RTS news crew was not allowed to enter Kosovo because “they did not announce their visit”

RTS Jarinje prelaz
Foto: Svetlana Vukmirović

After waiting at the Jarinje border crossing for four days, an RTS news crew finally received an answer as to why they were not allowed to enter the territory of Kosovo. According to an official reply from Pristina, the reason why they were detained at the crossing was that they did not submit a request to liaison officer Dejan Pavicevic or announce their arrival 72 hours earlier.

RTS journalist and editor of the talk-show „Pravo na sutra“, Svetlana Vukmirovic, who was detained at this crossing along with her news crew, confirmed these allegations for KoSSev.

She revealed that Pristina referred to the Brussels Agreement on official visits in its response, according to which all official visits to Kosovo must be announced earlier.

When asked whether they received an oral or written explanation, Vukmirovic stated that they received an oral explanation, as well as a document which they were supposed to sign. They, however, refused to do so as it was written in Albanian – a language none of the crew members speak.

Pristina’s explanation is pointless, she says.

„The obligatory announcement of visits is related to diplomats and state officials – not media workers,“ she specified.

After receiving the official response from Pristina, the RTS crew headed back to Belgrade.

In the previous days, KoSSev unsuccessfully tried to get an answer about the reason why this crew was not allowed to enter Kosovo from representatives of the police and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pristina. Although we were instructed in a telephone conversation to contact the Foreign Ministry by e-mail, which we did three days ago, no answer has arrived to date.

Journalists from Kosovo reporting in Serbian held a protest yesterday on this occasion in Jarinje, while two journalist associations reacted – the UNS and NUNS. They announced that they would inform regional and international bodies dealing with the issue of freedom of the press.

Srpska Lista also reacted today. Although SL emphasized that freedom of the press and the right to know the truth is „an essential need of all societies striving for democracy,“ this party has not been responding to KoSSev’s inquiries and calls for years, while its representatives do not send press releases and invitations to events followed by the media to our portal.

Even today, we did not receive their press release in which SL condemned the behavior of the Kosovo Police and Pristina, as three journalist crews – RTV Pink, RTV Kraljevo and RTS – were prevented from entering Kosovo.

Who exactly must announce their visit to Kosovo

According to the available data on the Brussels agreements, based on the Official Visits Agreement – the rule on announcing entry refers to only two categories of officials.

The first group consists of the President, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Ministers, the President of the Assembly and the Ministers of the Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defense, who are obliged to announce their arrival 72 hours in advance.

The second group includes all other ministers, vice presidents of the Assembly, directors of government offices and security agencies, presidents of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts, the public prosecutor, as well as all other persons who have security, for example, religious leaders.

Announcements for this category must be given at least 48 hours in advance.

There are exceptions to this agreement – in case of emergencies and when two liaison officers reach an ad hoc agreement.

This or any other documents signed in Brussels do not regulate the issue of the movement of journalists.

Moreover, according to the first point of the Agreement on Freedom of Movement, „residents of each side must be able to travel freely within or across the territory of the other side“.

The right to freedom of expression and information is also defined by the European Convention on Human Rights.

At the same time, the European Charter on Freedom of the Press defines in greater detail that the freedom of the press is fundamental for a democratic society and that censorship is impermissible.

It specifies that independent journalism in all media must be free from persecution and repression, without a guarantee of political or regulatory interference by government.

At the same time, the right of journalists and media to gather and disseminate information and opinions must not be threatened, restricted, or made subject to punishment, and all states must ensure that the media have the full protection of the law while carrying out their role.

Another point of this charter says that the media and journalists have a right to unimpeded access to all news and information sources, including those from abroad. For their reporting, foreign journalists should be provided with visas, accreditation and other required documents without delay.

 

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