January 8, 2024

08.01.2024 – Journalists Denied Entry to Kosovo Sparks Concerns Over Press Freedom in Kosovo

On 3 January 2024 the freedom of the press in Kosovo faced a concerning incident as journalist Anđelko Utješanović, a correspondent for Tanjug news agency (https://www.tanjug.rs/) from Belgrade, Serbia, was allegedly unexpectedly barred from entering Kosovo by the Kosovo border police at the Merdare border between Serbia and Kosovo. The incident unfolded during Utješanović’s journey with a Serbian Orthodox Church delegation, accompanying Patriarch Porfirije, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who was visiting Kosovo to celebrate in Kosovo the Serbian Orthodox Christmas.

Despite prior announcements and the delegation’s official status, the Kosovo Police, allegedly without providing any clear explanation, directed Utješanović to halt his journey, citing an entry ban imposed by the Pristina / Prishtinë / Priština government.

According to the journalist, when he arrived at the border crossing, he got a rejection letter that did not say why he was banned from entering Kosovo. Additionally, an email from the Prishtina government, directed to the Serbian Orthodox Church, explicitly confirmed the entry prohibition for Utješanović.

SEEMO would like to remind, that journalist Svetlana Vukmirović, who is working for Radio Television of Serbia (Радио-телевизија Србије – RTS) the public broadcaster of Serbia, since 2021 can not enter Kosovo, citing alleged threats to public order, internal security, public health, or international relations of Kosovo. The latest ban came on 1 May 2023. The institution of the Ombudsman in Kosovo has initiated an investigation into the case of Svetlana Vukmirović, acknowledging the concerns raised by international press freedom and journalist organizations. SEEMO several times reported about this case.

These two incidents raise serious questions about the freedom of movement for journalists in Kosovo, but also underscore the need for transparent actions by authorities in Kosovo. Journalists play a crucial role in reporting events and facilitating the flow of information, and any unjustified restriction on their movements poses a threat to the principles of press freedom.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the bans, emphasizing the fundamental right of journalists for free movement. SEEMO calls for an urgent abolition of both bans. “I expect an urgent reaction and an apology from the government in Pristina and ending the practice of banning entry to Kosovo for journalists from Serbia”, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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