New measures put in place to protect journalists under threat
Amb. Braathu welcomes Chief Prosecutor’s decision to assign a Prosecutor/Coordinator of cases involving journalists https://t.co/upq6Co0B3Q— OSCE Kosovo (@OSCEKosovo) March 9, 2017
As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, threats against journalists in Kosovo have become more frequent. Media rights advocates have documented evidence that the authorities are failing to protect journalists under threat. To address this issue, there have been numerous calls to strengthen cooperation between journalists and authorities. On 8th March 2017, the Association of Journalists in Kosovo (AJK) and the State Prosecutor reached an agreement on greater cooperation to address threats and attacks against media professionals. The State Prosecutor has appointed a coordinator to liaise with prosecutors across Kosovo in an effort to expedite investigations into threats against journalists. The newly-formed collaboration includes the creation of a database maintained by the State Prosecutor to report on and monitor the status of ongoing investigations.
On 28th February 2017, the Kohavision Television (KTV) producer, Fatmir Lama, received a threatening phone call after broadcasting his documentary on Kosovar collaboration with the Yugoslav regime. Many perceive the threats against Lama as indicative of society's avoidance of human rights violations in Kosovo's history.
On 14th February 2017, AJK condemned the decision by the Fushe Polje municipality to cease communication with KTV. The conflict arose after KTV reported on a story about a farmer who did not receive the appropriate compensation from the municipality after his property was damaged during flooding. AJK urged the municipal authorities to be more transparent in their decision making and reporting back to constituents, rather than cut off ties with crucial media outlets in the region.
Authorities in Kosovo recently made the decision to suspend the operation of an NGO - Airsoft Club Vukovi. The organisation's registration was cancelled at the request of intelligence services when the Club's activities reportedly contravened provisions in Law Nr. 04/L-57 on freedom of association. The organisation was accused of involvement in "military type" activities in northern Kosovo.
The process to amend the Law on Freedom of Association has continued with additional restrictive provisions included in the first draft proposed by the government. However, since the process is still at an early stage, no formal restrictions have been reported. Thus far, only online platform for NGO registration has been launched.
On 15th February 2017, students and security forces clashed outside the University of Pristina, as protests took place around the academic institution's 47th anniversary. Student organisations chose to mobilise around the celebrations in order to draw attention to the fact that university staff positions had largely been filled with politically-appointed individuals. Protesters attempted to disrupt the rector's speech, and security forces responded with pepper spray. Seven students and one police officer were injured, and ten demonstrators were arrested during the confrontations.
In a separate incident on 18th January 2017, a group of students were prevented from posting pictures of war crimes within the vicinity of a Serbian Orthodox Cathedral on a university campus. The students wanted to draw attention to Serbian complicity in war crimes during the war in Kosovo. Security forces intervened to prevent a confrontation.
As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, former Kosovo Prime Minister, Ramush Haradinaj, is still being held by French authorities. France has once again delayed the decision on an extradition hearing, thereby prompting protests in support of the imprisoned politician. A controversial figure in the Western Balkans, Serbian authorities allege that Haradinaj was complicit in war crimes during his tenure as a guerrilla commander with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).
Protests on several other issues have taken place recently in Kosovo without violent incidents or disruption from the authorities:
- Members of the Roma community demonstrated for better educational opportunities for their children;
- Members of the Serbian community protested against the special forces intervention that prevented an illegal train from crossing the border;
- The Serbian community living in Kosovska Mitrovica protested against international court charges against a Kosovo Serb politician guilty of war crimes;
- Female activists marched in solidarity with women against the new Trump administration and in support of women’s rights;
- The Kosovar Women's Network led a protest against violence on women;
- Kosovo Liberation Army veterans in Peja protested against the border demarcation with Montenegro;
- Employees at the Post of Kosovo have protested to demand the resignation of the head of the Kosovo Competition Authority;
- In Skenderaj, people marched in support of Azem Deliu, a writer who was recently assaulted because of his writing;
- Marking International Women’s Day, hundreds of citizens marched under the motto ‘We march, do not celebrate!’;
- The residents of Hade village protested at the Environmental Ministry;
- Local Serbs in North Mitrovica protested against changes made in the structure of police departments; and
- The expelled workers from KEDS organised a protest asking for an Appeal Court decision to be implemented.