European Federation of Journalists

COVID-19: political interference in the media in Kosovo

Picture credit: Armend Nimani / AFP.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) calls on media in Kosovo to refrain from intensifying tensions in a health crisis.

The quarantine of the city of North Mitrovica has resulted in inappropriate and unethical media coverage. The EFJ strongly denounces these discrepancies which show strong political interference in some media in Kosovo.

Unsupported statements and provocative questions asked by a journalist from the Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) while reporting live from North Mitrovica on Saturday evening’s news raised a wave of reactions in Kosovo. The remarks risk contributing in raising tensions between Serb and Albanian communities.

On Friday, the Sinjali news portal, owned by lawyer Besnik Berisha (political advisor to a former Prime Minister), created the controversy by publishing the names, addresses and dates of birth of 210 citizens, mostly Serbs and Roma, who had been placed in quarantine in North Mitrovica and other cities. Following protests from the public and the Association of Serbian Journalists in Kosovo (UNS-Kosovo), Sinjali blurred the personal information of these citizens.

The OSCE Mission to Kosovo urged the media to respect the privacy of patients and in no way disclose the identities of those affected. “The situation with COVID-19 requires solidarity and cooperation throughout society, as well as between the authorities in the region,” said the OSCE Mission.

“It seems clear that some politicians, starting with Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić and the president of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi, are using the coronavirus crisis to inflame political and social tensions in their own interest. We call on journalists not to play their game and to act in the public interest,” said EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez.

The EFJ asked today the Independent Media Commission in Kosovo to investigate these unethical reportings and to continue to closely monitor the media.