Victory for freedom of expression – Kelkos dropped defamation lawsuits against activists
Pristina, October 20, 2021 – The ad-hoc coalition of civil society organizations and activists held a press conference today, in which case it was announced that Kelkos has dropped the baseless defamation lawsuits against Shpresa Loshaj and Adriatik Gacaferi.
Lawyer Rina Kika, the legal representative of the activists, said that on October 18, she was officially notified by the representatives of Kelkos Energy about the waiver of defamation lawsuits against environmental activists Shpresa Loshaj and Adriatik Gacaferi. “Kelkos’s lawyers have forwarded me the official notices for renunciation of both lawsuits which have been forwarded to the Basic Court of Peja – Deçan Branch. They have given up both lawsuits, without any conditions and immediately”, said Kika.
According to her, giving up these two lawsuits proved what we have been saying all along, that Kelkos knew that he could not win with these baseless lawsuits in court and that the goal was never for them to win the process, the goal has been to intimidate activists who criticize the operations of this company. “Such lawsuits that attempt to silence public debate on issues of public interest such as environmental protection are harmful and should be strongly opposed by all.” she declared.
Meanwhile, the activist Shpresa Loshaj said that Kelkos has sued us thinking that we will be alone. “They thought that we will be alone and we will exhaust our energy protecting ourselves from them, but the energy for the protection of Lumbardhi is inexhaustible, thanks to the support of activists and citizens from all over Kosovo.”
Mexhide Demolli-Nimani, executive director of the FOL Movement, said that unfortunately the cases of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or SLAPP lawsuits are part of the Annual Report of the European Commission for Kosovo. “In the annual report on Kosovo of the European Commission, it is estimated that during the year there was a disturbing increase in SLAPP lawsuits filed in the courts, lawsuits which are used to threaten and sue journalists and civil society activists in order to intimidate them”. she said. According to her, the withdrawal of lawsuits by Kelkos comes as a result of opposition from a large number of civil society organizations and activists in Kosovo, who have repeatedly asked Kelkos to drop lawsuits against activists. Even the international organization for the protection of human rights, Amnesty International, had asked Kelkos in June of this year to withdraw from the lawsuits.
“I call on all activists or journalists who face SLAPP lawsuits to come to the FOL Movement, because we, through a group of lawyers who have offered their pro bono services for these cases. Also, within the website of the FOL Movement, we have already started documenting SLAPP lawsuits”.
Activists were sued for defamation due to statements criticizing the company regarding hydropower operations in Gryka e Deçani. In June of last year, Kelkos demanded from Shpresa Loshaj 100,000 euros in compensation for possible “image damage” due to her statements. Meanwhile, Adriatik Gacaferi has requested 10,000 Euros in damages due to a post on Facebook regarding the introduction of river water into the pipes of hydropower plants.