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News 29 Apr 13

Newspaper Owner Denies Targeting BIRN Kosovo’s Xharra

The former owner of a Kosovo newspaper accused of staging a media campaign against BIRN Kosovo director Jeta Xharra said he had no direct control over the articles it published.

Edona Peci, Florent Spahija

Rexhep Hoti, owner of the now-defunct Infopress newspaper, told the court in Pristina on Friday that he “was not involved in the editorial policies of the paper” because he lived abroad at the time the articles about Xharra were published.

“My duties as a publisher were strategic ones,” said Hoti, one of six defendants accused of threatening and staging a media campaign against Xharra.

The co-accused in the case are Sami Lushtaku, the mayor of Skenderaj/Srbica, Arizona Dibra, the former executive director of the newspaper, Avni Azemi, its former editor-in-chief, and Rizah Hajdari and Qani Mehmeti, two of its former journalists.

Xharra was called a “Serbian spy”, a “professional bomb” and an “embassy slut”, and subjected to various other insults over the course of 12 articles published by the newspaper.

But Hoti denied that he even saw what was written about Xharra.

“I haven’t read the articles,” he said.

Infopress has already been fined 1,000 euro by the Press Council of Kosovo over its stories about Xharra.

According to the indictment, the campaign against Xharra was launched after Radio Television Kosovo broadcast an edition of BIRN’s TV programme, “Jeta ne Kosove” (“Life in Kosovo”) dealing with alleged mismanagement in Skenderaj/Srbica, where Lushtaku was mayor at the time.

The trial is expected to continue on May 20.

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