A week ago a court in eastern Kosovo had eased a measure of punishment against a member of the Kosovo police, who is believed to be involved in an attempted murder scenario against an investigative journalist. Kosovo based NGO – CLARD, respectively their campaign, “Justice and Citizens”, supported targeted journalist Vedat Xhymshiti ever since he was subject to the alleged premeditated assassination, which took place on January 14th, 2012, during a protest at Kosovo-Serbia border crossing. This week’s Monday, Xhymshiti deposited an appeal against the Judgment of punishment according P.nr.83 / 2012 of the Court in Gjilan, its General Department of Kamenica Branch.
Local media were invited to attend and write about this legal right action of the journalist, but no one appeared. Surprisingly the association of journalists in Kosovo, is consistently silent regarding the long-term persecution through which, journalist Xhymshiti is subject of such difficulties, due to his professional conflicts with country’s government authorities and those who became subject to his journalistic investigations.
On January 14, 2012, a physical assault, which is believed to have been premeditated and staged during a protest organised of the party ‘Self-Determination’ at the border crossing ‘Dheu i Bardhë’ that links Kosovo with the Presheva Valley in southern Serbia, had knocked-out a journalist on official duty.
According to the evidence of legal value, there were more than two people involved in an attempt to perpetrate the journalist, one of them is identified as Faruk Ibrahimi in the police uniform (see the picture right->!), while other persons in civilian clothing who are suspected to be members of the Kosovo Police, have not been identified yet due to lack of interest of the investigating authority to identify and investigate them, therefore, they have escaped the possibility of turning into subject of a judicial procedure, which would require legal accountability if found guilty.
Police Faruk Ibrahimi, when deliberately attacked journalist Vedat Xhymshiti, (which during that time as a journalist was performing his official duties assigned by the British agency Demotix.com) was driver of Regional chief-commander of Gjilan police station. The event had occurred in the responsibility area of the police station of Kamenica. His Commander, is believed to have been stationed in Gjilan at the time of the assassination attempt. An act which, appears that he might have had obtained the necessary permission from his boss, to be at the crime-scene.
Unverifiable statements within the Kosovo police, testify that the attack on journalist Xhymshiti, has been prepared, which brings substantial reason to believe that this was an attempted act of wilfully assassinating the targeted investigative journalist, whose investigations as asserts Xhymshiti himself, had also landed in the ‘wallets’ of various members of the regional police command in Gjilan, a town situated in south-eastern Kosovo.
“I was trying to verify the testimonies of witnesses who are suspected to have been the subject of criminal networks, which are suspected to be associated with members of Gjilan’s police command and its regional authority. I was and still remain a subject of intimidations, which aimed and still does to prevent my investigative commitment, it didn’t succeed, therefore I became a target of the identified perpetrator on 14 January, 2012 as it is documented“ said Xhymshiti, who refuses to open his file of the investigation, due to as he argues, it would endanger witnesses and individuals who are subject to his journalistic investigations, whose results are yet to be verified!
“Investigations have not been completed, attempted murder of January 14th, is an encouragement to continue investigations, but first and foremost I have to make sure that potential responsibilities associated with those who staged the documented assassination attempt, to be held accountable legally, then, I might consider continuing my professional activity in relation to the subjects, which I was trying to verify” he adds.
Despite his efforts to draw the attention of the judge and the Court panel headed by Judge Zijadin Spahiu, during the hearings held (on 8 January 2014 which had failed in the absence of the prosecutor, and that!) on February 19, 2014 regarding the violations of his human and professional rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the Court refused to consider Journalist’s legal efforts. But, instead, a panel of the Court, on December 1, decides that police Faruk Ibrahimi, should be punished as a defendant who has committed a criminal offense according to the court only “abuse” through the course of Article 164 paragraph. 1…, which states “the Court finds guilty defendant Faruk Ibrahimi, on the verdict which imposes an effective sentence of 120 days in jail…”
Monday’s submitted Complaint from journalist oppose the Court Judgment of December 1, which has brought the following results: 1) A violation of the procedural provisions; 2) Erroneous and incomplete factual situation, and 3) Incorrect application of substantive law.
The United States Country reports on practices of Human Rights in Kosovo, confirms that “on January 14, a police officer physically attacked and beat photojournalist Vedat Xhymshiti, while he was documenting the events of a conflict at a border crossing between Kosovo and Serbia. Xhymshiti had filed a lawsuit against the government and the Ministry of Internal Affairs on May 14, 2012, and later fled the country after receiving threats”, the report of the US State Department concludes.
The violent and illegal action of the police officer sparked reactions worldwide. International and European Federation of Journalists — I/EFJ called upon authorities of Kosovo to immediately stage investigations and prosecute those who are in charge for such a violent act. South East European Media Organisation — SEEMO, International Press Institute –IPI and the Association of Journalists in Kosovo – APJK also released press statements condemning the violent act, which targeted journalist.
For the safety, Human and Professional Rights of freelance journalist and war photographer Vedat Xhymshiti, is also concerned the International Organisation for Human Rights and Freedoms, “Amnesty International”, which is following the case of the journalist.
Ironically, the British foundation “Rory Peck Trust”, which supports war reporters, in their report of 2012, say that after Xhymshiti submitted the lawsuit against the government and the Ministry of Internal Affairs on May 14, 2012 in Pristina, he did not feel safe in Kosovo, instead he was planning to travel in Syria for work.
The war in Kosovo ended in March 1999 after a 74 days aerial bombing campaign of NATO over then Yugoslavia that eventually forced Serbian assembly to grant Kosovo political autonomy, while keeping it within its territorial boundary. Nine years after the war, Kosovo declared its independence, but its status as the self proclaimed Republic of Kosovo is recognised by 110 of 193 member states of the United Nations.
In post-war Kosovo, around eight journalists are killed, among them three foreigners, two Germans and one Serb. Kosovo ranks 80th out of 180 countries in 2014 press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders, while the order continues to fall down year-on-year, as a result of the continuity of fundamental violations of freedom of expression and press, which are guaranteed in writing by the country’s Constitution.
Journalist Vedat Xhymshiti, was identified as a “Portrait of Freedom” by the International Group for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, ‘Civil Rights Defenders and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights’. The case of the 14 January 2014 assault against him, is included in a short documentary film, which can be seen in the video below.
Vedat Xhymshiti; is an independent Journalist and Long Term Documentary Photographer. In 2011, he obtained his specialization degree in field of International Relations and Diplomacy. Xhymshiti is specialized in News Gathering and covering of the events and milestones of political and social nature Around Southeast Europe and Middle East. His work has been published in several publications including the U. S. TIME Magazine, Der SPIEGEL, The New York Times, Swiss ‘Sunday TIMES’ Magazine, Paris MATCH, Foreign Policy Journal, Foreign Policy Magazine, Die Presse, Die Welt, The Guardian, Le Monde, GettyImages/AFP and Bloomberg ect. From 2008 to 2011, he worked as assignment documentary photographer for U. S. Zuma Press, Sipa Press, Polaris, Corbis Images and Demotix.com.