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27 Jul 16

Kosovo Snubs Turkish Demand to Punish Journalist

Kosovo's officials have rejected a demand from the Turkish embassy for Kosovo to punish a journalist for making satirical comments on Facebook about the failed coup.

Ervin Qafmolla BIRN Pristina
Kosovo chief prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi dismissed the posibility of criminal charges aganist the journalist. Photo: BIRN

Top Kosovo officials have snubbed a call by the Turkish embassy for Kosovo to punish a local journalist over his comments about the failed Turkish coup.

The embassy on July 20 urged Kosovo to take action against Berat Buzhala, a leading journalist, for satirical comments he made on Facebook as the botched coup was taking place.

Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj along with Chief Prosecutor Aleksander Lumezi said the embassy’s claims were unsustained.

Hoxhaj told Radio Free Europe that the call from the Turkish embassy was “unusual, inacceptable and at the same time an overreaction.

“Our position is that neither the government of the Republic of Kosovo, nor anyone else, can interfere in judicial matters. We are a democratic country,” Hoxhaj was quoted as saying.

Chief Prosecutor Lumezi said the prosecution would only act if elements of a criminal act were substantiated.

“But as I see it, there are no elements of a criminal act, and it is not for the State Prosecution to deal with problems that have emerged between a journalist and the Turkish embassy in Kosovo,” Lumezi said, after a meeting with the Minister of Justice.

The meeting was unrelated to the case and concerned matters related to corruption, organised crime and terrorism.

As the failed coup unfolded, on July 15, Berat Buzhala, a journalist known for his satirical comments, wrote on Facebook: "I invite citizens of the Republic of Kosovo who are on holiday in Turkey to align with the army."

The comment was signed with an Internet emoticon, with a tongue protruding, indicating the comment was not to be taken seriously. "This is the most serious coup since the arrival of Facebook," Buzhala added.

Turkey is a major supporter of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. Its companies run the only airport, own the electricity distribution company and are building two highways worth around $2 billion.

Buzhala has over 40,000 Facebook followers. His news portal gazetaexpress.com, which is ranked among the biggest media outlets in Kosovo, with around one million readers per day, has slated Kosovars who have gone to fight for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The Kosovo Association of Journalists also condemned the demand of the Turkish embassy, calling it a grave violation of norms.

“We seek an apology from the Turkish embassy for this scandalous act as soon as possible, and also request that the Turkish ambassador, Kivilcim Kilic, leaves Kosovo,” the journalists' union said.

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