Kosovo marks the World Press Freedom Day on Monday with calls for country’s institutions to prioritize the cases of attacks and threats against journalists, in order for potential attackers to not be encouraged.
The country marked a decrease of eight places in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index for 2021, published on April. The country is ranked 78th while in 2020 it was 70th.
The report says that journalists in Kosovo and media are exposed to a hostile environment that includes physical and verbal attacks, cyber-attacks, pressure to censor themselves and a lack of transparency about media ownership.
In the Basic Court of Prishtina, there are six cases in the treatment proceedings, which are related to violence against journalists. According data of the Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AGK) through in all Kosovo, since 2018, only nine cases have been treated or are being processed.
Only during 2020, there were six death threats, 11 other threats, four attacks and three attacks on media organizations. While during this year, according the AGK, there are four threats and one attack on journalists and one attack on media organizations.
There are 15 journalists that were murdered or still missing during and after the war in Kosovo.
“We know how long the court cases of our colleagues lasted, we know in the end what punishments the wrongdoers, the attackers receive, which are usually very lenient not to say ridiculous,” said the head of AGK, Gentiana Begolli.
“And there is no question that all these extreme delays in cases, non-disclosure of cases, very small sentences are encouraging attackers to attack journalists with unprecedented ease,” she added.
A statement issued by the Ombudsperson of Kosovo reads that the freedom of the press and journalists’ safety, are one of core elements of a democratic society.
“This situation should be a priority for all responsible authorities in order to ensure that the perpetrators of these deeds are brought in front of justice. Impunity for such actions should not be tolerated because it encourages instigators to violate the right to information and freedom of expression,” the statement read.
It also says that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought economic difficulties to media which are dependent on incomes from advertising activities in order to ensure their existence.