Reporters Without Borders condemns three separate cases of threats against investigative journalists in the past month.
The target in the most recent case was Vehbi Kajtazi, who wrote a story for the 18 February issue of the daily Koha Ditore about internal wrangling and divisions resulting from recent decisions by President Fatmir Sejdiu and the judicial system, in particular, a presidential amnesty granted for the second anniversary of Kosovo’s independence, on 17 February.
The beneficiary was Alban Geci, the son of Sabit Geci, a former local commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK), although he together with his brother Kushtrim had been charged as recently as 22 June by the Pristina public prosecutor with indirect participating in an attack on Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s home.
The day after the story appeared, Sabit Geci phoned Kajtazi and threatened him with reprisals if he did not end his “smear campaign.” With the agreement of Koha Ditore’s editors, Kajtazi told Geci several times that the newspaper was willing to print his response, but he declined.
“He told he me he would settle his problems without going to the courts and asked me to make a public apology for the harm I had done his family,” Kajtazi said. Geci already threatened Kajtazi in April 2009 when charges were first brought against his two sons.
When Koha Ditore contacted Gaci to express its surprise about his threats, he responded: “I don’t threaten. I act.”
Kajtazi filed a complaint with the police but a senior police official, speaking confidentially and on condition of anonymity, advised him to forget the threat and withdraw his complaint as there was little chance that any court would act on it. Kajtazi quoted the police official as saying: “There is no prosecutor who will take on a case against Sabit Geci and his sons. They have all abandoned any intention of prosecuting someone they regard as one of the most dangerous criminals.”
Earlier this month, Musa Sabedini, the daily Lajm’s correspondent in the eastern city of Gjilan, received several anonymous phone calls threatening him over a story he wrote about a 16-year-old youth’s murder in Gjilan. He filed a complaint but the police have failed to identify the source of the threats.
“It is unacceptable and very disturbing that the police and judicial authorities should refuse to act on a journalist’s complaint about threats,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We can accept that a police investigation does not always succeed in identifying the culprit, but it is outrageous to see officials doing everything they can to dissuade the media from asserting their legitimate rights. We urge the European authorities to pursue their efforts through the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) to quickly address this culture of impunity.”
The management of the state telecommunications company, Telecom of Kosovo, threatened to prosecute Arbana Xharra and Lavdim Halimi of the daily Zeri at the end of January after they wrote an investigative piece about director-general Shyqyri Haxha’s management of the company.
Since then, the company has refused to give interviews or answer any questions from Zeri. Kosovo’s biggest state company, Telecom of Kosovo has never appreciated scrutiny and media attempts to enquire about its activities have usually had little success.
“It is astonishing that a public company refuses to answer questions about how its assets are used,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Journalists have a duty to investigate possible embezzlement within a major national corporation. If the Kosovar government really wants to join the European Union, it must ensure respect for the media’s right to investigate all areas of the economy, especially public companies that are controlled and managed by the state.”