27. March. 2019. | 04:46

NGO AKTIV Hosted a Public Debate on Language Rights

On the 26th of March, 2019, NGO AKTIV hosted a public debate entitled The Respect and Advancement of Language Rights: Institutional Responsibilities

The debate was moderated by Zorica Vorgučić with Aleksandra Jovanović, Project Manager at NGO AKTIV, Slaviša Mladenović, Language Commissioner of Kosovo, Marija Radulović, Deputy Ombudsperson and Budimir Ničić, President of the Association of Journalists of Serbia in Kosovo, attending as panelists. 

The debate covered a range of themes that stretched from the role that relevant institutions play in the provision of mechanisms for protecting and promoting language rights to the challenges faced in implementing the Law on the Use of Languages in practice.  Ms. Jovanović opened the debate with an introduction to AKTIV’s current project Creating a Bilingual Kosovo.  As the discussion advanced, Ms. Radulović stressed that the right to use both official languages in an institutional setting constitutes an essential cornerstone of the very basic rights that citizens have in any system and in the absence of their fulfillment the state cannot be expected to safeguard other basic human and civil rights.  She went on to say that the Ombudsperson Institution does not receive a significant volume of complaints regarding language rights violations despite the fact that they are deemed to be widespread.  Mr. Mladenović gave a detailed overview and analysis of the work of the Office of the Language Commissioner in acting as an enforcer and indeed as a defender of citizen’s constitutional and legal rights when it comes to language.  He also went on to describe in detail the mechanisms available through his office to citizens who encounter violations as well as the many efforts made to tackle issues such as the quality of translations of Kosovo laws. Mr. Ničić, as a journalist with many years of reporting experience, described the difficulties faced by journalists in Kosovo in accessing information in the Serbian language, highlighting the poor quality of live and written translations provided by various institutions, with the Kosovo Assembly proving to be particularly problematic.  A general conclusion reached by all panelists was that, despite genuine internal structural difficulties, institutions in Kosovo cannot achieve full implementation of the law on their own.  Rather, this is something that will require a more collective effort and the close and effective collaboration of non-governmental actors and indeed of society as a whole.

The debate was held as part of the project Creating a Bilingual Kosovo financed by the Norwegian Embassy in Kosovo and implemented in partnership with the Office of the Language Commissioner.  This event marked the start of a wide-ranging public information campaign that is geared at increasing public awareness of their linguistic rights under Kosovo legislation.