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news 01 Feb 18

Kosovo Journalist Abused for Criticising Kumanovo Payout

Kosovo journalist Parim Olluri has been called a Serbian spy – and worse – on social media after he published an article criticizing the government's offer to award relatives of ethnic Albanians convicted of involvment in the 2015 gunbattle in Kumanovo, Macedonia.

Die Morina
BIRN
Pristina
The picture of Parim Olluri shared on social media.

Parim Olluri, a Kosovo journalist who runs the online newspaper Insajderi says has has come under vicious attack on social media during last two weeks, after he published an article criticising the Kosovo government for allocating money to families of men convicted in the "Kumanovo case".

In 2015, armed ethnic Albanians engaged in a two-day gunbattle with Macedonian police in the Macedonian town of Kumanovo.

The Kosovo government on November pleged to give 219,000 euros to cover the expenses of the family members of those convicted of involvement in or killed during the gunbattle in May 2015.

The decision came after the Skopje Criminal Court on November 2 gave life sentences to seven of the 37 ethnic Albanian defendants accused of involvement in the two-day shootout. Most of the rest got long jail terms.

Many of participants in the case are originally from Kosovo and are former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, the insurgent force that launched a war with the Serbian forces then ruling Kosovo in the late-1990s.

Olluri said the award sent the wrong message. “The state of Kosovo cannot treat as heroes individuals who participated in an un-clarified conflict in another country,” Olluri told BIRN.

But critics have reacted angrily. Some pages on social media shared a picture of Olluri with a background of a Serbian flag and Serbian symbols, calling him as “spy of Serbia” or an “UDB-ashi”, a term used for members of the infamous former Yugoslav security service, the UDBA.

“To some people, those who died during that conflict are seen as heroes because of their participation in the Kosovo Liberation Army,” Olluri said, adding that politicians then use this belief among citizens to attack critical journalists.

“This is why certain politicians choose topics related to the KLA to deceive citizens. They aim to identify a certain journalist as a 'Serbian spy', so that journalist does not sound credible when reporting on corruption,” he said.

Olluri said that over these two weeks he had received numerous insults from unknown people through Facebook and messages on FB Messenger.

“I did not know that you were a spy,” is one of the many hostile messages that Olluri received.

“The comments from people on those fan pages call for my murder and label me as a Chetnik journalist and a Serbian spy,” he said. [Chetnik is an insulting term for Serb.]

Olluri was assaulted in August last year. He said then he suspected the attack was linked to his probing articles in the media.

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