Kosovo Urged to Address Threats against Journalist

Washington

Freedom House calls for the Kosovo government to fully investigate the recent threats made against investigative journalist Jeta Xharra and hold those responsible accountable.

The pro-government newspaper Infopress led a campaign that accused Xharra of being a Serbian spy and said that she "brought it upon herself to have a short life." Xharra has also received threatening emails and death threats from unknown individuals.

"Kosovo’s authorities should make an example out of anyone involved in threatening Jeta Xharra to ensure that this is an isolated case," said Jennifer Windsor, Freedom House executive director. "Failure to punish those responsible for these threats could have a devastating impact on the development of press freedom in Kosovo."

Xharra is director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, known as BIRN, and host of the current affairs program "Life in Kosovo." She began receiving threats after a May 28 program on press freedom that analyzed whether government advertising was used to influence the media. The report noted that some newspapers received substantially more government advertisements following the 2007 election, including Infopress, while others lost out. 

The program also interviewed journalists who claim they were sacked for criticizing the government and aired video from a BIRN news crew that was expelled from a government office in Skenderaj and forced to leave town by an armed man who confiscated some of their footage.

Investigative journalism is rare in Kosovo because of a fear of retribution and a lack of security in the ethnically-divided country. Although a wide variety of print and electronic media operate in Kosovo, journalists report frequent harassment and intimidation. Defamation remains a criminal offense and many media outlets continue to deviate from established journalistic ethics despite regulations that prohibit speech that incites ethnic violence.

Kosovo is ranked Not Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.

To learn more about Kosovo, read:

Freedom in the World 2008: Kosovo (Serbia)

Freedom of the Press 2008: Serbia (Kosovo)

Nations in Transit 2008: Kosovo (Serbia)

Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Kosovo since 1993.


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