Journalists threatened despite new protection measures
Threats against journalists in Kosovo remain a concerning problem, despite new protection measures enacted by the State Prosecutor in March 2017. The Association of Journalists of Kosovo recorded seven cases of harassment against journalists between March and May 2017, including property damage, intimidation and death threats.
- On 11th April, Musa Mustafa, Albanian journalist and founder of news website Infojeta.net, received death threats over text. The SMS referenced his recent reports on Serbian parallel police structures in northern Kosovo, and threatened to kill Mustafa and his family should he continue to report "against Serbs".
- On 13th May, Arbana Xharra, former editor of Zeri - a leading newspaper in Pristina, was attacked and severely beaten in a parking lot near her apartment. The attack followed Xarra’s announcement that she would be joining the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Kosovo’s largest political party. Xarra had received death threats and been harassed for months prior to the attack.
After pressure from a number of civil society groups in Kosovo, including the Association of Journalists of Kosovo, the Justice Ministry withdrew two proposed amendments to the Criminal Code. The draft amendments on defamation sought to limit freedom of expression and media freedoms by criminalising the act of "expressing contempt" for the Republic of Kosovo, as well as its anthem, President, Parliament and Constitutional Court. Defamation charges under the proposed amendments were punishable with fines and prison sentences.
Ahead of Kosovo’s parliamentary election on 11th June 2017, Chief EU Observer Alojz Peterle released a statement calling on parties to restrain from intimidation tactics and media interference. Peterle’s statement read:
“The media plays an essential role in fostering the public debate on the different political alternatives. Reported attempts by political parties to interfere and impose conditions on access to election debates are resulting in difficulties for media in organizing fair and inclusive debates in line with the law, to the detriment of the electorate”.
On 5th May, activists clashed with police during a protest in front of government buildings in Pristina. Police dispersed the crowd using tear gas after protesters started spraying graffiti on government vehicles.The protesters gathered to petition the government to bring to justice those responsible for the death of Astrit Dehari, a Vetevendosje activist who died in prison in November 2016. Following Dehari's death, activists organised actions and protests in a campaign to demand #JusticeforAstritDehari.
Jemi ne shesh duke shenuar Diten Kombetare te Personave te Pagjetur - 27 Prilli. pic.twitter.com/0baeCZYVPz— YIHR Kosovo (@YIHRKosovo) April 27, 2017
Several other protests took place recently in Kosovo with no reports of violence or interference from authorities, and were widely covered in the media.
- The youth-led civil society organisation Nisma Ime organised a symbolic action on 27th April to commemorate the National Day of Missing Persons, and to bring attention to the 1,600 people still considered missing in Kosovo
- The Union of Private Sector, the New Union of Kosovo Energy Corporation and the Students’ Union held demonstrations in Pristina, Gjilan and Ferizaj on 1st May, Workers' Day. Protest demands included raising of minimum wage, as well as payment for interns.
- Specialist doctors protested against the cancellation of job vacancies by the Ministry of Health on 2nd May. Kadri Veseli, speaker of the Kosovo Parliament, invited the doctors to meet and discuss a solution.
- The Kosovo Association of Journalists, Kosovo Council of Written Media and other civil society groups commemorated World Press Freedom Day on 3rd May, with an organised march. Participants marched with banners displaying the slogan - “Fol, mos u tut" (Speak, do not be afraid).