Latvian soldiers part of the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Kosovo patrol near heavy vehicles parked by local Serbs blocking the road near the village of Uglare, in northern Kosovo on December 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Visar Kryeziu)

At least 3 TV crews attacked while covering protests in northern Kosovo

Berlin, December 22, 2022 – Authorities in Kosovo must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into recent attacks on three TV crews and ensure that journalists can cover protests safely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

Since the beginning of December, at least three TV crews covering demonstrations in northern Kosovo have been targeted in separate attacks by unknown individuals. 

Violence erupted in the region after the December 9 arrest of a Kosovo Serb police officer suspected of involvement in attacks on Kosovo police patrols. In response to his arrest, Serbs living in northern Kosovo erected barricades on main roads.

“Kosovo authorities must launch a swift and exhaustive investigation into recent attacks on the TV crews of Kallxo, Klan Kosova, and RTV Dukagjini and bring the perpetrators to justice,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Kosovo and international authorities in charge of security in northern Kosovo must ensure that members of the press can safely cover protests without fear of harassment and assault.”

On December 9, a TV crew with the privately owned news website Kallxo was filming the streets in the northern town of Mitrovica from their car when a group of seven or eight men with coverings over their heads and faces began hitting the car with their fists and throwing objects, according to news reports and reporting by the outlet. CPJ’s email to Kallxo’s general inbox did not receive a reply. 

An RTV Dukagjini TV crew was preparing to broadcast near a road barricade in Rudare, Kosovo when unknown individuals threw an explosive device behind reporter Doruntina Bylykbash on December 10, 2022. She was unharmed.(Screenshot: Facebook/RTV Dukagjini)

On December 10, the two-person crew from the privately owned Kosovo TV station RTV Dukagjini were preparing to broadcast near a road barricade in the northern village of Rudare when unknown individuals threw an explosive device behind reporter Doruntina Bylykbash, according to news reports, outlet footage posted to Facebook, and Bylykbash who spoke with CPJ via a messaging app. 

Bylykbash told CPJ that they were carrying their microphone and camera, identifying them as journalists. No one was injured because her camera operator was able to warn her to move in time. They did not report the attack to authorities; however, an investigation was launched by Kosovo police, KFOR, and EULEX after the news reports about the incident.

Currently, Kosovo police do not patrol northern Kosovo, which is instead monitored by KFOR, a NATO-led international peacekeeping force, and EULEX, the  European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, according to Haris Ademi, a reporter with the privately owned Kosovo TV station Klan Kosova, who spoke to CPJ by email. 

On December 19, a three-person Klan Kosova TV crew was filming a road barricade near the northern village of Çaber when they were approached by seven or eight men dressed in black with their faces covered. The men began chanting “kill,” and throwing stones at the crew, according to news reports, outlet footage posted to Facebook, and Ademi. 

The crew, which included Ademi, camera operator Agon Bejtullahu, and driver Elsad Sinan, fled the scene without injury. The outlet’s logo on the car, their news camera, and Ademi’s microphone identified them as journalists, Ademi said.

Ademi told CPJ that they reported the attack to the Kosovo police but has no update on the investigation. 

Kosovo police confirmed to CPJ in an email that criminal investigations into these attacks are underway, “even though the situation and circumstances created by the barricades in the north make the work of police difficult.” They said preventing and investigating criminal acts, “including cases where the media/journalists were attacked,” remains their priority.

CPJ’s emails to the press department of KFOR and EULEX did not receive an immediate reply.