After a magazine from Kosovo was prevented from attending Share Conference in Serbia due to threats from ultranationalists, conference participants mobilised to show their support.
By Lily Lynch for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 02/05/12
Kosovo 2.0 was forced to cancel its appearance at the second annual Share Conference in Belgrade on Saturday (April 28th). [Lily Lynch/SETimes]
Kosovo 2.0, a magazine published in Albanian, Serbian and English, was forced to cancel its appearance at the second annual Share Conference in Belgrade on Saturday (April 28th) due to threats from ultranationalist groups. In response, several Serbian organisations and conference participants launched an ad hoc campaign to demonstrate support for the magazine, which is based in Pristina.
The cancelation came following a public announcement issued by the extremist group Nasi, in which the magazine was denounced for promoting "the narco-state of Kosovo" and supporting an "independent Kosovo separate from the Republic of Serbia."
In the same statement, Nasi called on the Serbian government and police forces to prevent Kosovo 2.0 from attending the conference. The statement also urged "all patriots and football club fans" to stage a mass rally in front of the conference venue on Saturday, the day of Kosovo 2.0's scheduled presentation. The protest did not occur.
Members of Nasi have been implicated in a number of illegal activities over the last several years, and the Serbian Constitutional Court is currently considering a ban of the group's right to association due to its alleged participation in a number of violent attacks on minority groups.
The Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia condemned Nasi's statements, which resulted in extensive media coverage of the planned rally.
"This incident reflects the continuing violation of freedom that is inflicted on the citizens of Kosovo by Serbia. It is a violation that is inflicted not only on organisations like Kosovo 2.0, but also Kosovo as a whole," Kosovo 2.0 said in a statement.
Several Serbian civil society organisations noted the magazine's absence by distributing t-shirts and stickers with the words "We are all Kosovo 2.0" in both Serbian and Albanian.
"The plan was to wear the t-shirts at Share Conference and demonstrate solidarity with our friends who were unable to be there with us because our state and our city could not guarantee their safety," Bojana Sekeljic, deputy director of new media at Dokukino, told SETimes.
Some Serbian organisations distributed t-shirts and stickers reading "We are all Kosovo 2.0" in both Serbian and Albanian. [Lily Lynch/SETimes]
"On the other hand, we felt it was our responsibility to show the public that another side exists in Belgrade: another side that is not a narrow-minded, flag-burning lynch mob, but one that is aware that only through co-operation, collaboration and communication can we create a better society for both Serbia and Kosovo."
Sekeljic said that the response to the initiative was overwhelmingly supportive.
"Not a single person said anything against our micro-campaign. It even spread outside the venue itself, as we were posting photos on Facebook and Twitter and those photos went viral. Several speakers asked us to borrow the t-shirts to wear during their presentations," she said.
Others also participated in acts of solidarity. Several people arranged for more than 100 copies of Kosovo 2.0 to be delivered from Pristina to Belgrade by bus. The magazines were distributed on the final day of the conference by several people, including members of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia.
Bturn, a magazine covering Balkan culture and society with contributors from across the region, made copies of Kosovo 2.0 and Dokukino's stickers available at their booth during the conference.
The Share Conference in Belgrade, which focuses on digital activism and culture, is the largest civil society and activist event in the region, and also one of the largest events for advancing regional dialogue and collaboration. Out of more than 2,000 daily participants, 500 come from neighbouring countries.
The conference has helped to inspire smaller activist events across the region, such as the Engage Conference in Skopje, and Point Conference in Sarajevo.
Sekeljic also sees the potential of the internet to promote ideas like those behind the "We are all Kosovo 2.0" initiative.
"In the Balkans, a region where traditional media is used as yet another lever for those who are in power -- formally and informally -- freedom of expression on the internet and social networks is an essential pillar for establishing a sustainable reconciliation process. Individuals like us have the power to reach out and promote values which will bring us together through decentralised and open communication."
Some in Kosovo agree. As Besa Luci, editor-in-chief of Kosovo 2.0, wrote of the "We are all Kosovo 2.0" initiative, "In the midst of our disappointment and frustration, such acts and messages of support were a great example of how individuals can transcend preset divisions by engaging in participatory politics, fighting back through various channels of expression, and acting as global citizens."
Correspondent Lily Lynch is also a contributor to Bturn magazine.