The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East and Central Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), strongly condemns the manner in which Lamberto Zanieri, a high-ranking United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Representative and the Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, allegedly behaved towards Agron Bajrami, editor-in-chief of daily newspaper Koha Ditore in Kosovo.
According to information received by SEEMO, during the morning of 8 October 2010 Koha Ditore published an article describing the alleged prevention of the reconstruction of the Vladimiric road in the Kosovo municipality of Mitrovica. In the article the names of UNMIK Administration in Mitrovica (UAM) officials who have signed decisions to prevent the rebuilding of the Vladimiric road were published.
During the afternoon of 8 October 2010 Bajrami received a very unpleasant phone call from Zanieri who warned that Bajrami and the newspaper faced legal action, although he did not contest the accuracy of the report.
“SEEMO is surprised at this manner of communication by an official representative of UNMIK who is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General,” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.
“As the Head of UNMIK one should communicate professionally and responsibly with journalists. Threatening to sue a newspaper merely because of its critical reporting is considered a clear signal aimed at intimidating journalists and an attack on the freedom to report freely on current affairs.”
SEEMO would like to remind UNMIK that those with legitimate complaints against the media have a range of different mechanisms through which to pursue these complaints. Kosovo has a Press Council, and the UN official can turn to this body if he is not happy with the work of a journalist.