic.twitter.com/OGgjiGbeCp— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) February 1, 2018
As covered in the previous update, harmful rhetoric by public officials against journalists remains a serious concern. On 8th November 2017, Speaker Kadri Veseli insulted a journalist during a hospital visit in Pristina. Journalist Saranda Ramaj inquired about the construction of a hospital in Ferizaj and Veseli refused to respond to the question but rather labeled Ramaj a "politicised journalist". In December 2017, Ramaj's family was harassed when an unidentified individual visited the home while she was away and left a note warning her to stop her work. Both incidents are reportedly related to Ramaj's investigative work exposing irregularities in government tenders.
While a number of protests have taken place recently, there is only one report of an assembly turning violent. On 28th November 2017, a group gathered to protest the jail sentences handed down to the individuals involved in the Kumanova clashes with Macedonian police forces (as described above). In total, thirty three individuals were sentenced to lengthy jail terms between ten years and life imprisonment for their role in the shootout. Protesters and Kosovar security forces clashed as they marched towards the Macedonian Embassy in Pristina. There are no reports of any arrests being made during the confrontation.
In two other separate incidents related to protest, two journalists were insulted while covering peaceful assemblies. On 11th November 2017, a journalist working for KALLXO.com was accosted by individuals while covering a protest in Gjilan over the relocation of a statue. In another incident involving a media worker at a protest, on 23rd November 2017 media crew from KTV were threatened while covering a strike by workers at a textile factory. The incident, which took place in at the Vitex factory in Vitia, allegedly occurred when journalists attempted to speak to the factory's management.
A number of other protests have taken place recently without incident. Below are a few examples:
- Marking the anniversary of the death of opposition activist Astrit Dehari, a march was organised under the slogan "I am Astrit";
- VITEX employees went on strike after not receiving salaries for several months; and
Kosovo Liberation Army veterans marked Albanian independence day by protesting against the convictions of 37 ethnic Albanians found guilty of involvement in a deadly gun battle with police in Kumanovo, Macedonia.https://t.co/e3ECLISwXp pic.twitter.com/9CcHTnonOn— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) November 28, 2017