A 29-year-old Roma woman was physically assaulted twice this year – on May 29th in Lipljan and on May 31st in Urosevac – after allegations appeared in some Kosovo media, as well as on social media networks, that this woman kidnapped children throughout Kosovo. The Kosovo Ombudsperson wrote a report on the case, concluding that the assaults were „the result of hatred incited on social media and various media portals.“
This institution found a number of irregularities in the work of the institutions and in the way of reporting by certain Kosovo portals. It also revealed that there had been a violation of basic human rights and freedoms.
At the end of May, the Ombudsperson launched an ex officio investigation based on an article published on the KlanKosova.tv portal entitled: „Police talk about ‘mysterious’ woman seen in Kosovo“.
The reports of Z.S. allegedly abducting children in several cities (Malisevo, Prizren and Kosovo Polje) were published on social media and some media portals – according to the Ombudsperson’s report.
The video, which was also shared on Facebook, featured a photograph of a woman at a bus stop in Malisevo with the caption: „Beware of this woman, she abducts children.“
This information was quickly picked up by many Kosovo portals, creating widespread public concern, the report said.
After conducting an investigation, the Ombudsperson found that the responsible authorities did not provide sufficient protection to the victim (Z.S.), who was attacked on two occasions.
“The Ombudsperson finds that the publication of photography and video recordings by some portals and television media, without the victim’s consent, has seriously infringed her dignity, by further humiliating and victimizing the person concerned and, as such, are inconsistent with ethical principles and international standards and thereby promote and incite such criminal activities. Such actions are in violation of the applicable Law on Protection of Personal Data, Law on Independent Media Commission, and the Code of Ethics for the MSP (Media Service Providers).”
The Ombudsperson also ascertained that the State Prosecutor by not opening investigations ex officio against the persons who first published the photograph of the victim on social networks, and published various messages in some of the media, has violated the constitutional and legal obligations.
The responsible authorities failed to undertake measures regarding positive obligations for the victim Z. S. – the report stressed.
In this regard, the Ombudsperson finds that the Police Station in Lipljan, which received information from citizens about the presence of Z. S. in the town before she became a target of assault, has failed to fulfil its constitutional and legal authorizations and failed to fulfil its primary task that is protecting life and providing security for all persons. As such, the police officers of the PS in Lipjan have not achieved their goal of preventing the assault on the victim.
The Ombudsperson also underlined that the publication of information by some media and the Kosovo Police on the ethnicity of the victim Z. S. and prejudices on her sexual orientation, are completely redundant and have had a negative impact causing multiple discrimination and consequently resulting in two recurring assaults against her.
This institution has made a number of recommendations.
The Kosovo Prosecutor’s Office should take action against all persons who incited hatred on social networks by posting photos and sending messages, which provoked violence against Z.S. who was exposed to prejudice and motivated attacks.
The report also said that the Independent Media Commission should tighten control over media service providers in Kosovo with the aim of paying due attention to the protection of victims’ identities and integrity.
Furthermore, in press releases and other communications, Kosovo Police should protect other personal data, including ethnicity data, and only publish initials of persons’ first and last names.
The Kosovo Police is advised to issue a regulation or protocol of languages, which would specify and implement standard operating procedures for the enforcement of victims’ language rights, upon their detention by police officers.
Read the full report on the Ombudsman’s official website.
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