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Kosovo's lawmakers removed three articles from the Criminal Code Law on Friday, which journalists had argued undermined their independence.
Kosovo’s Parliament eliminated the controversial articles from the new law code after journalists had argued that the articles would have endangered their work by penalizing the media for not revealing their sources.
During Friday’s debate, 63 lawmakers voted for the abrogation of Articles 37, 38 and 39 of the Law Code, while 3 MPs abstained and 1 voted against.
The Association of Professional Journalists of Kosovo, AGPK, welcomed the abrogation of the articles from the new law code.
“The AGPK wishes to thank the journalists, the media, and the international representatives and global partners of media organisations, which through their efforts have prevented the infringement of free speech and a free media through Kosovo’s law code,” the AGPK said in a pres statement.
Until Friday, the new code, which was passed into law on June 20, contained two articles that threatened the independence of the press.
The first article made journalists liable for criminal offences not specified in the criminal code (article 37). The second article (article 38) would have obliged journalists to reveal their sources in court, if a person’s life or physical well being depended on it.
Kosovo’s media community opposition to these articles was supported by a wide number of international media rights organizations, including Reporters Without Borders, and the regional South-Eastern Europe Media Organization, SEEMO.
Hundreds of Kosovo journalists protested in April, urging the President not to sign the draft criminal code.
President Atifete Jahjaga even used her discretion and returned the law for reconsideration and refused to sign it, after the Legal Office found that the controversial articles breached European Union standards.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, Hajredin Kuci, even resigned after parliament adopted the criminal code, on June 20, without amending the controversial articles.
In its last report on Kosovo’s Progress, the European Commission criticized the government for the threat posed to freedom of speech by the legislation, and warned it should reform the law to meet the criteria for EU integration.
In two high-profile war crimes trials currently ongoing in Pristina, a series of witnesses have retracted previous statements alleging abuse at Kosovo Liberation Army detention centres.