Students call for educational reforms; labour day protests
Between 7th April and 1st June 2022, the following protests took place:
Protests, marches and strikes staged for labour right
- Hundreds of public sector workers, led by the Union of Independent Trade Unions of Kosovo, protested twice in front of the government building under the slogan "Prime Minister, fulfill our demands, prevent the general strike". They blamed the Government for a lack of willingness tohave a dialogue with trade unions and demanded additional payments of 100 EUR per month until the adoption of the Law on Salaries and the inclusion of trade unions in its drafting process. The protesters also called for the implementation of the Law on Health Insurance and the amendment of the Law on Pension Schemes Financed by the State.
- Additionally, teachers went on a one-hour strike, urging the government to meet their demands.They warned that if their demands were not met, they would go on a general strike.
- As previously reported,medical specialists trainees of the University Clinical Hospital Service of Kosovo protested again, demanding more pay for night shifts, the approval of the Law on Salaries and the amendment of the Administrative Instruction for Specialist Education. Also, self-financed medical specialist trainees demanded inclusion in the Law on Salaries.They gathered in front of the Ministry of Health under the slogans "Today in front of the Ministry, tomorrow in front of the Government", "Yesterday heroes, today forgotten", "We fought the pandemic, we oppose injustice", "Doctors are leaving, Minister is staying in America", and "Hospitals without doctors, people suffering".
- Nurses, employed as support staff in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, protested in front of the Ministry of Health over non-payment of salaries for the last three months. Under the slogans “Heroes of the pandemic, forgotten by the Government of Kosovo”, "I risked my family to save your family and here is how I was rewarded" and "You are all proud of the pandemic management, we were the reason for it", they also demanded the extension of contracts that expired in June 2022. Following their protest, the Government allocated 1.7 million EUR for the payment of 1,271 healthcare professionals’ salaries. Since September last year, over 1,200 new healthcare professionals have been employed as support staff in hospitals, clinics and vaccination centres.
- Workers of the Kosovo Energy Distribution Service, led by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions Elektrokosova, went on strikefor several days demanding from the company's management a salary increase of 100 EUR for all employees of the company. Prior to the protest, they had rejected management's offer of a salary increase of 30 EUR.
- As previously reported, workers of the Lottery of Kosovo protested again in front of the government building, demanding the approval of the Law on the Lottery of Kosovo.
- About 40 technical workers of schools in Gjilan protested in front of the Municipality over non-payment of salaries.
- Additionally, hundreds of citizens and representatives of trade unions, joined by several MPs from opposition political parties, protested under the slogan "In favour of withdrawing 30% of Trust savings, we want our money!". In front of the government building, they demanded permission for an additional withdrawal from Kosovo’s Retirement Savings Fund (Trust) after the withdrawal of 10% of Trust savings in 2020. The initiative comes after a wave of price hikes in basic products hit the country. The potential amendment of the Draft Law on Pension Funds by the Assembly of Kosovo could open the door to the withdrawal of savings by the citizens. However, the initiative has been criticised and opposed by the ruling party, economic experts and the International Monetary Fund, arguing that it does not help social categories in need, and could cause further inflation.
Protests on International Workers’ Day
- The Federation of Private Sector Workers of Kosovo, joined by tens of employees, protested in front of the government building seeking improvement in working conditions. Under the slogan "Government and private companies open your eyes, workers are leaving", they demanded the commencement of the implementation of the Law on Health Insurance, the establishment of the Labour Court, an increase in the number of labour inspectors and a new collective agreement with the Government.
- In a separate action, the Anarcho-Syndicalist Group placed several banners in Prishtina seeking better working conditions for all employees. “Money does not fall from above, workers do” and “Unpaid work of women bears the state”, were some of the slogans hung on buildings in Prishtina.
- In another protest, under the slogan “Freedom, Equality, Solidarity”, the Collective for Feminist Thought and Action, joined by Dylberizm and the United Activists for Justice, called for better working conditions and equality at work for women, LGBTQI+ people and people with disabilities. The activists were holding banners reading “Equal rights for all, special privileges for none”, “Wages for housework”, “Women do not rest even on Sundays”, and “For a free and equal society”. They vowed to continue protesting until workers are free from all forms of oppression.
Marches calling for increased quality in education
- With a symbolic action, under the slogan “No businesses in higher education!”, the Organisation for Increasing Quality of Education (ORCA) demanded thatinstitutions change the status of private colleges from businesses to non-profit organisations. The action took place in front of the Assembly of Kosovo shortly before the commencement of the Parliamentary Committee on Education’s third public hearing on the Law on the Accreditation Agency. According to ORCA, private colleges are the main detractors of the quality of education, therefore the Draft Law on the Accreditation Agency must stipulate that accreditation will be offered only to non-profit institutions and organisations.
- Hundreds of high school students marched in Prishtina with the motto “No more will to go to school”, calling for increased quality in education. Under the slogans“equality, security, education”, “Where are the psychologists?” and “Respect my rights”, the students demanded better education infrastructure, involvement in decision-making, increased security in schools, the introduction of more psychologists, and also raised their voice against bullying and harassment faced by students in schools. The march was organised by the Student Council of Kosovo and was held in 29 municipalities across the country.
Local issues raised through protests
- Hundreds of citizens in Klina protested twice against the construction of a cement factory in the village of Dollc, considering it life-threatening, due to air, water and soil contamination. The citizens’ objection had began in 2020 when they collected about 4,700 signatures in a petition against the construction of the factory. However, with the construction resuming, citizens gathered again under the slogans “On the rejection of the cement factory in Klina”, "Do not build this cement factory", "Stop cancer in Klina", and "Let us protect the environment together". As a result, the Ministry of Environmental and Spatial Planning revoked the environmental consent for the construction of the factory.
- Protests against the company “Prishtina Parking” have continued (see previous update) in the capital with the teachers of the school “Hasan Prishtina” gathering after the company took over the management of the parking lot in front of the school. As previously reported, locals of a couple of settlements in Prishtina have protested several times against the company, disputing its legal authority and competencies. As a result, the Assembly of Prishtina has set up a commission tasked to review the Regulation on “Prishtina Parking”.
- Dozens of Kosovo Serbs gathered in the Serb-majority village of Osojan, preventing the so-called mayor of the parallel municipality of Istog, Kosta Belošević, from entering his office. They demanded the employment of at least one member from each family in the village, as they were promised by the so-called Director of the Office for Kosovo in the Government of Serbia, Petar Petković. Serbia still maintains and illegally finances parallel structures in municipalities with a Serb majority in Kosovo regardless of the agreements to shut them down reached in the framework of the dialogue with Kosovo in Brussels.
- Residents of a neighborhood in Ferizaj protested against the construction of a tall residential building in their settlement, considering it to be contrary to legal criteria.
Other protests in the reporting period
- Collective for Feminist Thought and Action filled the walls of public spaces in Prizren with messages after the arrest of a former teacher suspected of paedophilia. The Collective stated that the graffiti messages express “revolt against the vulnerability of girls and women and the culture of amnesty for gender-based violence”. They called for “a collective response to gender-based violence, punishment for criminals and solidarity with all girls and women”. "Sexual abusers have names", "We know you", “The school is a shelter for sexual abusers”, and “The harasser professor’s place is in prison, not in school”, were some of the inscriptions written by the Collective.
- Activists of the Social Democratic Party held three separate actions in the reporting period, demanding the resignation of the Minister of Education, the Ambassador of Kosovo in Slovenia, and the Energy Regulatory Office’s Board.
- Students of the Department of Dance in AAB College protested with a choreographed performance in front of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, expressing dissatisfaction with the Minister’s statements, who had claimed that there is a shortage of choreographers in the country.
Improved ranking on World Press Freedom Index
Kosovo moved up 17 places in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2022 World Press Freedom Index rankings, climbing to 61st place. The report highlights that no journalists or media workers are currently imprisoned in Kosovo. However, among limitations on the freedom of expression the report also underlines partisan distribution of public funds, insults, threats and physical attacks on journalists, as well as interference by politicians and business groups. Furthermore, the intimidation of Serbian-speaking journalists in northern Kosovo by the ruling party Srpska Lista is also emphasised as a concern in the report.
Improved ranking on Freedom in the World report
Kosovo improved by two points on Freedom House’s annual report on freedom in the world, moving up from 54 to 56 points out of 100. The increase was attributed to the political rights category, which improved from 23 points in last year’s report to 25 this year, while the assessment of civil liberties remained the same, with 31 points out of 60 in total. However, the report still ranks Kosovo among partly free countries.
The AJK denounces denigrating language, lawsuits & indictments against journalists
- The Minister of Internal Affairs used denigrating language toward the Periskopi online portal’s journalist, Besarta Hoti, after she asked him about the recent employment of his sister in the Ministry of Agriculture. The Minister said that the journalist’s question was “stupid” and out of the press conference’s main topic. The AJK considered the Minister’s behaviour and language unprofessional and sexist while stating that journalists “are free to ask all of the questions that are of public interest”.
- The editor-in-chief and director of the “Front Online” portal have been sued for defamation by a well-known singer in Kosovo after they published a part of the indictment wherethe Basic Court of Prishtina charges him with suspicion of the rape of a minor. The singer has requested compensation of 5,100 EUR from each of them. The AJK stated that the topic is “of public interest and the media have an obligation to inform the public when such allegations are made by the prosecution office” and regards the case as a Strategic Litigation against Public Participation (SLAPP).
- The AJK urged the Basic Prosecution Office in Prishtina to immediately withdraw the indictment for “False News or Reporting” filed against two Infokus online portal journalists in 2018. The indictment submits that the journalists published false information about a Kosovar businessman in a series of articles in 2016 and 2017. The AJK has recalled that defamation is decriminalised in Kosovo and cannot be prosecuted, therefore the indictment presents an interference with the freedom of media and creates a deterrent effect on the journalists.
- The President of the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) political party used denigrating language in a Facebook post toward certain media outlets in Albania and Kosovo, labelling them “mercenaries” and “sold”, after particular media reported rumours that he could be considered a candidate for the President of Albania. The AJK stated that this kind of language is “threatening, denigrating, unacceptable and dangerous to the safety of journalists” while inviting the President of AAK to direct his complaints to competent bodies.
- A football referee used threatening language towards sports journalist Arlind Sadiku before the commencement of a Superleague of Kosovo football match in Gjilan. The AJK condemned the language used by the referee and invited the Kosovo Football Federation to take measures against him.
- A senior official of the Self-Determination Movement - the ruling party in Shtime - used insulting language towards the journalist of Koha Group, Agim Ademi, labelling him as the servant of former governments andpolitical parties in opposition. The insults came after the journalist published an article about the expenditure of the Mayor of Shtime’s Office. The AJK considered this kind of language unacceptable and dangerous to the security of journalists, and invited the Mayor "to distance himself from the pressures being put on the journalist after his reports, which are based on documents provided following a request for access to public documents".
2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Kosovo
The U.S. Department of State released the 2021 Kosovo Country Report on Human Rights Practices, which emphasises that although the government generally respected the freedom of expression during 2021, “credible reports persisted that some public officials, politicians, businesses, and religious groups sought to intimidate media representatives”. Among limitations on the freedom of expression, the report underlines funding problems, difficulties in accessing information from public institutions, threats, as well as fear for physical safety or job security faced by journalists due to certain critical investigative reporting. Furthermore, the report highlights the Association of Journalists of Kosovo's reports on 26 physical assaults and verbal threats toward journalists marked throughout 2021.
Civic Space Developments