Protests staged against gender-based violence; labour rights and COVID-19 measures
In terms of relevant legal changes, the Draft Law on Public Gatherings was open for online consultations from 25th October to 15th November 2021. CSOs raised concerns over the potential impact that certain provisions of the Draft Law may have on the right of citizens, CSOs and other entities to exercise freedom of peaceful assembly, as a prerequisite to participate in decision-making processes in the country, as well as other slightly restrictive provisions of the law.
Several strikes and protests were staged for labour rights, such as the protests of medical technical workers, the self-funded medical specialists, workers of the company “NewCo Ferronikeli”, as well as the Trade Union of Kosovo Post and of the Kosovo Energy Corporation. In relation to the new Law on Salaries, health workers staged a protest as well as two 8-hour strikes, while trade unions also protested, threatening to strike. As previously reported, the Kosovo Lottery workers protested several times in front of the government building, demanding the approval of the Law on the Kosovo Lottery and unpaid salaries for the previous year. In April 2019, the Assembly of Kosovo approved a law that prohibited all forms of gambling. Since then, the Kosovo Lottery has ceased its activity.
Several protests were organised around the issue of gender-based violence.
- The Collective for Feminist Thought and Action, joined by other representatives of women’s rights organisations, protested the light sentence given to the rapist of a 15 years-old girl, covering the walls of the Basic Court of Peja with graffiti messages, such as: “Here girls and women are raped for the second time” and “This court is hostile to women”. Although the Criminal Code of Kosovo anticipates sentences of 5 to 20 years in prison for cases like this, the Basic Court of Peja only handed down an eight months and eight days sentence for the rapist, which according to the Collective increases the insecurity of girls and women.
- A silent march was organised in Prishtina by the Centre for Art and Community (Artpolis), joined by dozens of women and girls dressed in white with symbolic make-up showing wounds of violence, demanding justice for murdered and abused girls and women. They called upon competent institutions to respond with gender sensitivity to reports of domestic violence against women. The march was staged under the slogan “ENOUGH! No fewer women and girls, no more deaths”.
- The Centre for Information, Criticism, and Action (QIKA) protested against “sexist language” used by a judges’ panel of the Basic Court of Gjilan. The action came after a local media outlet had published a judge’s highly sexist ruling regarding a case of a 19-year-old woman raped in 2012. This case has provoked reaction from civil society, who demanded investigation into the case, and has generated an online petition calling on competent authorities to take action against judges.
- In addition, people protested in front of the Municipality of Gjilan on the anniversary of the murder of a 19 years-old boy, demanding justice as the perpetrators of the crime have not yet been found.
Two protests were staged against the latest COVID measures:
- The Kosovo Gastronomes Association protested by honking car horns in front of the government building, calling the anti-COVID measures senseless, and demanding the government to stimulate vaccination of the population as the only viable solution to get out of the pandemic. Although the government has slowly lifted restrictions, there are limitations regarding music, and the curfew from midnight until 5 a.m. remains in force.
- In a separate protest, the Kosovo Gastronomes of Kosovo, joined by the Chamber of Hospitality and Tourism, demanded permission from the government to re-open nightclubs and wedding halls on New Year’s Eve. Under the slogan “ENOUGH”, they warned of non-compliance if the government did not lift COVID-19 preventive measures.
During the reporting period, several other protests took place with no incidents reported, such as the protests of jewellersfor increased security measures, a protest by Stankaj village residents over scarce water supply, two protests by music school students in Pristina for a new school building, protests by artists over a controversial decision by the Ministry of Culture, and a solidarity march for actress and MP Adriana Matoshi after her re-diagnosis with cancer. As previously reported, relatives of Marko Rosic, suspected to be involved in the assassination of the Kosovo Serb politician Oliver Ivanovic, protested again in front of the Basic Court of Mitrovica demanding his release from detention and seeking justice for Marko.
The following incidents were documented against journalists and the media:
- The Kosovo Police obstructed Klan Kosova and RTV Dukagjini’s journalists by fining them when they tried to use an alternative route to report live on an armed robbery.
- Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Bota Sot, Idriz Morina received threatening phone calls and messages due to his writings. The Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) called upon the Kosovo Police to prioritise the case.
- The AJK also denounced the denigrating language used on the Facebook group #mekryeministrin towards journalists of different media outlets. The AJK condemned the public support from the Self-Determination Movement MP, Fitore Pacolli, for the group and this kind of language. The group is known for its close ties with Self-Determination Movement - the ruling party in Kosovo.
Fake news during the COVID-19 pandemic and electoral campaign
- Democracy Plus released its report “Fake news during the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact in Kosovo”, which shows that the entire period of the pandemic has been characterised by fake news. In particular, fake news has been related to the possible side effects of vaccines, resulting in many people boycotting vaccination. D+ has recommended that the Ministry of Health and the Press Council of Kosovo design a communication campaign to address the impact of fake news and misinformation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Democracy for Development published a monitoring report of online media and social networks during the electoral campaign for local elections, showing that the electoral campaign was characterised by misinformation, harsh, offensive, and sexist language.