Journalists continue to face physical and verbal attacks
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the daily work of civil society organisations (CSOs), government has taken measures to assist the sector. Namely, the Ministry of Finance included CSOs as a separate group in the list of entities eligible for the economic measures under the Emergency Fiscal Package. Furthermore, prior to the introduction of the Emergency Fiscal Package, government extended the deadline for submission of tax return forms until the end of April 2020 for CSOs, while the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Public Administration decided to extend the yearly reporting deadline for CSOs with Public Benefit Status until the 30th June, which is beneficial for the CSOs.
During the reporting period, between 20th February 2020 and 15th April 2020, there have been no reported cases of groups being prevented from exercising their freedom of association.
Between 20th February 2020 and 15th April 2020, the following protests were held in Kosovo:
- Citizens of the village of Rakosh protested over frequent power outages in their village. The protest, which was peaceful, was accompanied by police units;
- Protests have continued over fixed employment allegations in the mining enterprise Trepça, despite the latter’s decision to cancel part of the call for employment. The protesters have demanded that the whole process should be cancelled, not just part of it, citing many cases of what they believe to be nepotistic influence during the employment process;
- Teachers, pupils and parents of the municipality of Kamenica protested in front of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Prishtina over the educational reforms initiated in the municipality by Mayor Qendron Kastrati;
- A march was held in Prishtina marking International Women’s Day on 8th March 2020. Marchers chanted "We march, we do not forgive".
- The police have stopped an attempt by denizens of the village Dumnicë e Poshtme to protest a governmental measure placing the village in quarantine following an outbreak of COVID-19 in an adjacent village. The report states that police went house to house discouraging the locals from joining the protest;
- After six days of lockdown, on 19th March 2020, Kosovo citizens staged balcony anti- government protests by banging their pots and pans. The protest was organised by Replike, a group of activists. The organisers say that citizens are dissatisfied with the current political regime. A few weeks later, Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK, a smaller party in the governing coalition, tabled a successful vote of no- confidence in the government.
While on the 6th day of isolation, Prishtina citizens protest against the political games taking place in times of a global pandemic. #Kosova pic.twitter.com/Q0b1TeJgrz— Dita Dobranja (@DitaDobranja) March 19, 2020
The following cases of apparent breaches of freedom of expression were noted during the period 20th February to 15th April 2020:
- The Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) condemned a case of physical assault on RTK journalist Altin Ahmeti. Ahmeti was assaulted by five persons who also proceeded to threaten his life. The case is currently being investigated by the police;
- A case of verbal threat was documented by the AJK against Bekim Kabashi, the director of the online journal “Reporteri” by businessman Latif Kryeziu. The threat resulted from a report published in the journal which painted Kryeziu’s company in a negative light;
- A case of attempted assault was documented by the AJK against journalist Berat Buzhala and owner of the Express newspaper and Television 7, who in a Facebook post alleged that two people- who he believes are from the political party Vetvendosje - attempted to assault him;
- Journalists from the Online Blic newspaper, Diamand Bajra, Nebi Maxhuni and Arsim Rexhepi were assaulted in North Mitrovica while trying to prepare a report on the presence of the coronavirus in the municipality. The attack happened when they approached a marketplace to ask customers how their supply runs were going. Maxhuni received medical treatment for the injuries. The case is currently under investigation;
- A case of verbal assault was documented against journalists Jeta Xharra, Xhemajl Rexha and Fidan Jupolli.The report states that the journalists in question were targeted by a Facebook page accusing them of being ‘mercenaries’ for one of the political parties in the country, namely Vetevendosje. The AJK deemed this case to be a flagrant breach of freedom of speech;
- A case of verbal assault was documented against journalists Parim Olluri and Berat Buzhala by a member of political party Vetevendosje, Hysamedin Ferraj. Through a Facebook post, Ferraj accused the journalists in question of being part of the Serbian-Russian lobby because of their critical posts towards Vetevendosje;
- The AJK condemned the arrest of journalist Tatjana Lazarevic by the Kosovo Police on 12th April 2020 while trying to perform her reporting duties. The arrest was made when restriction of movement was imposed by the Government of Kosovo to combat the spread of COVID-19. While accredited journalists were exempt from this measure when on duty, Lazarevic was still detained even after showing her credentials;
- The AJK has reported that journalist Fidan Jupolli has been consistently threatened through Facebook messages because of his reporting and opinion pieces.
Civic Space Developments