Kosovo subject to a court hearing for press freedom violation

On Wednesday May 20th, 2015, the judicial review of strategic case of Justice and the People Campaign supporting Kosovo's independent journalist Vedat Xhymshiti against the Ministry of Interior and...

Justice and the People Campaign three years ago filed a lawsuit in Pristina Municipal Court on behalf of the journalist Vedat Xhymshiti against the Ministry of Interior. Mr Xhymshiti suffered violations of fundamental human and professional rights when he was brutally attacked and beaten by a member of the Kosovo Police, while covering the protests at “Dhe i Bardhë”, a suburb in Kosovo’s south-eastern border outpost, on January 14, 2012.

On Wednesday May 20th, 2015, the judicial review of strategic case of Justice and the People Campaign supporting Kosovo’s independent journalist Vedat Xhymshiti against the Ministry of Interior and the Republic of Kosovo, finally started gaining its grounds. During the first hearing session, after the presentation by the court, which was set to answer to the charges by the defendant, the court invited the parties to present their arguments. The representative of the respondent filed its objections regarding this lawsuit seeking termination of the procedure on the grounds that against the officer, who had caused physical attack on journalist, there is an on-going criminal procedure. After the speech of the respondent, lawyer Artan Qerkini rejected the proposal of the respondent to inform the court that the criminal proceedings in the Court in Kamenica has been completed, and that the officer is found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment. Furthermore, the lawyer presented evidence and arguments regarding the legal basis of the suit that makes the state directly responsible for the actions the police officer had taken against the journalist, and proposed to engage appropriate experts in the field of damage assessment. The court, after hearing both parties, decided that experts schedule future session after the evaluation of damages.

During December 2014, a court in eastern Kosovo had found guilty and eased the punishment against a member of the Kosovo police, who is believed to be involved in an attempted murder scenario against investigative journalist Vedat Xhymshiti. Kosovo based NGO – CLARD, respectively their campaign, “Justice and Citizens”, and PILPG supported the 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. On Monday Dec 29th 2014, Xhymshiti had appealed 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, has been 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. The country’s mainstream media has again sabotaged and failed to inform country’s citizens about the case, which would probably encourage country’s taxpayers to take legal actions against the country’s administration for the their human rights violations. 

Pre-knocked-out photojournalist Vedat Xhymshiti, bearing a photo-camera on his chest and his PRESS Cards, while another camera has been cast-away during the attack. He is being dragged by more then one other un-identified civilian-clothed person, who deliberately sent him into the target scene. After having knocked him-out the perpetrator's colleagues other Kosovo Police officers into an in-door facility. (PrintScreen Photo)

Pre-knocked-out photojournalist Vedat Xhymshiti, bearing a photo-camera on his chest and his PRESS Cards, while another camera has been cast-away during the attack. He is being dragged by more then one other un-identified civilian-clothed person, who deliberately sent him into the target scene. After having knocked him-out the perpetrator’s colleagues other Kosovo Police officers into an in-door facility. (PrintScreen Photo)

There were more than two people involved in an attempt to perpetrate the journalist on January 14th 2012, 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.

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 additional 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 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.

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 Frontliner, is already informed by journalist Xhymshiti himself that he has fled Kosovo, due to recent threats and intimidations that has reached his address in Kosovo. Additionally he was investigating yet another very sensitive matter in Kosovo, which is the allegations about country’s government involvement in sending youth people to fight alongside ISIS forces in Syria.

“I was offered, and later intimidated, then experienced direct threat from the country’s authorities, as soon as they realised I was investigating how come ethnic Albanians from Kosovo were joining ISIS, therefore, before the publication I had to flee the country” Xhymshiti told THEFrontliner.

A series of six articles will be published at THEFrontliner.net starting on the 1st of June this year, that is a two years research commitments of independent journalist Vedat Xhymshiti, regarding the religious radicalism erection in Kosovo after ISIS gained ground in Syria. However, his commitment turned journalist Xhymshiti into yet another target from the US Government, which is well known for persecuting independent reporters, publishers and whistleblowers.

A Swiss based Independent Journalist and editor Charly Pache, writes his concerns about how the world powers target independent journalists, which is a clear appearance of the direct attack over one of most sensitive core of the democratic values. THEFrontliner.net published Mr Pache’s editorial, which was originally published on 27th of April at a Swiss News Magazine.


REACTION!

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 back on January 2012, after that time, Kosovo’s Journalist Association never replied to Xhymshiti’s e-mails and demands to be protected and the voice to be raised for his safety. Ironically on the international day of press freedom Kosovo’s Association played an action titled “Speak do not be Afraid”, but what made them remain silence ever since 2012, they might be the one to answer this mysterious question!

However, for the safety, Human and Professional Rights of freelance journalist and documentary photographer Vedat Xhymshiti, is also concerned the International Organisation for Human Rights and Freedoms, “Amnesty International”, which is continuously observing the case of the journalist. Including CLARD Kosovo, PILPG and their campaign ‘Justice and People‘, which is launched in Kosovo.

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. He is specialied in International Relations and Diplomacy, as well as 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 MagazineDer SPIEGELThe New York Times, Swiss ‘Sunday TIMES’ Magazine, Paris MATCH, Foreign Policy JournalForeign Policy Magazine, Die Presse, Die WeltThe GuardianLe MondeGettyImages/AFP and Bloomberg ect. During April’s International Political Science Conference in London, he was entitled to Speak about Syria’s civil war at Birkbeck University in a panel of Discussion called “Four Years after the Arab Spring, Middle East in the Crossroads. In the video below, he gave an interview to Dutch National Broadcaster, regarding the Syria’s civil war.


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