International media organisations urge Kosovo leaders to stop discrediting and denigrating language targeting journalists
The European Centre for Press and
Media Freedom (ECPMF), together with a collection of media organisations,
associations, and trade unions, has written to the President of Kosovo, Vjosa
Osmani and Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti calling for an immediate end
to the use of discrediting and denigrating language targeting journalists,
organised by officials linked to Vetevendosje, the Office of the President, and
other high-level institutions, Gazeta Express reports.
“In recent days, we have been
concerned by messages on social media originating from politicians and
officials that have served to incite the public against journalists and
reporters. These include, for instance, comments on Facebook by the
spokespersons and media advisors of both the Office of the Prime Minister and
Lëvizja Vetëvendosje who, speaking on behalf of the parties they represent,
implied that the media attempted to subvert and undermine the President through
their reporting. Also of concern are the Facebook comments by the President’s
husband Prindon Sadriu, who called journalists a “joint criminal enterprise”, a
loaded concept, especially in the Balkans,” it is written in the public letter addressed
to President Osmani and Prime Minister Kurti.
According to the letter taken
together, these comments have effectively resulted in a torrent of online abuse
by Lëvizja Vetëvendosje supporters, targeting critical and independent
journalists and activists, particularly women. “Furthermore, especially when
terms such as ‘joint criminal enterprise’ are used, we fear that such comments
may also negatively affect the physical safety of journalists by denigrating
the profession and contributing to a hostile climate,” the letter reads.
The case at hand stems from an
article published by an online media outlet and republished by another on 4
February, about the fuel expenses of members of parliament. These publications
included an error and were later amended, alongside a public apology. “It is
important that all media abide by professional standards and follow the
journalistic Code of Ethics. However, it is our assessment that the response to
these mistakes from certain government and party officials has been
disproportionate and led to unjustified hostility against the media,” it is
written in the letter of international media organisations.
“The use of discrediting language moreover fits in a broader problematic context in which individuals linked to Vetëvendosje try to undermine public confidence in the media. We are worried that this strategy of inciting the public against critical and independent media and activists is dangerous to the physical safety of journalists and has a chilling effect that undermines democratic values. Especially considering Kosovo’s ambition to join the Council of Europe and the European Union, we believe it is of the utmost importance that politicians, party representatives and public figures respect media freedom and help to create a conducive environment for media freedom and journalists’ safety,” according to the letter. The International media organisaiton called on the President and Prime Minister to ensure such inflammatory language directed at the media from their party apparatus is ceased, now and in the future.
The letter has been signed by: ARTICLE 19, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Index on Censorship, International Press Institute (IPI), SafeJournalists network (Association of Journalists of Kosovo, Association of Journalists of Macedonia, BH Journalists Association, Croatian Journalists’ Association, Independent Journalists Association of Serbia, Trade Union of Media of Montenegro), The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation.