November 5, 2011
Reporters Without Borders roundly condemns the particularly aggressive smear campaign that the Kosovo Liberation Army’s Veterans Association has been waging against the respected journalist Halil Matoshi in the last few days. The attacks seem to have been prompted by an article by Matoshi in the daily Koha Ditore on 6 January about the challenges facing Kosovo in 2011, in which he accused certain people of wanting to police a “patriotic anarchy” by claiming the right to distinguish between “good” and “bad” patriots.
In a press release the next day, the Veterans Association insinuated that Matoshi was a traitor, describing him as “one of the pieces of trash the occupiers have left us.” The Veterans Association is led by Muharrem Xhemajli, a supporter of the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo. He also recently accused Albin Kurti, the leader of the opposition party Vetevendosje, of being “pro-Slav.”
“We appeal to Prime Minister Thaçi to publicly disown the unacceptable comments by Muharrem Xhemajli’s organization about Halil Matoshi and Koha Ditore,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The guilty silence must end at once.
The entire political class has a duty to respond to these indirect but real threats. Accusing him of treachery and questioning his patriotism is tantamount to calling for him to be physically attacked or murdered. This is intolerable. Do we have to wait for a journalist to die before everyone takes a position on such comments?
“We urge the authorities to issue an unambiguous condemnation of this exploitation of the concept of patriotism, especially as the aim is to censor the media.
The significance of this campaign against journalists and the consequences it could have must not be ignored. The next government must take a clear public position on this subject if it hopes to retain any credibility for the pledges it has repeatedly made and rarely kept to respect press freedom.
“We also urge Pieter Feith, the European Union’s special representative in Kosovo, to speak out and to extend his full support to Matoshi and the staff of Koha Ditore.
The EU still has decision-making powers in Pristina. It must respond to these nationalistic excesses with firmness and remind the authorities that respect for press freedom is an essential requirement for any possibility of Kosovo joining the EU, even if there is a risk that the authorities could delay their application.”
Reporters Without Borders fully supports the staff of Koha Ditore and Matoshi, who is one of Kosovo’s most respected analysts.
Accused of terrorism by Belgrade, he was the only Pristina-based journalist to be jailed by the Serb authorities during the NATO bombing raids in 1999. Held for a year in a prison in Serbia, he was only released after strong international pressure.