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Kosovo Serb Journalist Shot

There's growing international concern for the safety of ethnic minority journalists in Kosovo after a Serb reporter was shot and wounded in central Pristina.
By Llazar Semini

The gun-attack against a Serb journalist and her boyfriend earlier this week has heightened concerns over the vulnerability of ethnic minority reporters in the province.

Valentina Cukic, in her 20s, a journalist at the multi-ethnic Radio Contact in Pristina, and her boyfriend were shot in Mother Teresa Street. Cukic was hit in the chest. Her condition is serious but not life threatening. Her boyfriend suffered minor injuries to his leg.

UNMIK Pristina police told IWPR the couple were shot by three gunmen. They said the motive for the attack, which comes against a background of growing inter-ethnic tension and violence in the province, has yet to be established.

A day after the incident, senior UN officials - including UNMIK head, Bernard Kouchner and Hague Tribunal prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte - and members of the Kosovo Transitional Council laid a wreath at the site of the shooting.

"All of us are here to express our outrage and our determined opposition to the continued violence in Kosovo," said Kouchner. "The violence must stop. Let us work towards a Kosovo based on justice, tolerance, freedom and democracy."

The editor-in-chief of Radio Contact, Zvonko Tarle, claimed the shooting was a consequence of a heated exchange of views in the Kosovo media.

In a news report for IWPR, Tarle alleged a grenade attack on an apartment used by Radio Contact staff was the work of Albanian extremists. A subsequent article in the Albanian daily, Koha Ditore, claimed Tarle's report was factually incorrect and biased.

Koha Ditore editor-in-chief, Baton Haxhiu, blamed the attack on Belgrade's secret police, claiming Slobodan Milosevic's regime had no interest in seeing multi-ethnic institutions in the province prosper.

Haxhiu said Milosevic suppporters had recently demolished a Serb radio station supporting moderate Orthodox Bishop Artemije.

In another incident, Serbian Orthodox Church -owned Radio 106 in Caglavica, a Serb-populated village near Pristina, was burgled. The bulk of its equipment was stolen.

The Association of Independent Electronic Media expressed shock and outrage at this week's shooting. The Association said it was "astonished Cukic was shot in the centre of Pristina while wearing KFOR press identification.

"The Association appeals to the international community in Kosovo, above all KFOR, UNMIK and Bernard Kouchner, to do all in their power to bring the attackers to justice and to prevent such incidents in the future."

A Radio Contact statement said, "It seem likely that the gunfire was directed at Radio Contact, that all the fears we've expressed to UNMIK, the UN police, KFOR and OSCE, have come true.

"All the members of the editorial staff, regardless of nationality, are endangered by this terrorist attack. Radio Contact will broadcast only music and public service information as a sign of protest."

Llazar Semini is IWPR's Kosova Project Manager in Pristina.

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