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Death threats against investigative TV reporter over alleged Kosovo war atrocities

Death threats against investigative TV reporter over alleged Kosovo atrocities
Investigative TV reporter Jeta Xharra.

Several news media outlets have been waging an aggressive campaign against “Life in Kosovo,” an investigative programme broadcast by public TV service RTK, and the programme’s presenter, Jeta Xharra, who has received death threats.

The campaign started after a "Life in Kosovo" report about alleged atrocities by the Kosovo Liberation Army (UCK) during the 1998-99 Kosovo War. "A Life in Kosovo" crew was also expelled from the municipality of Skenderaj (in the central Drenica region) while preparing a report there. Xharra is the Kosovo director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN)

The smear campaign, according to Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), intensified after a programme about press freedom in Kosovo on May 28 that described how the government used its advertising to influence the media. Xharra also referred to recent dismissals of journalists regarded as critical of the authorities.

According to Human Rights Watch, the recent attacks began after a programme about freedom of the press in Kosovo, which examined how government advertising influences the media and the firing of journalists who reported unfavorably on the government. The show featured an incident in the municipality of Skenderaj, run by the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) of Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, in which the BIRN Kosovo TV crew had been assaulted outside the culture house by an unidentified armed man, who also stole their footage. A BIRN reporter had been earlier been refused entry to the Municipality Office in Skenderaj, and when they reported the attack to the police, the police escorted them to the edge of town.

The campaign is being led by the tabloid newspaper Infopress, which accuses "Life in Kosovo" of denigrating Drenica, claims that Xharra is a Serbian spy and is demanding the programme’s withdrawal. The newspaper has also repeatedly published threatening letters from readers, thereby endorsing their content. “Jeta is exposing herself to the possibility of a short life,” an Infopress journalist wrote on June 4.

“This behaviour by Infopress is appalling and dangerous,” Paris-based RSF reacted. “The death threats being expressed in the newspaper are endangering the lives of this programme’s journalists. Infopress has strayed far beyond the boundaries of news and information. It is guilty of unacceptable editorial practices.

Kosovo's president and prime minister should forcefully condemn recent threats against the independent journalist Jeta Xharra in a newspaper that receives substantial advertising revenues from the government, Human Rights Watch said. The attacks are the latest indication that freedom of the media in Kosovo is coming under threat.

“We appeal to the journalist community in Kosovo to find a solution to this crisis and thereby demonstrate that it can regulate itself and avoid regrettable excesses. We also urge the authorities to carry out an investigation to identify those who made death threats against the Life in Kosovo staff," RSF said. “Finally, we call on the European institutions present in Kosovo to pursue their efforts to guarantee a positive environment for Kosovar journalists.”

"These attacks are clearly aimed at silencing the kind of journalism and investigative reporting that makes the government uncomfortable," said Wanda Troszczynska-van Genderen, Western Balkans researcher at Human Rights Watch. "The president and prime minister need to make clear that they don't want any part in this kind of behaviour and that threats against journalists will be fully investigated."

A group of Kosovo nongovernmental organizations (, some local media and opposition politicians have condemned the threats against Xharra, as has the international community's top envoy to Kosovo, Pieter Feith.

"The political and financial supporters of the Kosovo government, especially the United States, should press the authorities to respect freedom of the media," Troszczynska-van Genderen said. "Despite the public outcry, no one from the Kosovo government has spoken out about the unacceptable and dangerous threats against a journalist or the attacks on media freedom, let alone investigate the apparent assault on the BIRN journalists in Skenderaj."

Date posted: June 10, 2009 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 460