Kosovo and Serbian journalist organisations have called for enhanced safety measures after violence between local Serbs and Kosovo police in Kosovo’s north saw journalists attacked by protestors.
The Association of Journalists of Kosovo (AJK) says it is pressuring Kosovo institutions to provide security and adequate conditions for journalists in the field, especially in high-stakes or critical situations.
“Institutions must do their job and provide security not only for journalists but for all citizens. The AJK has consistently asked institutions to provide this security… and warned of the situation,” said Naim Sadiku, a board member of AJK.
“AJK yesterday, during the entire day, was in constant contact with journalists reporting from the North of Kosovo, and with the Ministry of Interior regarding the participation or presence of police officers in the north of the country,” he continued.
During the incident, Kosovo police arrested eight people in anti-smuggling raids, and issued arrest warrants for ten more people. One Kosovo Serb was shot and wounded by police. Individuals protesting the operation attacked police officers and reporters with rocks and Molotov cocktails.
Other journalists reported being chased by cars, enduring harassment, and being told to delete footage.
“The situation is a reflection of how the citizens feel about journalists and media,” said Çlirimtar Morina, a journalist for media T7.
Journalists from the local Kosovo Serbian-language media outlet, Kossev, reported threats and attacks on their person, ultimately deciding to withdraw from the field. Journalists from other local media outlets, such as T7, Klan Kosova, RTV Dukagjini, ATV, Kanal 10, were also attacked while reporting the incident.
In a joint press conference, Kosovo Interior Minister Xhelal Svecla said “journalists were today witnesses but also victims of the rampant violence of the criminal structures there [in northern Kosovo]”.
At the same event, director of police Samedin Mehmeti told media that police had contacted journalists to offer them the means to withdraw, but in at least two instances “they had already withdrawn”.
International journalists’ associations have joined calls on Kosovo to provide a more secure reporting environment for journalists attacked by protesters. The Coalition For Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) reported at least five instances of women journalists attacked by the protesters, while journalist associations from Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Sarajevo, Skopje and Zagreb released a joint statement condemning the attacks.
The Kosovo government has said that the fight against smuggling will continue.