Free Press

Obama legacy against press freedom [of expression] reaches Kosovo

While the Constitution of Kosovo and its legal framework assures guarantees for the freedom of expression and freedom of the press, the media environment in Kosovo continues to be affected by local and international political interference, corruption and financial pressure.

Concrete lack of international support to enforce the law in Kosovo undermines efforts to improve democracy and protect the political and civil rights, including freedom of the media in the country.

International security forces in the country have failed to ensure freedom of movement for all citizens and institutional officials in Kosovo, the element that influences and contributed to increase the ‘darkness’ information on what is happening in Kosovo’s northern troubled region of Mitrovica, reports THEFrontliner.net

EU project to its mission for the rule of law with the Police and Justice, costs European taxpayers € 250 million, but EULEX has significantly failed to develop constitutional institutions and fight against corruption, and additionally, EULEX staff quite often were found to be involved in criminal activities.

The violence against the media freedom, and the freedom of expression had surfaced earlier below the feet of Kosovo Foreign Minister Hashim Thaçi, whose wartime nickname is ‘the snake’. In June 1997, in an incident that many individuals in the guerrilla movement identified as a ‘sinister’, a Kosovo-Albanian journalist who had close ties with the movement was found dead in his apartment in Tirana.

“His face was marred by repeated stabbings with a screwdriver and at the end of his buttocks a broken bottle was found.” The New York Times reports.

Reporter Ali Uka, was supporter of the rebel movement, but he was also sufficiently independent enough to criticise the uprising. At the time of his death, he was living in an apartment with Hashim Thaçi which, is also identified as the ‘Big Fish‘ in the organised crime. Once PM and now Foreign Affairs Minister Thaçi, is among those with a serious backup from the White House administration in Washington, especially being guarded by the US Embassy to Prishtina, Kosovo’s capital city.  BBC News in a story published back in 1999, speaks about how “‎Kosovo‬, is gripped by ‎racketeers” subjecting the US backed politician Hashim Thaçi.‬

In the Kosovo post war era, there are around eight murdered journalists, among them three foreigners, two Germans and one Serb. Four years after Kosovo had declared its independence Kosovo’s Independent journalist and war correspondent Vedat Xhymshiti, faced an attempted murder, whose first and only case is on a Court trial.

Journalist Vedat Xhymshiti, was officially recognised as victim from The United States, state department of Human Rights and labour in their 2012 country report, clearly mention him in the ‘Freedom of Press” section, but, recently – and surprisingly – he was labelled a potential terrorist threat by the US administration, »as a result of what seems to be a totally unnuanced military attitude: either you are with us or against us« writes Charly Pache, a swiss independent reporter and editor.

Fact #1 [click on image to zoom the Facebook grabbed screenshot]

Fact #1 [click on image to zoom the Facebook grabbed screenshot]

On Wednesday, Sept 30th, 2015, U. S. Embassy to Prishtina, Kosovo’s capital city would share a White House broadcasted statement spoken by President Barack Obama at the United Nations, quoting president Obama:

“The real path to lasting stability and progress is not less democracy— I believe it is more democracy—in terms of free speech, in terms of freedom of religion, rule of law, strong civil societies — all that has to play a part in countering violent extremism.”

And journalist Vedat Xhymshiti, who still care about what has been happening in his country, replied to this post with a comment saying quote:

What democracy are we talking about, when most of the world’s weapons exports come from the U.S. (31%) and Russia (27%). No other country can really compete with you fellas (#3 is China at 5%). What could this monopoly on arms exports mean for other nations? What freedom of speech are you talking about when your administration decide to enlist journalists into those suspected for terrorism: http://www.sept.info/club/war-on-investigative-journalism/

Which rule of law are you talking about, when you support heavy crime wings in #Kosovo ever since the end of the war in 1999 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/699175.stm

US Arms export have been increased under President Barack Obama by 23%, which means it is the increase of the most of any US administration since the WWII. And 32% of your arms exports have gone to the Middle East alone in 2014. Just to remind you that Lockheed Martin CEO Mrs. Marillyn Hewsonsaid that the company is looking at the “volatility” in both Middle East and Asia Pacific, as a way to increase their sales internationally.

Vedat Xhymshiti, Independent Journalist

Vedat Xhymshiti, Independent Journalist

I am going to quote what she said, just FYI: “In both of those regions, which are growth areas for us, we expect that there’s going to continue to be opportunities for us to bring our capabilities to them.”

-It clearly indicates that these companies whose sales increased about 23% during #Obama administration they will do their best to boost more wars so they can have more profits. And yes, I am wondering, does this still means #democracy for you? Well, I expect that you are going to tell me that U.S. Congress control the US made weapons, indeed it is true and I agree with you, but there’s a problem here; the defense industry has managed to keep the Congress on their side with $150 million in campaign contributions and lobbying last year alone, are we understanding that it was the reason why rebel groups such as #ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra could managed to benefit from the last year weapon logistics increase, judging that just last year as said above 32% of the US-Made Weapons were sent to the Middle East alone?

—Why don’t you enlist into #terrorist list those companies who supply terrorist organisations with weapons, but you have been enlisting journalists who revealed their ties with terrorism? Does this make any sense to you, does it rings a bell? Why don’t you stop talking #democracy and start doing it instead? I guess that would be better for all of us. Do you understand that I have been terrorised ever since I realised that my name is enlisted to be suspected for terrorism from the US Government?

-Me, a journalist, who does his best to expose the crime and government wrongdoings? Since when this journalistic activity has turned into terrorism issue and not democracy or universal value of freedom anymore? Do you understand that these actions are an example of being as shit as Russia is? Russia is already killing journalists, but you’re terrorising us with those actions! Is this still democracy, because if it is so, then I don’t know what #tyranny is, so please help me understand it.

Cheers and hope to get a response! I hope you will not decide to just kidnap me and turn me into a forever missing person, as it happened to variety of people who then later turned that “opsss, they were wrong persons” that your operatives were messing with!

I am independent journalist from #Kosovo, who experienced a variety of assassinations, who reported #Syria‘s civil war and now can’t go back home in Kosovo, due to safety reasons, a fact that even US State Department for Human Rights have admitted, recognised and reported about it.

—end of quote.

How US Embassy responded to this deeply concerning issue raised by journalist Vedat Xhymshiti was baffling. According to the evidences obtained by THEFrontliner.net the Embassy Facebook Reps. hide his comment [click to see picture #1] to be viewed by any other Facebook users. Journalist Xhymshiti himself was asked by his friends and colleagues that they heard about his reply-comment to Prishtina US Embassy post in Facebook, but they cannot see his comment.

US Government involvement in violating the freedom of the press and individual right of freedom of expression [today’s case] and the movement of a journalist [rejecting journalist Xhymhiti’s visa to US], as well as enlisting him into a terrorist list, a practice which is exercised by many authoritarian countries, such as Turkey, Iran etc, is against the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution Bill of Rights, which among others clearly states that quote:

»Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press«

The United States is ranked at the 46th position in the Reporters Without Borders 2014 World Press Freedom Index. It fell 13 places in comparison with 2013.

Journalist Vedat Xhymshiti himself made another statement at his Facebook public page saying quote:

».. more then 3 facebook users testified that they can see only one comment, but that is not mine. I am once again confirming the US embassy involvement in silencing the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression, it is an act against the constitutional order in ‪#‎Kosovo‬ and against the US Constitution itself, as well as universal values of human rights and freedoms.«

However, ways and forms of pressure on media is increasing while the National Association of Journalists in Pristina is extremely weak due to a lack of willingness to act in defense of press freedom which, prompted journalist Vedat Xhymshiti to resign from his alignment as a member of the association, as they silently refused to rise voice in any concern regarding issues reported by him, as he specifies in a resignation statement himself.

Faruk Ibrahimi, a Kosovo Police officer, who was found guilty on December 1, 2014, by a local court in eastern Kosovo for having been involved in an assault targeting journalist Vedat Xhymshiti, but against which court decision journalist Xhymshiti had appealed because he wasn’t pleased with the judgment, which requires police F. Ibrahimi to suffer 120 days in prison, but Xhymshiti was not informed on the progress of his appeal anymore THEFrontliner.net learned.

“The 120 days sentence imposed by the court neither reflected the gravity of the offence, nor the violation of the right of Vedat Xhymshiti to freedom of expression.” — Amnesty International

Regarding the decision of the court of Kamenica, Kosovo’s southeastern regional branch court of Gjilan, to punish the officer with 120 days jail time, Human Rights and Freedoms organisation based in London “Amnesty International” told THEFrontliner.net:

Amnesty International UK believe that the charges against the defendant were inappropriate, in that they failed to take into account international standards on the use of force by law enforcement officers, including the UN basic principles, on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials.

Nor were the charges brought in accordance with the Kosovo Law on Police, which states that article 13 (3), that “A police officer shall not inflict, instigate, support or tolerate any torture act or inhumane or degrading treatment, under any circumstances and no issued order can justify any such action.

“Both International standards and Kosovo law, would have required a prosecution under article 198, of the Criminal Code of Kosovo for Mistreatment during Exercise of official duty or public authorisation, which at Para 1, require “An official person, in abusing his or her position, or authorisations, mistreats, intimidates or gravely insults, the dignity of another person shall be punished by imprisonment up to three (3) years” said Mrs. Sian Jones, Human Rights researcher for the Balkan region at ‘Amnesty International, London office, which has been observing Xhymhiti’s situation ever since 2011. Talking to THEFrontliner.net she also added this:

“The 120 days sentence imposed by the court neither reflected the gravity of the offence, nor the violation of the right of Vedat Xhymshiti to freedom of expression.”

Kosovo was once ranked 80th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders index of press freedom, but the crisis of freedom of the press is further deepening alighting Kosovo year-on-year to plunge the country seven places below, as it is placed into 87th this year, as a result of continued fundamental violations of press freedom and the freedom of speech, which is guaranteed by Article 40 of its Constitution.

After a conflict between Yugoslav forces of Serbia and Albanian rebels in 1999, NATO intervened with air strikes bombing Serbia for 78 days, in a bid to stop the massacre and ethnic cleansing of Serb forces against Kosovo Albanians, a violence, which had caused a wide rebellion in the region.

NATO’s intervention eventually forced the Serbian Parliament to grant political autonomy for Kosovo, while keeping it within its territorial borders. Nine years after the war, Kosovo declared its independence, but its status as the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo, has been recognised only by the 111 countries of the 193 member states of the United Nations.

Kosovo is the poorest and most isolated country in Europe, with millionaires politicians steeped in crime. A third of the workforce is unemployed, and corruption is widespread. About two in three under the age of 25 are currently unemployed, and nearly 50% of the 1.8 million citizens of Kosovo are considered to be poor. During last December only, more then 200-thousands of Kosovars were forced to leave the country in an effort to find a better life, studies and more dignified jobs.

NATO files published in 2011 in international media, showed that the United States and some other Western powers who supported Kosovo’s government has extensive knowledge (for a few years!) of the criminal connections of former head of rebels and also PDK leader Hashim Thaçi and some members of other political parties in the country.

June elections 2014 marked also the death of two well known political activists; Elvis Pista an elected MP of ruling PDK, as well as the secretary of ‘Vetëvendosje Arbënor Dehari whose death went very silently. These unreported casualties resulted after the political tensions rose between the ‘opposition united coalition front’ and ruling PDK party in the aftermath of the elections.

Hundreds of youth Kosovar participate in various Middle Eastern armed conflicts. Vedat Xhymshiti’s findings suggest significant prove of allegations of involvement of state authorities to encourage them to join the ranks of armed groups involved in crimes and war crimes against humanity.

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