IFJ and EFJ / Kosovo: More attacks on journalists amid escalating tensions
A growing number of attacks on journalists and media workers have been documented in northern Kosovo since 26 May, which intensified on 29 May, following the protests that erupted in the region. The International and the European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) join their affiliate, the Association of Journalists in Kosovo (AGK), in denouncing the violence targeted at media professionals and call on the competent authorities and media employers to ensure the safety of journalists reporting on the ground.
Kosovo riot police and KFOR military police secure entrance to municipal building in Zvecan, northern Kosovo on May 29, following clashes with Serb protesters demanding the removal of recently elected Albanian mayors. Credit: AFP.
Several journalists have been physically assaulted and their equipment vandalised, including the vehicles of media broadcasters, while covering the ongoing protests in northern Kosovo, which broke out on 29 May.
Tensions between citizens in the region have escalated recently, after the municipal elections in April brought to power ethnically Albanian mayors in three towns, whom the Serb majority do not consider their true representatives. Media professionals covering the clashes have once again been the target of violence, highlighting the need to better protect journalists on the ground.
In the town of Zveçan, crews from local media outlets such as KOHA and Gazeta Papirus, and Albania-based Top Channel have been physically attacked, as well as their vehicles and media equipment vandalised.
Albanian-speaking journalists were forced to shelter inside the town hall for an hour in order to prevent further assaults targeting them, according to a report by the SafeJournalists network, a platform made up of IFJ-EFJ affiliates and representing more than 8,200 media professionals in the Balkans.
In Leposavic, vehicles of local RTV Dukagjini, KALLXO, and the cross-border Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) have been vandalised and damaged by protesters
In the town of Zubin Potok, a vehicle from the media outlet Tëvë1 was initially attacked and then set on fire.
The IFJ-EFJ affiliate in the country, the AGK, is monitoring the attacks. There were over 16 attacks by the evening of 30 May.
AGK President Xhemajl Rexha said: “Over 16 cases of assaults towards journalists and media workers have been registered since 29 May in the northern part of Kosovo. Journalists reporting in northern municipalities are in exceptionally poor conditions, and their safety is not guaranteed either by the Kosovo Force (KFOR) or by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) police. In some cases, their equipment has been vandalised and even shot at and set on fire.
The AJK is very concerned about journalists’ safety, as they are not performing their duties in a safe environment. We are continuously calling on media crews not to endanger themselves during their reports, while we demand media owners and managerial bodies to prioritise their crews’ safety.”
In a joint statement, the IFJ-EFJ called on the competent authorities to better protect journalists reporting on the ground and reminded media employers of their responsibility to provide safety equipment to media professionals covering the tensions.