International and Balkan media rights organisations urged officials in Prishtina to explain why a journalist working for the Serbian public broadcaster RTS was barred from entering Kosovo.
The European Federation of Journalists, together with four other international media rights organisations and media organisations in the Balkans urged the Kosovo government on Tuesday to explain why Serbian journalist Svetlana Vukmirovic has been denied entry to the country for working visits on multiple occasions since 2018.
Vukmirovic, who has worked for national broadcaster Radio Television of Serbia, RTS for decades, has been barred from entering Kosovo multiple times since 2018. The last time she was denied entry was on May 1.
“It’s just unbelievable that this is happening to me because I didn’t do anything to get myself into this situation, except to do my job well,” Vukmirovic told BIRN.
She is the editor of the RTS show ‘Pravo na sutra’ (‘The Right to Tomorrow) and extensively covers the life of the Serb minority community in Kosovo as well as lives of people who left Kosovo and came to Serbia during and after the 1998-99 war.
Kosovo Police did not respond to BIRN’s questions about the issue.
The European Federation of Journalists and four other organisations said in a statement that they want “an explanation as to why the journalist’s entry was denied and request that the authorities ensure that the signed agreements between Serbia and Kosovo allowing freedom of movement are respected without exception”.
Besides the EFJ, The Committee to Protect Journalists, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Free Press Unlimited and Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa also signed the statement.
In a document sent to Vukmirovic’s lawyer, Kosovo’s Interior Ministry said that she “presented herself as a foreigner” when trying to enter the country.
People with Serbian ID cards can enter Kosovo without showing other documents but foreigners have to present a passport.
“I never did that, I never said I was a foreigner, it’s absurd,” said Vukmirovic, who was born in Pristina.
She added that before 2018, she did not have any problems travelling with her Serbian ID card, and her team members had never had problems with using their Serbian ID cards to enter Kosovo even when she was barred from entry.
The EFJ letter said that on May 1, Vukmirovic was prevented from entering Kosovo with the explanation that “she is considered a threat to public order, internal security, public health or international relations”.
Vukmirovic dismissed the allegation: “To whom can I be a threat, with what can I be a threat – by holding a pen and a mobile phone in my hand?” she asked.
On August 1 media freedom platform Safejournalists Network sent letters to Kosovo’s Interior Ministry, Foreign Ministry and Ombudsperson Institution.
Safejournalists Network said that “countries must ensure that journalists do their work unhindered and the right to free movement, which is one of the basic human rights in a democratic world”.
“SafeJournalists Network and partner organisations require an explanation from the Ministry of Internal Affairs as to why journalist Vukmirovic is not allowed to enter the territory of Kosovo and why she is considered a threat to public order, internal security, public health or international relations, particularly having in mind that she is allowed to enter the territory with Kosovo documents without hindrance,” the letter said.
“Also, we remind you that last year Belgrade agreed on free movement through Serbia with Kosovo documents, while Prishtina agreed that Serbs from Kosovo are free to cross the border crossing/administrative line with Serbian documents issued by cities in Kosovo,” it added.
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