The OSCE’s Representative on Media Freedom, Harlem Desir has criticised the authorities in Kosovo for allegedly pressuring KoSSev, an online news portal based in the Serb-majority town of North Mitrovica.
In a statement released yesterday, he expressed his concern regarding two incidents against the portal and members of staff.
On 11 April, the police briefly arrested editor-in-chief, Tatjana Lazarevic for allegedly violating the curfew. The journalist was on her way to report on the situation at a local health centre when she was apprehended by authorities. Despite presenting her press card and journalists being exempt from the curfew, she was detained and is allegedly now facing criminal charges
Previously on 9 April, the Head of the Crisis Headquarters of Mitrovica North, Aleksandar Spiric criticised the portal for live streaming a press conference that had taken place the day before. He urged KoSSev not to cause instability by posing political questions and asked them to help the authorities in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the incidents, Desir said:
“I am concerned about the brief arrest of Tatjana Lazarević and how the local authorities in Mitrovica North are treating the work of the KoSSev portal. Journalists play a key role during this health crisis by providing vital information to the public. Access to information and a free working environment are therefore essential and need to be ensured at all times.”
He added that any kind of pressure against journalists has an immediate consequence, not only on them but also on the public’s right to be informed.