Fake news reporting led to a physical attack on a Roma woman

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A twenty-nine-year-old woman from the Roma community was physically attacked twice – in Lipljan and Urosevac – last week. Kosovo Police report that the attacks were allegedly spurred by allegations by some Kosovo media – as well as on social media networks – that this woman kidnapped children throughout Kosovo.

A video showing a woman walking, her back facing the camera, as a man runs behind her, brutally physically attacking her and knocking her to the ground was shared on social networks last week. This violent video, bearing the description that it was an attack on a Roma woman in Urosevac, quickly went viral. If the video shows the same identity reported by the police, this event marks the second attack on the same Roma woman in one week.

The Kosovo Police received a report on May 29th that a woman was attacked by a group of minors in Lipljan in the late afternoon. Upon arriving at the scene, the police found the victim – a 29-year-old Roma woman from Podujevo.

The next day, the police announced that one minor suspected of carrying out the attack was identified. The suspect, however, was released after questioning.

The police also added that the attack may have been spurred by some statements on social networks and in the media saying that this woman is suspected of kidnapping children.

Although the police denied these allegations and said that no procedure of this kind has ever been initiated against this person, and that she does not pose a risk to anyone, the Kosovo media reported that the same Roma woman was attacked again on Friday afternoon in Urosevac. A minor of Albanian ethnicity was arrested for the assault and remanded custody.

The attack on the Roma woman, as well as the circulation of fake news, was harshly criticized.

The Equal Rights for All Coalition of Kosovo, ERAC, condemned the “exclusionary, racist and transphobic rhetoric” employed by media in reports on the case, adding that on top of the hate speech witnessed from members of the public on social media concerning the case, reporting such misinformation leads to unjust violence perpetrated against members of the Roma community in Kosovo, the Prishtina Insight reported.

“The thrust of the media to distribute unfounded news, despite the woman in question having been interviewed by the police and released because of her innocence, undermines our common sense of social justice,” said ERAC representatives.

“ERAC invites Kosovo media not to fall prey to unfounded news, especially when that news includes hate speech that has the potential to turn into violence against our citizens, as was the case on Wednesday,” the Prishtina Insight reported.

ERAC urged all relevant institutions to provide adequate protection for women as victims of physical and psychological violence, and take the necessary steps to bring to justice violators and perpetrators.

The OSCE mission in Kosovo also condemned the „repeated attack against a Roma woman from Kosovo who was apparently targeted only based on prejudice and hearsay“.

„It appears that fake news reporting led to these attacks. This underscores the need for fact checking and media literacy, both within media and the general public,“ the OSCE mission tweeted.

The head of the Egyptian Liberal Party in Kosovo, Veton Berisha strongly condemned the attacks on a Roma community member. Berisha underlined that he would also personally request that all participants in the attacks are brought to justice.

„This case is a strong indicator that Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian communities do not have the rule of law in Kosovo and that their most basic human rights are constantly violated,“ Berisha said, Pristina-based Koha wrote.

„We do not accept the formal statements of the Kosovo political leadership, but we demand actions in accordance with the laws and the best constitution in Europe, which, unfortunately, exists only on paper. The fact that the attack was committed by students and young people who represent the future of Kosovo makes it even more painful and disturbing,“ he added.

The Network of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian Women Organizations have also condemned the brutal behavior towards a woman from the Roma community, who was, in their words, „doubly discriminated, first as a woman, and then as a member of a minority community“.

They emphasize that the perpetrators must be punished, adding that it would unacceptable if the case only received formal statements condemning such behavior.

Brovina’s false photos and media

The Kosovo public was rocked by a scandal in mid-May, when the PDK deputy, Flora Brovina, presented a photograph that was supposed to be evidence of group rape of an Albanian woman by Serbian forces to the media in the assembly, which later turned out to be a scene from a pornographic film.

Despite containing disturbing content, the photo was published by numerous Kosovo media with no warnings of its disturbing content and without blurring the photo.

Brovina was soon harshly criticized for her actions and the Kosovo media blurred previously published photos, while some media outlets completely removed them.

Certain media also published another photograph of the alleged murder of an Albanian child, who was also allegedly sexually abused.

A few hours later, the Kosovo media reported that the photograph of the alleged rape was taken from a pornographic website in Iraq.

The Pristina media were not held accountable for publishing the photograph with no warnings of its disturbing content and without blurring the photo. Additionally, some agencies, including Belgrade-based ones, emphasized that „online media in Pristina immediately doubted the authenticity of the photo“ and revealed its true content.

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