Journalist murdered in drive-by shooting

New York, October 22, 2001—An ethnic Albanian journalist in Kosovo was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting last Friday, according to local and international reports.

Bekim Kastrati, a journalist for the Albanian-language daily Bota Sot, was shot on October 19 at around 8 p.m. in the village of Lausa, west of the provincial capital, Pristina, along with two other men who were riding in his car at the time. One of the men was killed, and the other was wounded.

“The murder of Bekim Kastrati serves as a reminder of the grave security threats that journalists in Kosovo face,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We call on the U.N. police in Kosovo to investigate this case aggressively and prosecute those responsible.”

Political link to murder possible
Kastrati’s employer, the Geneva-based Bota Sot, is supportive of politician Ibrahim Rugova and his leading ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Alliance of Kosovo (LDK). U.N. police spokesperson Derek Chappell said his agency had not ruled out a political link to the murder, while Rugova called Kastrati’s murder a politically motivated crime and an attack on the free press in Kosovo, Deutsche Press-Agentur reported.

A second man killed in the attack, Besim Dajaku, was reported to be either the current or former bodyguard of Rugova. The third man injured in the attack, Gani Geci, was a former member of the now disbanded Kosovo Liberation Army.

In response to the killings, the LDK cancelled two days of election campaigning during the weekend.

CPJ investigating another attack
Rados Radonjic, an employee of Radio & Television Pristina, was shot through the window of his home in the village of Devet Jugovica, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) outside of Pristina, when he got up to turn on the lights after hearing strange noises in his backyard, the Belgrade-based VIP News reported. The motive for the shooting was not known.

The violence comes at a time of growing political tension in Kosovo, where political parties are preparing for the first round of province-wide elections, to be held on November 17. The vote will elect a 120-seat assembly, which will have broad authority but will remain subordinate to the province’s U.N. mission.

Campaigning for the election began two weeks ago, and this last Tuesday a building housing the local LDK office in a southern Kosovo town was heavily damaged by what appeared to be a grenade attacke, Reuters reported.

CPJ will continue to investigate both cases to determine whether the journalists were targeted because of their work.