IFJ Condemns Kosovo Killing

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' organisation, today protested the brutal killing of an Albanian reporter and called on warring factions on all sides of Kosovo's political divide to respect press freedom and to end attacks on journalists. <br/>

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The IFJ warned that the assassination on Sunday (10 September) of Shefki Popova, an Kosovar Albanian journalist working for the daily Rilindja could lead to further attacks. The murder follows an attempt on the life of Serbian journalist Valentina Cukic, editor of Serbian-language programming on Pristina's Radio Kontakt in June. <br/>

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"We must not have tit-for-tat violence in which journalists are the victims. This makes a mockery of the democratic process," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ. "Journalists are not part of the political process nor propagandists for political masters. What Kosovo needs is openness and democracy, not fear and intimidation."<br/>

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The IFJ noted that at the time of the attack in June, Cukic was wearing Kosovo Stabilization Force (KFOR) press badges that clearly identified her as a journalist.<br/>

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Popova was attacked by two individuals near the cultural centre of Vucitrn, a city with a majority Albanian population located 30 kilometres from Pristina. The journalist was shot, then stabbed. The two attackers escaped. Popova was well known in the region and had worked for the Albanian-language Rilindja newspaper for 26 years. He also contributed to the newspaper's radio station, of the same name. <br/>

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Both the newspaper and the station are reportedly associated with the Democratic League of Kosovo. In recent months several party workers have been assaulted and one leading politician has been killed. <br/>

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With elections due in a few weeks it is vital that journalists and media display the highest levels of professionalism. The IFJ says the climate of pressure on journalists in recent months has been intensified following actions by the OSCE and the UNMIK against so-called "hate-speech" reporting. <br/>

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