Central Kosovo Serbs protest shut off of Telekom and Telenor mobile phone networks

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Serb protest in Gračanica following shut off of Telekom and Telenor mobile phone network, TV report by Andrija Igić

Following the forcible shut off of mobile phone service, the residents of Gračanica held a protest meeting today from which they sent the message that the shut off of Telenor and Telekom mobile phone networks is primarily a humanitarian problem leading to the even greater isolation of Kosovo-Metohija Serbs. Before departing to Belgrade for the regular convocation of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, Vicar Bishop Teodosije of Lipljan met with the head of EULEX, Mr. Yves de Kermabon, to whom he expressed the serious dissatisfaction of the Diocese of Raška-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija, as well as of the Serbs of Kosovo and Metohija because of the aggressive destruction of the mobile phone network by self-proclaimed Kosovo institutions. "This decision is contrary to Resolution 1244 and leads directly to the isolation and departure of the Serbsian people south of the Ibar. We are deeply appalled," said the Bishop, "by the fact that the Kosovo police, which failed to prevent the expulsion of Serbs from Žač, is so effective in protecting teams from the Kosovo telephone company in not only dismantling but also physically destroying transmitters, cables and equipment," said the Bishop to Mr. Kermabon.

He emphasized that this unreasonable move on the part of self-proclaimed Kosovo institutions threatens the lives of thousands of people who now live in complete isolation because the majority of Serb settlements has no regular telephone lines, and Kosovo mobile phone networks are so expensive that Serbs cannot afford them. The European Union today officially announced "that some of the latest moves in Kosovo may not have been done very well and that EULEX understands the importance of communications for the Serb population" while the Serbian Government has expressed its readiness to undertake all measures to peacefully re-establish a network of Serbian mobile telephone service, because most of the telephone communications from Serb enclaves are to central Serbia, and for Serbs it is the only way to communicate with relatives and friends.

We are attaching a news agency report regarding today's protest in Gračanica.


Tanjug, Fonet 26 April 2010

Gračanica – Kosovo Serbs protest against shut off of mobile phone operators signal. Prime Minister Cvetković promises all possible help, excluding the use of force.

Several thousand Serbs in Gračanica and Štrpce protested peacefully against the decision of the Kosovo authorities to remove the transmitters of Serbian mobile telephone operators in Kosovo. They demand the reaction of the international community and the return of the Serbian operators network. New protests have been announced in coming days.

The column of protesting Serbs from central Kosovo was headed by ambulances, which symbolized that by shutting of the phone, Serbs are unable to communicate even in the most urgent situations.

After a walk, Serbian political representatives addressed the gathering and called on the international community to react stop Kosovo authoritiies from banning Serb use of Serbian mobile telephone operators as soon as possible.

The director of the Health Center, Rada Trajković, the head of the Kosovo district, Goran Arsić, and the speaker of the Priština City Assembly, Nebojša Nikolić, spoke at the gathering.

"Priština has apparently succeeded in considerable setting back all the efforts of good people and courageous individuals on the construction of multiethnicity, and to do so by its own example," said Trajković at the protest.

Goran Arsić called on UNMIK and EULEX to undertake measures to prevent destabilization in areas where Serbs live and to do everything in order to restore their right to a free life and communications.

"We believe that the solutiion is not in the destruction of installations regardless of who owns them. And therefore we call on KFOR to ensure a safe environment in accordance with its mandate," said Nebojša Nikolić.

During the protest the demonstrators carried signs saying "Blind, mute, deaf," "Return our connections", "Network not in service, why?"

Today is the fourth day Serbs south of the Ibar River have been without network service provided by Serbian operators.

The gathering at five minutes to noon included a performance. Students of the secondary school in Gračanica demonstrated in their own way the removal of the transmitter and shut off of the Telekom Srbija and Telenor mobile network.

The protest in Gračanica ended peacefully. Without incidents. New ones have been announced in coming days.