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02.11.2017

The Ombudsperson published the Report with Recommendations concerning the freedom of media and safety of journalists

Today, when we mark International Day to end impunity of crimes towards the journalists, the Ombudsperson has launched Ex-officio Report related to the freedom of media and safety of journalists, which has also been delivered to the responsible authorities.

This Report has been initiated as a response to concerns on violation of freedom of expression, with the aim to treat freedom of expression and freedom of media, with particular emphases on journalists’ safety in accomplishing the mission entrusted to them.
The Ombudsperson draws attention on the liability to ensure safety for journalists as well as the efficiency of legal bodies on prevention and punishment of any kind of infringement of the safety and abstraction in exercising the profession, as a precondition of building a democratic society.

The Report points out the complexity of setting the balance between the freedom of expression, as fundamental right in each democratic society and determination of its limits in relation with other rights. Furthermore, the Report focuses on cases of physical assaults and intimidations towards journalists, occurred recently, and exposes Ombudsperson’s concern regarding inefficiency of judiciary and rule of law bodies.

The Ombudsperson draws attention on the necessity of advancing the legislative aspect in Kosovo as well, to establish comprehensive legal framework that guarantees sufficient protection of freedom of media and safety of journalists, to have coordination between policy and state prosecutor and treatment with priority of criminal cases against journalists by prosecution and judicial system, based on efficiency principle.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union as well as Treaty of Lisbon, have set the highest standards with broader character of pledging the freedom of expression and freedom of media pluralism.

In the spirit of these documents is the Constitution of Republic of Kosovo as well, which in Article 40 guarantees the freedom of expression, while in Article 42 guarantees the freedom and pluralism of media, whereas in Article 41 the right to access to public documents is guaranteed, as crucial component of accomplishing freedom of expression and media. These constitutional provisions specify that the limitation of these rights can only be justified for certain circumstances and limited by law.

The Report draws attention to the standards set by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in accordance with whose decisions the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of our country are interpreted.

The Ombudsperson reiterates state’s particular liability to effectively guarantee the safety of journalists as one of the main standards of democracy. As per this, the Ombudsperson refers also to the UN Resolution No. 68/163 on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, adopted in 2013, as well as Recommendation of 2016 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Ministers related to protection of journalism and the safety of journalists and other media actors.

The Ombudsperson reiterates that freedom of media is crucial factor for countries that work to gain membership in the EU and the agenda of the Government of Republic of Kosovo in the process of EU membership is closely related to the fulfillment of standards for freedom of expression and safety of journalists.

The Report published today, significantly addresses the difficulty of rendering decision in the court practice, where very careful approach is required, a profound and systematic interpretation is needed to set its limits. The Ombudsperson emphasizes the need for a particular attention of lawmakers in Kosovo that any restriction on freedom of expression is done in the spirit of relevant internationally recognized documents:

The Report recalls that positive legislation in Kosovo, apart from acknowledgment of freedom of expression, contains also provisions on its limitation, clearly defined by law. This institutes a guarantee that no restriction on freedom of expression is not discretion of state bodies or the courts. Other constraints consist on restriction of freedom of expression with the intention to avoid hate speech, incitement of violence, discriminatory, abusive and defamation language. As per slander and insult, the lawmaker in Kosovo has decriminalized them and has set only civil liability for them.

Through this Report the Ombudsperson recommends the Government of the Republic of Kosovo that within its constitutional and legal competencies, undertake the necessary measures that freedom of expression and safety of journalists set as priority and to refer to and implement recommendations of international organisations related to them. Furthermore, to have due concern that the legislation which ensures freedom of expression, media and particularly journalists’ safety is upgraded in full compliance with international documents and standards compiled by the ECHR.

The Judicial Council, the Prosecutorial Council and the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor, the Ombudsperson recommends that cases of threats and attacks on journalists be treated with priority and effectively resolved by the prosecutorial and judicial system in Kosovo, as well as have proper coordination of state prosecutor with police, and efficient use of all legal remedies for investigating these offenses. Courts, in deciding cases on freedom of speech shall be based on the standards established by the ECHR practice as a primary source, and in all cases where the guilt of the defendants is proved, pronounce appropriate punishment, by enforcement of preventive policy and by application of punitive measures appropriate to achieve the purpose of punishment.

While to Kosovo Police, the Ombudsperson recommends to prioritize cases of threats against journalists as preventive measure for deterioration of situations from verbal threats to physical assaults.

Report related to the freedom of expression and safety of journalists in its full form has been delivered to the responsible authorities. It has been disseminated to media as well and published on OI official web page in the following link: http://www.ombudspersonkosovo.org/repository/docs/2-11-2017-Ang-final_-Raport_ne_lidhje_me_lirine_e_shprehjes_dhe_sigurine_e_gazetareve_(1)_927820.pdf

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