Tribuna newspaper owner Sejdi Demiri yesterday physically attacked one of his journalists, Zekirja Shabani, after Shabani, as head of the Kosovo Journalists’ Association (AGK), announced he was suing the newspaper for failing to pay its staff on time.
The attack took place when Demiri summoned Shabani to his office and tried to get him to sign a document terminating his contract. Shabani refused because it appeared to be a reprisal for his activity as head of the union. “It was at this point that Sejdi Demiri became aggressive,” Shabani said. “He used violent language and then suddenly attacked me physically.” Shabani immediately went to a police station to report the attack and the police are now investigating. Tension has been mounting between many journalists and employers in Kosovo at a time when a decline in media freedom is often blamed on the inadequate earnings of news organizations. At a recent news conference to announce that AGK had signed an agreement with a law firm to represent journalists who were not being paid, Shabani said he wanted to be “the first to sue an unfair employer,” adding that he planned to sue Tribuna, which had not paid him for two months. In a statement issued after the attack, AGK said: “in a country where elected chairman of KJA from the journalists community and editor of the newspaper is attacked for raising voice against injustice made in the workplace, testifies to the serious situation in which journalist work and violation of their human rights in Kosovo.” Kosovo is ranked 80th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.