Region: Kosovo

PCi’s partner NGO Aktiv advocating for Language Rights in Kosovo

As part of the ‘Amplifying Local Voices for Equitable Development – ALVED’ project, PCi’s partner organisation Aktiv produced a video-cast that discusses language rights in Kosovo. The video-cast analyses how the pandemic crisis has shed light on weak institutions unable to provide a timely translation of information into Serbian at key moments, leaving members of the Serb and other non-majority communities in Kosovo at a disadvantage. The video is available in Serbian, Albanian and English language.

PCi’s Second Annual Media Award Launched

Press conference, a number of people gathered to watch the launch

In a first-time hybrid event, PCi publicly launched the 2nd annual Media Award for multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia at a press conference which was simultaneously held in Belgrade and in Pristina. Members of the two juries (the award is awarded for media content in both Albanian and Serbian language) and some of last year’s Award winners spoke about the significance of the award.

A Jury member for Serbian language, Jelena Obućina, said that the Award is an excellent incentive for both journalists and media to pay more attention to stories about ordinary life and peaceful coexistence. Her Albanian language colleague, Violeta Oroshi, agreed from Pristina, adding an invitation to journalists to tell the positive stories which do exist, but rarely find their way into media space. 

Filip Švarm, the Editor in chief of the Belgrade weekly VREME, the media which won the first prize last year, said that “in a time which is burdened with dark news, it is so important to show life and cooperation between nations”. 

Ardiana Thaçi, the winner of 1st prize in audiovisual format in Albanian, said that “it is the duty of majority language media to report on the lives of minorities”, as she did in her award-winning piece.  

Through the Media Award, PCi aims to promote and reward media content from Kosovo and Serbia that explores themes related to the co-existence of communities, with the ultimate goal to contribute to the narrowing of the present divisive narratives.

The call for entries is open for stories published between January 1st and December the 31st 2022 and the first prize in both categories (audio/visual and written format) is € 2,000 Euro. For detailed information about how to apply, please click on the Terms of Reference below, available in English, Serbian, and Albanian languages.

To apply, please click on the following link: https://forms.gle/3XWBbGFMMJqBtiw47.

The application deadline is 31st December 2022

Press conference, a number of people gathered to watch the launch

PCi’s Media Award in Kosovo and Serbia: Call for applications is open

Award Ceremony Media Award 2021 Serbia

Peaceful Change initiative is delighted to announce that for the second year running, we are inviting journalists, editors, media representatives, and others, to share with us their stories on multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia. The original idea for the Award came as a result of a series of Media Consultation Dialogues which have brought together well over a hundred most relevant journalists, editors and media experts from both Kosovo and Serbia to discuss how to improve the media scene, especially when reporting about each other’s communities.

For the year 2022, PCi has doubled the first prize in both categories (audio/visual and written format) to € 2,000 Euro and looks forward to receiving even more entries this year. We have every reason to believe that this will become a traditional annual award.

The call for entries is open until December the 31st 2022 and the entries will be evaluated by a professional jury which will select the winning stories and media outlets, since the winners in both categories also win an award for the media where they were originally published.

For detailed information about how to apply, please click on the Terms of Reference below, available in English, Serbian and Albanian languages.

Stories published between the 1st of January 2022 and the 31st of December 2022 are eligible for the Media Award. To apply, please click on the following link: https://forms.gle/3XWBbGFMMJqBtiw47.

The application deadline is 31st December 2022

Award Ceremony Media Award 2021 Serbia

Civil society in Kosovo and Serbia call for the rule of law to be respected in Deçan/Dečani

Civil society organisations from Kosovo and Serbia have come together to condemn a recent statement by the mayor of Deçan/Dečani, Bashkim Ramosaj, vowing that the decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo on Deçan/Dečane Monastery’s land ownership will never be implemented. The signatories to the statement call for the rule of law to be upheld.

Civil society in Kosovo and Serbia call for the rule of law to be respected in Deçan/Dečani

We, the undersigned, are concerned by the negative and lasting consequences of the recent statement by the mayor of Deçan/Dečani, Bashkim Ramosaj, vowing that the decision of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo on Deçan/Dečane Monastery’s land ownership will never be implemented.

All judgments of the Constitutional Court of Kosovo should be upheld. The constitution provides important guarantees to all Kosovo’s citizens, yet such guarantees only have real meaning if court decisions are implemented by physical and legal entities throughout Kosovo.

A failure to implement legal judgments only leads to uncertainty for all Kosovo’s citizens, and only serves to undermine faith and trust in the rule of law in Kosovo.

We urge all those holding elected office to refrain from giving statements which only serve to undermine confidence in the rule of law.

Signatories

  1. Aktiv
  2. Civic initiatives (Gradjanske inicijative)
  3. Center for Peace and Tolerance
  4. Democracy + (D+)
  5. Forum for Development and Multiethnic Collaboration (FDMC)
  6. Gorazdevac Media Group
  7. Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade
  8. Kosovo Law Institute
  9. Media Center Caglavica
  10. New Social Initiative (NSI)
  11. NGO Be Active 16, Presevo
  12. The Future, Bujanovac
  13. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE)
  14. Vjollca Krasniqi, Academic, University of Pristina
  15. YIHR Serbia
  16. YIHR Kosovo
  17. YUCOM
  18. Valon Arifi, Civic activist

CSOs condemn hate speech against Albanians by Serbia’s Interior Minister, Aleksandar Vulin

Civil society organisations in Kosovo and Serbia have come together to condemn the use of hate speech targeting Albanians by Serbia’s interior minister, Aleksandar Vulin.

We, the undersigned civil society organizations from Kosovo and Serbia, strongly condemn the offensive and derogatory language by Serbia’s Minister of Internal Affairs, Aleksandar Vulin, against Albanians. We urge the Serbian government, respectively the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, to react and condemn the use of such hate speech by Minister Vulin and appeal against the use of the word ‘Šiptar’.

On May 20th 2022 Minister Vulin used the word ‘Šiptar’ repeatedly to refer to Albanians, and his statement to the media has since been published on the official website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia. In 2018 the Serbian judiciary found the word ‘Šiptar’ to be offensive and it was labeled as hate speech. Despite this, Minister Vulin has actively and consistently used the word when referring to the Albanians, and continues to do so without any consequence to his public position. Public officials who use hate language have no place in government.  

Hate speech undermines the diffusion of European values in our societies, including the normative framework on human rights, rule of law, and the functioning of a democratic and tolerant society. Additionally, when hate speech is used by senior government officials freely, to target a particular ethnic-group, it can have devastating consequences, as it fosters discrimination, ethno-political radicalization and potentially leads to violence. The rhetoric used by Minister Vulin in his speech is the same rhetoric media and officials used during the nineties to dehumanize the Albanian population and foster maltreatment, human rights abuses, and ultimately war crimes in Kosovo.

The use of hate speech by senior government officials, such as the case with Minister Vulin, emboldens those in our societies who work against peace and the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia, and ultimately against a European future for all countries in our region.   

Signatories

  1. Aktiv
  2. The Balkan Forum
  3. Balkans Policy Research Group (BPRG)
  4. Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCBP)
  5. Civic Initiatives
  6. Center for Peace and Tolerance (CPT)
  7. Democracy Plus (D+)
  8. Foundation BFPE For a Responsible Society
  9. The Human Rights Council – Bujanovac
  10. InTER
  11. Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade
  12. Kosovar Centre for Security Studies (QKSS)
  13. Kosova Democratic Institute (KDI)
  14. Kosovo Law Institute (KLI)
  15. Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
  16. New Social Initiative (NSI), Mitrovica
  17. Rahim Salihi, Civil Society Activist, Bujanovac
  18. Valon Arifi, Civil Society Activist
  19. Vjollca Krasniqi, Academic, University of Pristina
  20. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE)
  21. Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Serbia (YIHR Serbia) 
  22. Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Kosovo (YIHR KS)

PCi recognises the work of Kosovo journalists reporting on multi-ethnic co-existence

PCi’s Media Award for showcasing multi-ethnic co-existence in Kosovo were handed out on 3 March 2022 in Pristina to journalists and media who participated in the category of Albanian language media content.

The Media Award was created as a follow-up activity initiated by PCi’s Media Consultation Dialogues, which constitute the backbone of media work in PCi’s Balkans programme. They bring together media professionals from Kosovo and Serbia to analyse problems and seek solutions to improve the quality of reporting and to battle divisive narratives. A repeated conclusion of these discussions was that there is a lack of stories about ordinary life, about living together, about peaceful multi-ethnic coexistence, both in Kosovo and Serbia. The media picture that Albanians and Serbs get about one another from Kosovar and Serbian media is almost exclusively bleak, black and white – and rich with divisive narratives.

By establishing an annual Media Award, PCi wanted to incentivize, promote, and reward media content from Kosovo and Serbia that explore themes related to the co-existence of communities. The Media Award Call for Application was launched last spring. The Call for Application can be accessed here.

Further to the Belgrade event which awarded media content in the Serbian language, the Award Ceremony for contributions in Albanian was held in Pristina on 3 March. The award jury was made up of three distinguished Kosovo journalists, Brikenda Rexhepi from Koha Television, Gentiana Begolli from the national broadcaster Radio Television of Kosovo, and Ismet Hajdari, from Agence France-Presse (AFP) Kosovo Bureau.

The first prize in the audio-visual category was awarded to Ardiana Thaçi for her story “Heshtja qe vrau” (The silence that killed), which can be accessed here. In the written category, the first prize went to Fitim Gashi on “Të pastrehët e pandemisë” (The Homeless of the Pandemic).

 The jury members emphasised the importance of an award which motivates journalists in divided societies. They noted that “This is the only award of this kind in the entire region. It encourages journalists to present the reality between communities which is vital for a healthy social coexistence, without anger and hatred.”

Russian aggression against Ukraine raises profound concerns in the Western Balkans

PCi hereby presents in full a joint statement issued by civil society organisations and activists from Serbia and Kosovo condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Joint statement by the CSOs from Kosovo and Serbia on the potential consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for the Western Balkans.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has negatively impacted the international rules-based order. The Western Balkans is especially vulnerable to global developments which put at risk international law, democracy, and human rights.

We, the representatives of civil society organizations from Kosovo and Serbia, condemn Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and call upon our governments to align with the European Union’s stance.

Furthermore, we urge the EU and its member states to change the paradigm of enlargement to ensure a practical and proactive approach to the European perspective of the Western Balkans. We also call on the wider international community to support our region in order to secure sustainable peace and security.  

The consequences of such breaches of international law could be extremely destabilising for our post conflict region. In view of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, this is a defining moment in history; one that calls for a prompt response from our governments and the international community to uphold respect for the rule of law, international law, solidarity, and human rights in the Western Balkans.

The current situation reiterates the importance of dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia for securing sustainable peace, prosperity, and the well-being of all citizens. It offers an opportunity to reflect upon and re-design the dialogue process beyond the notion of constructive ambiguity towards an inclusive process that would lead to a legally binding and long-lasting agreement. Urgent action is needed from the EU to push for and support substantial reforms – particularly where the rule of law is concerned – in order to accelerate the EU integration of the Western Balkans. 

Civil society in Kosovo and Serbia has actively engaged in peacebuilding processes over the years, representing community voices and the daily concerns of citizens which are largely overshadowed by mainstream politics. During this time of crisis, we ask the international community to support us in condemning divisive rhetoric, authoritarian politics, and populist and nationalist discourses which serve to silence critical voices and generate fear and distrust among communities. 

Aiming to reduce the spread of disinformation that may lead to possible escalation of conflict, we also call upon media representatives to fully commit to impartial and unbiased reporting.

Signatories:

  1. Aktiv
  2. Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC), Mitrovica
  3. Balkans Policy Research Group (BPRG)
  4. Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCBP)
  5. Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies of the Balkans (CisBalk)
  6. Center for Peace and Tolerance (CPT), Gracanica
  7. Centre for Regionalism
  8. Civic Initiatives
  9. Democracy Plus (D+)
  10. Foundation BFPE for a Responsible Society (BFPE)
  11. Igor Novaković, Analyst, Belgrade
  12. Institute for Territorial Economic Development (InTER)
  13. Institute for European Affairs (IEA)
  14. Institute for Serbian and Albanian Coexistence
  15. Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade 
  16. Kosovo Center for Security Studi (KCSS)
  17. Kosovo Law Institute (KLI)
  18. Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
  19. Milan Antonijević, Lawyer
  20. New Social initiative (NSI), Mitrovica
  21. Peer Educators Network (PEN), Prishtinë
  22. Rahim Salihi, civil society activist, Bujanovac.
  23. Radio KIM Media Group
  24. The Balkan Forum
  25. Valon Arifi, civil society activist
  26. Vjollca Krasniqi, Academic, University of Pristina
  27. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE)
  28. Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Serbia
  29. Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Kosovo

 

PCi gives annual awards to journalists and media for stories on multi-ethnic coexistence in Kosovo and Serbia

In PCi organised Media Consultation dialogues (the backbone of media work in our Balkans programme) which bring together media professionals from Kosovo and Serbia to analyse the media scene, one thing has persistently popped up as an issue – the lack of stories about ordinary life, about living together, about peaceful coexistence. The media picture that Albanians and Serbs get about one another from Kosovar and Serbian media is almost exclusively bleak, black and white and full of divisive narratives.

To counter such narratives, last spring PCi launched an annual award for the best stories about interethnic coexistence in Albanian and in Serbian language and in two categories – audio/visual and written submissions. The award ceremony for the best stories in Serbian was held on February 28th in Belgrade’s Media centre. The Albanian language awards ceremony will be held on Thursday the 3rd of March.  

The jury consisted of three of the most prominent and distinguished Serbian journalists, Jelena Obućina from Newsmax Adria, Tamara Skrozza from the news agency FoNet and Milivoje Mihajlović who works for the public service broadcaster, RTS.

The first prize in the audio and video format was awarded to Zorica Krstić Vorgučić from Radio KIM for her TV story “Why is it important to speak the language of our neighbours”. Thanking the jury and PCi, Ms. Krstić Vorgučić said that it is impossible to escape the fact that Serbs and Albanians are distanced from each other and that they live parallel lives. “Language is important for changes to happen and most Serbs do not speak Albanian. There are some new initiatives, some new language courses and I hope that things will change for the better”.

The first prize for the written format went to Jelena Jorgačević, a reporter from the Belgrade weekly newsmagazine “Vreme” for her story “Encounters on Destroyed Bridges”. “We need to  inform the public about what is going on and things are far from perfect. But we, journalists, do not have to be pyromaniacs and fan the flames of hatred”, said Jelena as she received the award.

The jury members emphasised that in divided societies, journalists can do much more to improve inter-ethnic relations. Tamara Skrozza said that “the importance of the awarded stories lies in the fact that they go way beyond daily news reporting and deal with real life which is always much more complex and even beautiful than daily news make it appear to be.”

New Research on Civil Society in Serbia and Kosovo

Peaceful Change initiative is pleased to present new research, jointly undertaken by the Universities of Belgrade and Prishtina, which explores the current landscape of cross-community initiatives in Serbia and Kosovo. 

The research – which was undertaken as part of the UK-government funded project, ‘Amplifying local voices for equitable development’ – sought to explore two key dimensions. First, the standing of civil society organizations (CSOs) amongst the very constituencies and communities that they claim to represent. Second, the new issues which have mobilized citizens who had not previously been civically engaged, the reasons for why such mobilizations have been successful.

One of the key recommendations deriving from the research is that civil society should continue to promote equality, solidarity, and reciprocity, and to counteract divisive and ethnicized narratives on identity and dealing with the past. As such, civil society organisations should be encouraged to engage with difficult topics and issues that concern communities, and not only foster issues deemed less political in their cross-community initiatives.

As Dr. Jelena Loncar, an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade, and one of the research leads, concluded, ‘in Kosovo civil society is more forward looking, more optimistic than in Serbia, with more developed intra- and inter-community co-operation at the local level. On the other hand, in Serbia, the main impression is a lack of hope and motivation for activism, with participants insisting on the lack of expertise, resources and visions of the future. At the same time, we noticed there are emerging youth organisations that give hope that grassroots activism is possible.’

Dr. Vjollca Krasniqi, a Profesor of Sociology, at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Prishtina, who also spearheaded the research, emphasized that, ‘the history of conflict has left a difficult legacy, both in Kosovo and in Serbia, and also for civil society organisations. They have to restore trust – promote tolerance and co-operation – between communities. One important finding is that civil society organisations believe cross-community initiatives are important and relevant to foster inter-ethnic relations, even despite the fact the main narratives remain divided.’

Dr. Orli Fridman, head of the Center for Comparative Conflict Studies at the Faculty of Media and Communications (FMK), Singidunum University, and an advisor on the researcher, added that ‘the strength – even the beauty – of the research is its rich empirical data. There are some excellent quotes from participants demonstrating the presence of the fieldwork itself. As a result, the report reflects a complex and more nuanced reality on the ground, which challenges what is out there in terms of daily discourses.’

The research is available to download from the PCi website by visiting:

For further information about the research, please contact Ian Bancroft (ian.bancroft@peacefulchange.org).

Civil Society in Kosovo and Serbia take Stance against Division

PCi hereby presents in full a joint statement issued by civil society organisations and activists from Serbia and Kosovo laying out a series of calls and commitments that respond to the present context of relations in the region.

Joint Statement of Kosovo and Serbia Civil Society Actors

Witnessing that Kosovo-Serbia relations are not improving despite the ongoing dialogue process, we express our deep concern for the deterioration of the situation on the ground and in the daily lives of citizens. There is a need to safeguard and protect the human rights of minority groups in Serbia and Kosovo.

Concerned that the dialogue is being used to distract from important issues such as the deterioration of the rule of law, corruption, and human rights challenges.

Recognizing contextual differences regarding the levels of democracy, the rule of law, and separation of power, which influence the process of normalisation of relations between Serbia and Kosovo:

We call on the governments of Serbia and Kosovo to:

  • continue the dialogue in a substantial and sustainable manner;
  • promptly implement already reached agreements;
  • refrain from inflammatory rhetoric against minority communities and populist narratives regarding mutual relations and history;
  • commit to transparency and ensure civic participation;  
  • take prompt measures to develop internal processes of integration;
  • respect the rights of minorities; and,
  • work on confidence-building measures to bring communities together. 

We call on the International Community:

  • to support dialogue and the normalisation agreements that not are not at the expense of democracy in Kosovo and Serbia;
  • to focus on substantial solutions instead of resolving daily disputes among the parties in dialogue;
  • to support civil society in the wider sense (CSOs, academia, cultural institutions, media, trade unions, etc.);
  • to work on normalization and sustainable relations between two parties;
  • to foster a wider inter and intra-societal debate  on  possible solutions and priorities in the dialogue.

We commit to:

  • further impel substantial and continuous debate between civil society in Serbia and Kosovo;
  • exchange information about issues, context and developments in both societies in a timely manner;
  • have joint reactions on the alarming issues that deteriorate the situation on the ground and have a detrimental impact on relations between communities;
  • keep in focus on-going challenges not being resolved, which are marginalized due to current issues or incidents;
  • maintain a space for civil society proactive leadership in creating better relations and improvements in human rights and the everyday lives of citizens;
  • recognize differences among processes in Serbia and Kosovo and react in line with those processes asking for steps in the right direction;
  • involve other civil society actors for a continuing dialogue among civil societies actors and enable substantial involvement for each and everyone.

Signatories:

  1. Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture (ACDC)
  2. Advocacy Training and Resource Center (ATRC)
  3. Assist Kosovo Center – ASSIST, Prishtinë
  4. Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence (BFPE)
  5. Belgrade Centre for Security Policy
  6. Balkan Policy Research Group
  7. Crno-beli svet, Mitrovica North
  8. Center for Advocacy and Democratic Development (CADD)
  9. Center for Peace and Tolerance (CPT)
  10. Centar za regionalizam, Mitrovica
  11. Civic Initiatives
  12. Council for Human Rights – Bujanovac
  13. Democracy Plus (D+)
  14. Drita Dibrani, civil society activist
  15. European Fund for the Balkans
  16. Forum for Development and Multiethnic Collaboration (FDMC)
  17. HANDIKOS, Kosovo
  18. Independent Initiative for Blind People, Kosovo
  19. Institute for Development and Integration (IZHI)
  20. Institute for Territorial Economic Development (InTER)
  21. Jelena Lončar, Academic, University of Belgrade
  22. Kosovo Law Institute (KLI)
  23. Kosovo Center for Security Studies (KCSS)
  24. Kosovo Democratic Institute (KDI)
  25. Leadership and Development (LAD)
  26. Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM)
  27. Mitrovica Women Association for Human Rights (MWAHR)
  28. NGO Advocacy for Society Development (AFSD)
  29. NVO “PLEJADA” Prizren
  30. NVO Communication for the development of society CSD, Gračanica
  31. NGO Aktiv
  32. New Social Initiative (Mitrovica)
  33. OJQ “Drugëza”
  34. OJQ “VISION 02” Istog
  35. OJQ Aureola
  36. OJQ Qendra e Gruas “ATO” Vushtrri
  37. OJQ Roma in Action Gjakovë
  38. Open Society Foundation, Novi Sad-Beograd
  39. Rahim Salihi, civil society activist, Bujanovac.
  40. The Balkan Forum
  41. Unioni i Punëtorëve Social të Kosovës
  42. Valon Arifi, civil society activist
  43. Vjollca Krasniqi, Academic, University of Prishtina
  44. Voice of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptians (VoRAE)
  45. Xhejrane Lokaj, civil society activist
  46. Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) Kosovo
  47. Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) Serbia