Prishtinë, 3d December 2021 – We, the undersigned, oppose Minister Aliu’s denigrating campaign against activist Shpresa Loshaj and express our deep indignation at his interference with freedom of expression and activism in Kosovo.
On November 22, 2021, the Ministry of Environment published on its Facebook page a text through which it announced that a ‘concept document’ had been compiled for the restoration of the “Zalli i Rupës”. The same day, Ms. Loshaj published a reaction through which she raised serious concerns about the ministry’s approach to the restoration of this area, criticized Minister Aliu for the lack of transparency and for continuing the same policies of previous governments towards the environment.
On November 24, Mr. Aliu organized a press conference through which he launched a denigrating campaign against Ms. Loshaj. By targeting her by name and last name, he accused Ms. Loshaj for defamation, asked her to show ‘caution’ before speaking and gave a lecture at a distance about what causes she should advocate for. Minister Aliu continued the campaign against her in the show “Rubicon” broadcast one day after the conference. This campaign was continued by other officials of the Ministry, such as the case of the Minister’s advisor Lulzim Bauman, who launched similar accusations through comments on the online profile of Ms. Loshaj.
Minister Aliu’s statements are derogatory, contemptuous and threatening, and are intended to reduce the credibility of Ms. Loshaj in the eyes of the public, intimidate her and silence criticism of the Ministry for the decisions it makes. Minister’s ‘instructions’ on what an activist should do are state interference in citizens’ rights to engage freely in topics they consider to be of general interest. Minister Aliu is a powerful politician, one of the most voted people in the country and speaks from his position as head of the Ministry of Environment. It is disturbing that he uses his power and state resources to organize press conferences to intimidate civil society activists, with whom he had worked closely before coming to power.
We consider that the targeting of Ms. Loshaj by Minister Aliu is state intervention in civic activism and violation of freedom of expression. The campaign against Ms. Loshaj is a campaign against all activists in Deçan and Kosovo and other members of civil society who have the courage to engage in sensitive causes of general interest and contribute to improving the environment and life in Kosovo.
Ms. Loshaj is a well-known environmental activist, her work and that of other activists has stopped the degradation of nature in Deçan, for which she has been awarded four prizes.
We ask Minister Aliu to show a high level of tolerance for criticism, to refrain from such statements in the future, to stop the denigrating campaign against Ms. Loshaj and work with full transparency and protect the public interest.
Signatory organizations and activists:
Ardian Ndrecaj, ATRC, Ballkan Green Foundation, Balkan Sunflowers Kosova, CEL Kosova, Community Building Mitrovica, CSGD, Çohu!, D4D, Debate Center, Demokraci Plus, DokuFest, Ec Ma Ndryshe, Flutura Kusari, Fondacioni Lumbardhi, Forumi për Iniciativa Qytetare, GAIA SCI Kosovo, GLPS, Instituti GAP, Instituti i Kosovës për Drejtësi(IKD), IKS, KCSF, KDI, KFOS, KMDLNj/CDHRF, KRCT, Lëvizja FOL, ODK, OMM “Gjethi” Organizata për Rritjen e Cilësisë në Arsim (ORCA), PIPS, Pishtarët, Programi për të Drejtat Civile në Kosovë (CRP/K), Qendra Kosovare për Studime Gjinore, Qytetarë Aktivë, Rina Kika, Rrjeti i Grupit të Grave, Qendra për Politika dhe Avokim, Stacion – Qendra për Art Bashkëkohor Prishtinë, Syri i Vizionit, Shoqata e Intelektualeve të Pavarur të Deçanit, YIHR Kosova, YMCA Movement.