3. December. 2021. | 05:12

Statement regarding the awarding of the prize of “Best practices in the implementation of the Law on the Use of Languages” to institutions

The Empirika Advocacy Platform, which is comprised of media representatives and non-governmental organizations from the Kosovo-Serb community, expresses its strong opposition to the awarding of a prize for ‘best practices in the implementation of the Law on the Use of Languages’ in a moment when we’re seeing numerous examples of how public institutions violate the right to information in the Serbian language, and when timely and linguistically correct information in the Serbian language is not forthcoming in the vast majority of cases.

Just one visit to the Serbian-language section of the Kosovo Interior Ministry’s website reveals that translations regarding the activities of Ministry officials are only rarely available, frequent grammatical errors in Serbian texts, and a notable absence of information regarding calls for vaccinations on that institution’s social media pages in the Serbian language. These issues represent just a few of the burning problems in this institution’s implementation of the Law on the Use of Languages. Even when translations are available, they are frequently ‘Albanised’ with recurrent linguistic constructions that are uncharacteristic of the Serbian language. Based on information collected from Empirika Members, the Interior Ministry only very rarely (if ever) issues press releases in the Serbian language. Similarly, official websites of other institutions at all levels of governance in Kosovo are filled with grammatical errors or, even more commonly, Serbian-language content is wholly unavailable.

Journalists from Serbian-language publications and civil society organisations representing the Kosovo Serb community have, for many years now, continuously attempted to draw attention to not only violations of the law and constitution but also to the fact that inability to access information in one of the two official languages of Kosovo constitutes an infringement of basic human rights.

Having this in mind, Empirika members point out that the government of Kosovo is still not investing the efforts necessary to ensure timely and accurate translations of information of public importance. It is for these reasons that we believe that awarding this kind of prize to an institution that does not respect in Law on the Use of Languages is inappropriate.

The years-long ossification in language rights has affected all segments of our society and demands the opening of direct channels of communication with relevant institutions and other interested parties in order to adopt of the measures necessary to overcome poor practices in the respect of language rights and the rights of non-majority communities in Kosovo. At the same time, we believe that it is pertinent for all central and local institutions to work to create a sustainable mechanism that will ensure adherence to the law and the constitution and to facilitate unhindered communication between institutions and citizens of the Serb and other non-majority communities. 

Empirika members remain open to cooperation and to offer support to all those who are at the forefront of efforts to address the many long-standing problems in the implementation of the Law on the Use of Languages. However, certain institutions that were given this award do not respect the law. The provision of timely and comprehensible information in the Serbian language is an institutional obligation and constitutes the first step in the successful provision of other services and creates an opportunity for the more active participation of the Serb community in public life in Kosovo.

It is for these reasons that we call on the Office of the Language Commissioner and the OSCE Mission to Kosovo to re-consider their decision to award the ’best practices in the implementation of the Law on the Use of Languages’ and by doing so to send a strong message to institutions that respect of the Law on the Use of Languages is an institutional obligation, and not one community’s privilege.


Empirika Members:

Aktiv, Advocacy Center for Democratic Culture - ACDC, Center for ther Rights of Minority Communities - CRMC, Center for Peace and Tolerance - CPT, Eco Medical Experts Group - EMEG, Forum for Development and Multiethnic Cooperation - FDMC, Gračanica Online, Humani centar Mitrovica, Communication for Social Development - CSD, Media center, New Press, Radio Kontakt plus, RTV KIM, RTV Mir