As the world commemorates World Press Freedom Day, I find myself reflecting on the importance of press freedom and the role of journalists in promoting transparency, accountability, and the improvement of the quality of news reporting. Unfortunately, the very association of journalists in Kosovo that is supposed to support independent journalism and hold the government accountable has shown little to no interest in my case. The Kosovo Association of Journalists has failed to fulfil its mission and duty to support all journalists, and urgent action is needed to protect the rights of journalists in Kosovo.
As an independent journalist who has dedicated my life to seeking the truth and reporting on complex political issues, I have faced numerous challenges in Kosovo. In 2011, I investigated allegations of police corruption in my hometown of Gjilan and was threatened by the husband of the regional police commander. Despite the threats, I refused to stop my investigation, and as a result, the man threatened to kill me in front of my father, causing significant strain on our family relationships and putting us all at risk.
In 2012, I was attacked by a policeman who was identified as the personal driver of the regional chief commander, the same person who had threatened me just a few months prior. I announced that I would initiate a civil court case against the Republic of Kosovo to seek accountability, but the threats against me only intensified, and I was eventually arrested under false pretences by the special armed police units.
Fearing for my safety, I left Kosovo and reported from Syria, where I continued to face threats and attacks. In April 2015, I was forced to flee the country due to life-threatening threats coming my way and my family.
»»On January 14, a police officer physically assaulted and beat photojournalist Vedat Xhymshiti while he documented events at a conflict at a Kosovo-Serbia border crossing. Xhymshiti filed a lawsuit against the government and the Ministry of Internal Affairs on May 14. Xhymshiti later left the country, reportedly after receiving threats. On June 10, Gjilan municipal authorities filed charges against police officer Faruk Ibrahimi for abusing the journalist. At year’s end the prosecutor’s office had not moved forward with the case.«« — US State Department 'KOSOVO 2012 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT'
Despite the challenges I faced, I remained committed to seeking justice and accountability. In May 2012, I submitted a court case demanding accountability from the government of the Republic of Kosovo, and the court trial eventually started. While the Prishtina municipal court in September 2015 offered me financial compensation, acknowledging the physical and psychological harm I had endured, they failed to address who was responsible for the attack. That same month, I appealed their initial decision, and as of November 2022, the Court of Appeal approved my appeal, and the case is now in retrial.
For 11 consecutive years: The Association of Journalists of Kosovo fails to support journalists without discrimination!
Throughout my case, I reached out to the Kosovo Association of Journalists multiple times, hoping for their support as an association that is funded to provide support for all journalists. Unfortunately, my attempts to engage with them have been unsuccessful. On May 15, it will be 11 years since I filed my court case seeking accountability from the Republic of Kosovo, and I have chosen to reach out once more to AJK. I sent them an email on April 13, 2023, expressing my disappointment with their failure to show any serious interest in my case. I followed up with a second email on April 24, 2023, reiterating the importance of their support for independent journalists like me who seek transparency, accountability, and the improvement of the quality of news reporting. However, I did not receive any response or acknowledgement from them.
Hello @getamulliqi, I wanted to inform you that I sent an email to [email protected] on April 13 and sent a follow-up on April 24. Unfortunately, I haven't received a response yet.— Vudi Xhymshiti (@VudiXhymshiti) April 25, 2023
Could you confirm if that email address is working properly?
The Kosovo Association of Journalists claims to “promote, encourage, and improve quality and open journalism in Kosovo, as well as improve the position of journalists in general in Kosovo society.” The failure of the Kosovo Association of Journalists to fulfil its mission and duty to support all journalists is a clear indication of the dire state of press freedom in Kosovo. Instead of supporting independent journalism, the association has been selective in its approach, failing to engage with proven independent journalists like me, who are not affiliated with any political parties but seek transparency, accountability, and improvement in the quality of news reporting.
Despite the apparent apathy and lack of support from the Kosovo Association of Journalists, I remain committed to fighting for press freedom and journalistic integrity in Kosovo and beyond. My experience is unfortunately not unique, as journalists around the world face various challenges, including censorship, physical violence, and legal harassment.
The role of journalists is to hold those in power accountable and to serve as a voice for the people. When journalists are silenced or threatened, the public is deprived of important information and the ability to hold those in power accountable. This is why press freedom is so critical, and why it is essential that journalists are able to do their jobs without fear of retribution.
Around the world, press freedom faces numerous threats. Kosovo is no exception, as governments and powerful individuals employ tactics to suppress critical voices and maintain their hold on power. These tactics often include physical violence, legal harassment, and censorship, leaving independent journalists to fend for themselves without the support of institutions that are supposed to protect them. In some cases, associations that claim to protect the rights of journalists have failed to do so, and have even become complicit in undermining press freedom. The struggle for independent journalism continues, not just in Kosovo, but across the globe.
This is why organizations like the Kosovo Association of Journalists are so important. They have the resources and mandate to support journalists and advocate for press freedom. However, when these organizations fail to live up to their mission and fail to support independent journalists, it undermines the entire journalistic profession and puts democracy and good governance at risk.
On this World Press Freedom Day, it is crucial that we recommit ourselves to the values of press freedom and the critical role that journalists play in promoting democracy and good governance. It is also important that we hold accountable those who seek to silence critical voices and deprive the public of important information.
As an independent journalist who has faced significant challenges in Kosovo, I call on the Kosovo Association of Journalists to take my case seriously and to work with me to push for justice and accountability. I also call on all journalists, institutions, and individuals who care about press freedom to stand with me and demand that those in power respect the vital role that journalists play in our society.
We must all work together to protect the rights of journalists and to ensure that they are able to do their jobs without fear of retribution. The future of our democracy and our society depends on it.
We must strive to protect the freedom of the press, recognizing its vital role in a healthy and functioning democracy. Only by upholding these values can we hope to restore the public’s trust in the media and ensure that our profession continues to serve as a cornerstone of a free and open society.
So, let us mark this World Press Freedom Day by committing ourselves to a renewed dedication to these principles and working together to create a better future for all.