KOSOVO: Threats against BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra and her team

KOSOVO, 15/06/2009

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is deeply concerned over recent attacks on BIRN Kosovo Director Jeta Xharra and her team, who produce the programme Jeta ne Kosove, aired on the public broadcaster RTK Kosovo.

On 4 June 2009, the Albanian daily newspaper Infopress published what appeared to be a death threat against Xharra, stating, Jeta has brought it upon herself to have a short life. On 5 June, Infopress again attacked Xharra in another editorial piece, in which the author wrote that he would be honoured to shake the hand of any dutiful Albanian who took it upon himself to punish Xharra.

Xharra is the director of BIRN (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network) Kosovo, which produces the popular TV programme Jeta ne Kosove (Life in Kosovo), where controversial and taboo topics ranging from homosexuality to minority voices to alleged war crimes are presented to the public. The hate campaign against Xharra and her team followed an edition of Life in Kosovo, broadcast on 28 May 2009, which reported on freedom of the media in Kosovo and focused on the central Kosovo municipality of Skenderaj/Srbica. After the programme was aired, Xharra and her team received various threatening messages.

Commenting on the situation, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said, SEEMO strongly condemns these death threats and public assaults against Jeta Xharra and her team, as they are a direct attack on freedom of expressionIt is vital for journalists to be able to report freely on current affairs without fear of harassment. Any attempts to influence media independence are unacceptable in a modern society. Vujovic added, It is especially worrisome that this apparent hate campaign is being waged by a newspaper that depends on advertising revenue from the government. Infopress receives the lion's share of government advertising revenues, which would imply that the campaign is supported at the highest political level. SEEMO urges the authorities to put an end to political pressure on the media and to allow journalists to report freely on current affairs and to carry out their work in safety.

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