The vehicles of BIRN and other Kosovo media were vandalised on Monday in mainly Serb northern Kosovo, where locals are engaged in a tense standoff with the police over recent disputed elections.
Unknown persons on Monday in a Serb-majority municipality in northern Kosovo, Leposavic, damaged the cars of BIRN and Kosovo-Albanian language broadcaster RTV Dukagjini, which were following local protests against the newly-elected mayor of the town.
The tires of the cars were blown and they were vandalized with the “4S” symbol, which stands for the moto “Samo sloga Srbina spasava” (Only unity saves the Serbs). The RKS symbol, which stands for the Republic of Kosovo, was covered in the license plates.
The Association of Journalists of Kosovo, AJK, said it “condemns this act of the protesters and at the same time calls on the Kosovo Police and the international presence in Kosovo to enable safe and unhindered reporting of media crews”.
Xhemajl Rexha, President of the AJK, said on Twitter that journalist crews were attacked in Zvecan as well. “Just 20 meters from a legion of NATO soldiers, the car I was traveling with, Top Channel TV and Euronews Albania teams, was attacked, sprayed and the licence plates taken off, in Zvecan,” Rexha wrote, adding that masked persons had also been “swearing at us”.
Journalist crews were attacked before on the ground during tensions in the north of Kosovo.
On December 9, 2022, a car carrying BIRN journalist Shkodrane Dakaj and producer Valdet Salihu was attacked by a masked group of Serbs in North Mitrovica. They were going to the north to report on the barricades blocking the roads to the borders with Serbia.
In October 2021, BIRN Journalists were chased by protesters throwing Molotov cocktails in Leposavic. Serbs protesting against the police action against smuggling in several Kosovo cities, including Serb-majority North Mitrovica, attacked journalists going to the scene with rocks and Molotov cocktails.
In both these cases the investigation is still ongoing.
In May, a BIRN analysis of 62 incidents involving firearms, knives, stones and physical assault since 2017 concluded that the police and prosecutors in Kosovo are struggling to solve violent crimes, particularly when they occur in the mainly Serb north, where Half of the cases, 31, occurred in the four northern Serb-majority municipalities.
Of these 31 cases, 13 were attacks against journalists which occurred between 2018 and 2022. The court ordered one month’s detention in one case and the police filed a complaint in another. BIRN was not able to confirm if any other suspects have been identified or arrested in the other cases.
Kosovo Serbs gathered in front of municipal buildings in northern Kosovo early on Monday, protesting against newly elected ethnic Albanian mayors, while Kosovo Police and NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, KFOR, upped their presence to secure the area.
Meanwhile, in the capital, Pristina, the new mayors of Zvecan, Ilir Peci, and of Zubin Potok, Izmir Zeqiri, met the EU Ambassador in Kosovo, Tomas Szunyog, and US Ambassador, Jeffrey Hovenier. The EU and the US urged Kosovo authorities to refrain from using force and to de-escalate the situation.