On Monday, January 23, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia (YIHR Serbia) submitted a complaint to the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality due to the discrimination of members of the Albanian community by the Security Information Agency (BIA). The BIA in its statement for the public from December 27, 2022, emphasized that the suspect for the crime of terrorism is of Albanian nationality.

Mention of the suspect’s national, religious, ideological, or political affiliation is only permitted if a criminal offense was committed with that affiliation. As terrorism cannot be linked to any nationality, it is evident that intolerance and fear of Albanians are spreading this way. The announcement is even more problematic if we consider that it was published during tensions in relations between Kosovo and Serbia.

Many media in Serbia then reported the BIA announcement in its original, discriminatory form. The BIA’s statement is even more problematic if one considers that Albanians are often portrayed in the media in Serbia as “terrorists,” as those who are “warmongering” and “undesirable.” The statements of politicians, especially the ones of the current director of the BIA, Aleksandar Vulin, contribute to this. Hate speech against Albanians, especially in moments of political tension, encourages discrimination and radicalization of society and can lead to violence and hate crimes.

The evidence of this is the stoning of a bus on January 7, 2023, traveling on the Zurich-Prishtina route. The attack happened a day after a member of the Kosovo Security Forces (KBS) wounded two members of Serbian nationality – a 21-year-old man and an 11-year-old boy – on Orthodox Christmas Day in Strpce.

We call on the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality to react to the discriminatory statement of the BIA, as well as the media to respect the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination and the Code of Ethics of Serbian Journalists, especially the part that states that “a journalist must be aware of the danger of discrimination that the media can spread and will do everything to avoid discrimination based, among other things, on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, language, religion, political and other opinions, national or social origin.”

Bearing in mind the current Franco-German plan for a new agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, which would normalize relations and ensure peace, we call on the authorities to condemn the attacks and intimidation of Albanians and to stop spreading hate speech against the Albanian community.

The complaint is available to read here in Serbian.