Saturday, July 02, 2005

News Reporter Assassinated Near Gjilan

At first I didn’t quite believe this report as it was originally reported by B92, a Serbian news organ that is not always real positive on happenings here in Kosovo.  The story is that a local reporter for a national newspaper was killed near Gjilan.  Yesterday while visiting with the landlord of the Community Center I asked him if he had heard the report.  He had.  In fact, the dead man was a friend or acquaintance of his.

It seems that he reporter, Bardhyl Ajeti, had repeatedly written negative things about certain parliament members and other important people.  Most recently, the targets of his articles had been men who had claimed to have fought in the most recent war.  Evidently his paper had twice been fined by the OCSE department responsible for media oversight.  They had been fined for making allegations against public officials that hadn’t been properly researched.  At any rate, Bardhyl Ajeti won’t be writing any more articles about anyone…he’s dead.

When is the last time you can remember and American journalist killed while working in the US?  Or a European working in Europe.  I mean seriously, all bets are off if you report from Iraq, Columbia or Afghanistan.  But western journalists are fairly safe while working in the West.  They’re almost a protected species.  And I’m glad.

I have always been a quiet, vocal critic of the mainstream media, but now I live in a country where the MSM is in danger of losing its voice because of fear of reprisal.  What happens when reporters are too afraid to report the news (which may or may not be the truth)?  I don’t know who killed Bardhyl.  I never knew him…I’m not sure if I have ever read his articles, but I’m sad for his loss.  I think our founding fathers where geniuses when they framed the bill of rights.  Usually we think of “freedom of the press” as freedom from government interference.  We’re right to think of it that way.  But the freedom of the western press is also (largely) a freedom from fear of assassination for pursuing the story…whether the story is about the small or great, rich or poor.  A country where the press is not free cannot be a free country.  My landlord, a reporter for a local television station, agreed whole-heartedly.

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