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Acting Ombudsperson calls on Kosovo institutions to respect freedom of expression

Acting Ombudsperson Mr. Hilmi Jashari expressed his serious concerns following the publication in the media of actions undertaken by the Kosovo Government against Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) as a response to the publication of the curricula vitae of candidates campaigning for the parliamentary elections of 17 November 2007.

The other day, the NGO coalition “Shoqëria civile për parlament të pastër (Civil society for a clean parliament)” published the curricula vitae of candidates whom they did not consider worthy of taking part in the 17 November elections. A number of these candidates are from the present coalition of the Kosovo Government. In response to this action, the Kosovo Government, namely the Ministry of Local Government Administration, conducted an internal financial audit of the NGO “Çohu”.

“The freedom to express one’s opinion, as well as the freedom of assembly and association are fundamental human rights principles and are of special importance to the functioning of every democratic society around the world”, said Acting Ombudsperson Mr. Hilmi Jashari following the actions and statements of governmental institutions after the publication of the list of names and curricula vitae. Mr. Jashari also added “Kosovo in these moments has to prove more strongly than ever that it is capable of protecting, safeguarding and respecting fundamental values for the democratic society that it aims to build”.

Acting Ombudsperson Mr. Hilmi Jashari also said “According to international standards on human rights, limits to criticism and expression of opinions in relation to the government need to be extended. In democratic societies, governmental actions and inactions serve to control not only courts and the legislative but also the media and public opinion, and this is why the Government should be careful in applying any sanctions whatsoever”.

Mr. Jashari pointed out that public criticism in the democratic spirit in which laws are passed should be considered an integral part of the development of society aiming to promote the level of the authorities’ accountability.

Acting Ombudsperson, therefore, criticises the taking of measures by relevant institutions which may result in limiting the capacities of NGOs and their ability to raise matters of public concern.

The Acting Ombudsperson appeals to all Kosovo institutions to respect human rights which are guaranteed according to international human rights instruments, in particular during the period of elections. Moreover, Kosovo institutions should initiate a dialogue with civil society.
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