Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has accused presidents of Kosovo and Serbia of intensifying tensions between the two countries, and called on the media not to play their game.
“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,” Gutiérrez said in a statement by the EFJ.
It comes after reports that two towns with Serbian majority in north of Kosovo were put under quarantine on Friday. Kosovo police and KFOR troops are helping with the implementation of restrictions. They have blocked passage through the Ibar River that divides the two parts of Mitrovica city.
“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.”
Some media, politicians and opposition in Kosovo claimed that the quarantine was ordered by Belgrade and the Kosovo caretaker government has no power to exercise the state’s sovereignty in north. One media even published more than 200 names of Kosovo Serbs living in other parts of the country who were allegedly ordered by the Serbian government to self-quarantine.
The OSCE Mission in Kosovo also urged the media to respect the privacy of patients, and called for solidarity and cooperation throughout society, and between authorities in the region.
President Hashim Thaçi slammed the government for allegedly letting the two municipalities act outside the control of Kosovo institutions and under orders of Serbia.
Former coalition partner of the caretaker government, Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) also stated that “decisions of Serbian authorities to put the municipalities in north [of Kosovo] under quarantine are being implemented”, and that the government is mute in front of this direct attack on the country’s sovereignty.”
The opposition Democratic Party of Kosovo claimed the same, accusing the caretaker government they ousted last week of being unable to exercise any power in north.
The government denied all allegations that the quarantine was ordered by Belgrade. It stated that Kosovo’s government had ordered the lockdown of the two towns in north in collaboration with local authorities.