Dear President Vjosa Osmani,
Dear Prime Minister Albin Kurti,
We, the undersigned organisations, call for an immediate end to the discrediting and denigrating language targeted against media publications by officials and individuals linked to ruling party Lëvizja Vetëvendosje, the Office of the President and other high-level institutions.
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.
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 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.
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.
We, therefore, call 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.