|The conference of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo on Wednesday. Photo: BIRN|
The Association of Journalists of Kosovo on Wednesday published its latest report on the freedom of media and safety of journalists which noted 16 cases of attacks reported to the authorities in 2018 – two of them physical.
“By December 2, 16 cases were reported to the Association of Journalists of Kosovo. Two of these cases were physical attacks; one colleague was attacked in the north and another one at the University Clinical Center of Kosovo,” Petrit Collaku, researcher at the association, told a conference.
He added that another case had to do with property damage, where the car of a journalist was attacked.
Collaku said it was concerning when those who threaten journalists are municipal officials, as happened in three cases during this year.
“There are also threats coming from owners of companies, unsatisfied citizens … there were threats through social media and also two cases when the security in parliament forced two journalists to leave the building,” Collaku added.
The head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Jan Braathu, said the report showed Kosovo was making progress compared with some other countries. “The main reason for attacks against journalists remains investigative journalism,” he noted.
Braathu also said he had noticed a marked improvement in the way that the Kosovo Police, prosecutors and judges treat these cases.
What is not being mentioned enough, according to Braathu, are the threats that journalists face within the media where they work.
“Four media have been fined for violating journalists’ rights,” he said adding that the OSCE supports these rights as part of a democratic society.
The director of the Investigation Department of the Kosovo Police, Riza Shillova, said police dealt promptly with cases where journalists are threatened, and a police coordinator is responsible only for these cases.
Earlier this year Judge Arben Hoti was assigned as coordinator of cases involving journalists.
“My assignment as coordinator of these cases expresses the will of the Kosovo Judicial Council and the President of the Basic Court in Pristina, Aferdita Bytyci, to work more on this issue, bearing in mind the importance of freedom of expression and the media,” Hoti told BIRN in June.
A report by Reporters Without Borders RSF published in April said Kosovo’s media suffer from direct and indirect political interference, financial pressure, and excessively concentrated ownership.
“Journalists who criticize the Kosovar authorities are often accused of being ‘traitors’ or ‘Serbian sympathizers’,” the report read.
In February, the journalist Parim Olluri was called a Serbian spy on social media after he published an article criticising the government’s offer to reward the relatives of ethnic Albanians convicted of involvment in a gunbattle in Kumanovo, Macedonia, in 2015.
Last year, Olluri was assaulted in Pristina, while unknown perpetrators attacked former journalist Arbana Xharra late at night outside her home. Vehbi Kajtazi, editor-in-chief of the online newspaper Insajderi, was assaulted in a Pristina bar.
Kosovo was placed 78th in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.