The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), deplores the June 22, 2012 decision of the Kosovo parliament to keep media-unfriendly articles in the Criminal Code. It was the second time in two months that the parliament had voted in favour of the articles, which hold journalists criminally liable if they do not reveal their sources. Deputies did not pay attention to local and international recommendations regarding decriminalisation of libel.
In April 2012, the parliament approved the Criminal Code, including the problematic articles 37 and 38 dealing with media. However, Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga returned it to the parliament for review. She based her decision on the fact that Articles 37 and 38 of the Criminal Code were “in complete contradiction with Article 40 and Article 42 of the Constitution”, which regulate freedom of expression and freedom of the media as well as “with Article 22, item 2 of the Constitution”, which requires implementation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols, according to the official explanation posted on the president’s website.
The parliament voted for the second time in favor of articles 37 and 38 in the Criminal Code, in spite of the recommendations of the Association of Professional Journalists of Kosovo, and the opinions of Kosovo President Jahjaga, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, Hajredin Kuci who warned that he would resign should the controversial articles be approved. After the voting results were known, he resigned.
In SEEMO’s view, keeping these controversial articles appears to benefit those accused of bribery and illicit activities. As one daily illustrated, a journalist could end up in prison if he or she does not reveal a source that has denounced irregularities or bribes.
”I can freely say that I am ashamed by this decision of the Kosovo Parliament. I would like to emphasise that as Prime Minister of the country, at no time will I concur with laws and a code which inspire fear in the free press, and which could be exploited by someone to undermine freedom of speech and thought,” declared Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, according to the official website of the Kosovo Government.
In fact, following the vote, the Kosovo government approved the Draft Law on amending and supplementing the Criminal Code but excluded articles 37, 38 and 39. According to SEEMO sources, the government appears to be searching for legal mechanisms that would enable the lawmakers to reconsider their decision.
“Kosovo politicians claim that joining the European Union is their objective," said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. "In order to become a member of the EU, Kosovo has to approve and respect European laws and adopt international standards in all areas, including the media. Let us not forget that a free media is an essential element of democracy. I hope that in the near future Kosovo deputies will reconsider their decision regarding the amendments and support the free press in Kosovo."