Kosovo: Six attacks against journalists in December following escalating tensions
The European and International Federation of Journalists (EFJ-IFJ) raise the alert on the increasing threats surrounding journalists and media workers reporting on the tensions between Serbia and Kosovo from the North of Kosovo, and joins its affiliate the Association of Journalists in Kosovo (AJK) in asking the competent authorities, including the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and the police, to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of journalists reporting on the ground.
Tensions between Serbia and Kosovo have escalated recently, especially in the divided city of Mitrovica, with Belgrade (Serbia) accusing Pristina (Kosovo) of infringing on the rights of the Serbian community. New barricades were erected on Tuesday 27th, a few hours after Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic put the army on the highest level of alert. Recent shootings and roadblocks led the countries to believe a violent conflict could flare up soon: at the National Convention in the Parliament of Serbia, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that the tensions were “on the brink of armed conflict”.
While significant progress had been made when it comes to the safety of journalists in Kosovo, thanks to the work of the partners of the Council of Europe’s Platform on Safety of Journalists, the media sphere is endangered by the recent physical assaults and their implication on press freedom in the country, and on reporting on developments in the northern part of it.
Albania Live journalist Leonita Bajrami was targeted by pyrotechnic explosives as she was reporting on the new barricades that Tuesday, in the sixth attacks against journalists and media workers in the North of Kosovo. Earlier in the month, five other attacks were reported.
A Kallxo.com team was attacked near Mitrovica’s technical school on December 9th, and a RTV Dukagjini attacked with explosives the next day; on the 19th, a Klan Kosova team of two was reporting near barricades in Zubin Potok when masked individuals threw stones at them. A TeVe1 team found itself under an explosive attack in Mitrovica on the 20th, and on the 26th, another team from Klan Kosova had the same experience the previous team from the same media had when their car windows broke following an attack with stones. Driver Elsad Sinani was present both times.
“We are relieved to hear that tension has decreased after the Serbs began dismantling roadblocks in northern Kosovo on 29 December, but diplomatic efforts must continue so that journalists can operate safely in the region,” said the EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “We now need to make progress in the dialogue necessary to ensure the safety of journalists, but also to finally make progress on the many cases of impunity for the killings and disappearances of journalists in the region.”
IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said:“Attacks against journalists and media workers, which are ultimately infringing press freedom, are unacceptable. The IFJ welcomes the progress that has been made to decrease tensions and reminds that too many cases of missing and killed journalists are still unpunished in the region. This is why the adoption of a UN Convention for the safety and independence of journalists is badly needed.”