Press freedom groups have expressed shock and alarm after Wednesday’s vicious assault on investigative journalist Visar Duriqi in Kosovo. He was hospitalised with serious head and face injuries after the late-night ambush attack near his home. Duriqi had just made a TV appearance in which he accused public officials of corruption and abuse of their positions.
The AEJ severely condemns the assault, which occurred at a time when violence against journalists is on the rise, according to the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom. The AEJ’s Media Freedom Representative, William Horsley, said: “This vicious assault on a prominent journalists known for his investigative reporting on crime and corruption looks unmistakeably like a targeted attack aimed at intimidating those who practise independent journalism concerning crime and corruption in Kosovo.”
Visar Duriqi is an ethnic Albanian whose own TV programme is well-known for exposing corruption scandals and the activities of organised crime. On the day of the attack he had appeared on TV and accused public officials of being tainted by corruption and abusing their authority. He suffered a broken nose and teeth as well as other injuries in the assault, which was reportedly carried out by three masked men who had waited at the entrance of his apartment building and beat him up when he got out of his car.
Kosovo’s prime minister Avdullah Hoti called the attack “unacceptable” and said those responsible must be punished, and a criminal investigation has been launched. The European Union’s office in the capital, Pristina, condemned the attack and declare that journalists must be allowed to carry out their work freely and safely.
The AEJ calls on the Kosovo authorities to seek with maximum urgency to establish whatever links may exist between the attack and the journalist’s investigative work, and bring all those responsible to justice through a transparent, impartial and effective investigation.
Kosovo’s relations with Serbia and inter-communal relations within the country have remained tense ever since the war over 20 years ago between separatist ethnic Albanian forces and Serbia. Kosovo’s status as an independent state has been recognised by the vast majority of UN states.