Democracy Plus (D +) and Insajderi within the Project “Supporting freedom of media and freedom of expression through increased monitoring of issues relating to media” on March 12th, organized a roundtable discussion with various representatives, including on issues concerning safety of the journalists.
The roundtable discussed institutional steps being taken in Kosovo to detect and criminally prosecute persons who threaten or attack journalists performing their work. Data from the Association of Journalists of Kosovo show that during 2017, 38 cases of attacks and threats against journalists have been recorded, an increased figure as compared to figures from previous years. Panelists at the roundtable were Minister of Justice Abelard Tahiri, the Prosecutor mandated to deal with cases of journalists Besim Kelmendi, Petrit Çollaku from the Association of Journalists of Kosovo and Parim Olluri, director of the Insajderi newspaper.
In the opening remarks of the roundtable, Isuf Zejna from Democracy +, said that cases of threats and attacks on journalists have increased in recent years. And according to him, writing about people who are either powerful or close to power poses a major problem for journalists.
On the other hand, Minister Tahiri said at the roundtable discussion that a democratic society is distinguished for freedom of expression, as freedom of expression contributes to fighting corruption and organized crime. He added that he is aware that with their work journalists always get in the way of perpetrators, criminals, people involved in corruption affairs. He added that the courts are proving to have a soft hand against assailants of the journalists, as verdicts have resulted in pretty low penalties.
Parim Olluri, executive director of Insajderi online newspaper, said that journalists face a phenomenon such as hate speech through social networks, therefore, Kosovo Police, in his view, in dealing with such cases is not very willing to react against those who threaten journalists as they are swift to react against those who threaten politicians. He called an absurd lack of work of the Kosovo Police aimed at apprehending three guys who attacked him in August last year.
According to him, the court verdict to impose a suspended sentence of four months against the assailant of journalist Vehbi Kajtazi is also an absurd.
Besim Kelmendi from the Prosecution Office said that he is very sorry about every case involving journalists, as journalists write about bad things done to citizens of Kosovo. He said that from 1999 to 2016 there were over 120 assaults on journalists, some of them were killed and some of them threatened. For this reason, he said establishment of a fully independent judicial police is being sought for.
At this roundtable, it was also said that journalists are not allowed to have access to public documents in the state institutions, from examples provided by various media representatives.
During the implementation of the project, Democracy + and Insajderi are investigating and reporting to various instances of the state on cases of safety of journalists as well as are testing the level of response of some institutions to requests for access to public documents.
This project is funded by the European Union through the Small Grants Scheme “Protecting Freedom of Media and Freedom of Expression in the Western Balkans” implemented by the Association of Croatian Journalists, as part of the regional project Western Balkans Regional Advocacy Platform on Freedom of Media and Journalists’ Safety, in partnership with six regional journalist associations – Association of Independent Journalists of Serbia (IJAS), Association of Journalists of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Association of Croatian Journalists (CJA), Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK), Association Journalists of Macedonia (AJM) and Montenegro’s Media Trade Union. The project has started to be implemented on 01 October 2017 and will last until 31 May 2018.