The Constitution of the Republic of Kosovo guarantees freedom of expression as a fundamental right and freedom. Specifically, it guarantees the right to express, disseminate and receive; opinions and other messages without any impediment.
In a democratic society this guarantee enables journalists to practice their profession freely, whilst continuously informing the public regarding issues of public importance such as the justice system, the economy and contributing to holding government officials to account.
In Kosovo, although this is not a well respected human right, its violation in recent times specifically regarding journalists is most alarming. Whilst intimidation and threats against journalists have previously been reported, only last week we were all witness to an attack by the police on a photo journalist. Subsequently, there was no independent investigation with regard to the police action; instead this particular journalist is now pursued through the courts for an alleged offence from over 6 years ago.
Additionally, in exercising their profession, a number of journalists have been targeted in the last week for reporting regarding various issues of public importance. The forum where such pursuance is taking place is the courts with a number of private prosecutions raised for defamation.
Whilst the condemnations regarding such practices are continuing from local and international organizations and Youth Initiative for Human Rights endorses them, no decisive action has been taken. For instance defamation remains a criminal offence in the Kosovo Criminal Code. Youth Initiative for Human Rights call on the authorities to realize changes to the Kosovo Criminal Code in respect of this as soon as practically possible, in order for journalists not to be obstructed from practicing their profession and informing citizens of Kosovo regarding issues of public importance. Furthermore, Youth Initiative for Human Rights takes this opportunity to remind the governing institutions that guaranteeing freedom of expression is a negative obligation which requires government officials to abstain from interfering in free speech. This is of fundamental importance and should be a primary consideration for all government officials who are under an obligation to ensure that in Kosovo as a democratic society, freedom of expression flourishes, rather than contribute to its censure.