Statement regarding the campaign calling for the boycott of Serbian products
New Social Initiative, Center for Affirmative Social Action, Center for Social Initiatives, and the Forum for Development and Multiethnic Cooperation have accessed a series of legal mechanisms in response to the spread of hate speech and ethnic intolerance in a video published on 11 March by an informal group Besa Besë.
In the video, which was designed to promote the idea of boycotting Serbian products, a minor is forced to make a claim about the intention of Serbian producers to poison the buyers of products. Campaigns calling for the boycott of Serbian products have been frequent in Kosovo, but this video differs from the previous campaigns as it abuses a minor for political and propaganda purposes, and spreading of hate speech and intolerance towards one ethnic community.
Although it is a campaign of an informal group, not an institution, we believe that an institutional response, in this case, is necessary for several reasons.
Serbian businessmen in Kosovo have been battling the consequences of economic nationalism for years. It manifests with difficulties to place their products on the wider Kosovo market unless they hide the “Serbian origin” of their products, a hurdle documented multiple times by media and NGOs. Campaigns such as these have been organized for more than a decade, and they hinder the economic integration and sustainability of the Serbian private sector in Kosovo. In addition, they negatively affect regional economic cooperation.
At the same time, the narrative that “Serbs are trying to poison” is regularly nurtured by a number of Albanian-language reporting media outlets, which are characterized by extremely unprofessional reporting. In addition to this latest case, we recall the unverified accusations against members of the Serbian community who allegedly poisoned a drinking water tank in Decani last year, which were published by the media without any confirmation from the prosecution or the police. Similar was the case with the alleged poisoning of Central Election Commission officials by votes received by mail from Serbia for the parliamentary elections organized in 2019. Despite the clear pattern, all these reports in the media warrant no reaction from institutions dealing with the protection of human rights or media monitoring. In a society that has a serious legacy of the devastating consequences of unprofessional reporting from 2004, this should not happen.
Therefore, as a group of organizations, we have undertaken the following:
On March 17, we filed a complaint to the Kosovo Press Council against Telegrafi and Ekonomia Online for uncritically transmitting this video and masking hate speech with the simplified claim that it was an “awareness campaign.”
On March 18, we asked the Ombudsperson Institution to launch an investigation into violations of Article 141 (Causing Discord and Intolerance) of the Criminal Code of Kosovo.
On March 21, we filed a criminal report against the author of the video, Burim Piraj, to the Prizren Basic Prosecutor’s Office for inciting discord and intolerance.
New Social Initiative, North Mitrovica
Center for Affirmative Social Action, North Mitrovica
Center for Social Initiatives, North Mitrovica
Forum for Development and Multiethnic Cooperation, Gračanica