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News 23 Aug 16

Kosovo President: TV Blast ‘Attack on Free Speech’

As police investigated a late-night hand grenade blast at Kosovo's public broadcaster, RTK, President Hashim Thaci called it an attack on freedom of speech.

Die Morina
BIRN
Pristina
Kosovo police at the RTK building after the blast. Photo: BIRN

Thaci said on Tuesday that the grenade that hit RTK on Monday night at around 10pm was an attempt to stifle freedom of speech.

“This criminal attack on the public broadcaster is an attack on thought, speech and free media,” he said.

“I appeal to all representatives [of institutions] and political parties not to lynch media in their discourse, but to protect free speech,” he added.

EU, OSCE Condemn RTK Attack

The hand-grenade attack on RTK was condemned by European Union delegation in Kosovo, which said on Tuesday that it was a threat to freedom of expression and to the interests of the people of Kosovo.

“The EU Office in Kosovo/EU Special Representative expresses concern over this already second armed attack on a public institution over the last few weeks. We call on all to refrain from expressing disagreements through any means which damage property or can cause harm to people’s lives,” an EU statement said.

The attack was also condemned by the head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo, Jean-Claude Schlumberger, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic.

“I am appalled by the attack on RTK at the time when there were still people working inside the building. This appears to be an act of intimidation and I condemn it in the strongest terms. It’s an attack on an important public institution and on freedom of expression,” said Schlumberger.

Mijatovic expressed her concerns in similar terms.

“This is a clear attack on free media and on society as a whole, one that I condemn in the strongest sense of the word. I trust that this incident will be swiftly and thoroughly investigated,” she said.

Journalists and staff were working inside at the time of the attack, but no injuries have been reported.

Police said on Tuesday that they were investigating the incident.

“Police are working on an analysis of all relevant facts and evidence, including surveillance cameras, in order to clarify this case as soon as possible and bring to justice the perpetrator/s,” they said in a statement.

Kosovo Assembly chairman Kadri Veseli said that the attack was a continuation of other similar incidents in recent weeks, aimed at undermining public order and the security of the public and officials.

“We are a democratic country and we can never allow violence and the methods of intimidation to affect the freedom of the media, the state’s agenda and political debate,” Veseli said in a statement.

This was the third incident involving explosives this month in Kosovo.

An explosive device was thrown at the parliament building on August 5, and explosives were also found on the roof of a house belonging to Murat Meha, the head of the Kosovo government commission for demarcation.

RTK’s management said that the blast was aimed at intimidating the public broadcaster and influencing its political coverage.

“This criminal act against the public media is a direct attack on RTK’s work, democratic values and free speech,” the RTK management said in a statement.

It called on political parties to stop using what it described as hate speech, threats, insults and blackmail against the public broadcaster.

“The language used against the public broadcaster shows that in our society there are still groups of political forces, which aim to realise their attempt by violence, suppressing free speech and stifling media freedom,” it said.

The government urged the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

"The government also calls on all representatives [of institutions] and political parties not to label or attack public and private media in their public discourse in order to respect and protect free speech,” a government statement said.

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