VOA reporter beaten, threatened in Kosovo

New York, October 18, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists denounces the attack on Vesna Bojicis, Kosovo correspondent for the Serbian-language service of Voice of America (VOA) radio. An unidentified assailant stormed into Bojicis’ home Tuesday night, beat her, and threatened to kill her because of her reporting, according to local press reports.

The attacker knocked on Bojicis’ apartment door in the village of Caglavica, near the provincial capital, Pristina, on Tuesday night, reports said. When she answered the door, a masked assailant forced his way into the apartment, hit Bojicis repeatedly on the head, condemned her work for VOA, and cited her purported “bias in favor of Albanians,” the Belgrade-based Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM) reported. The attacker told Bojicis that this was her “final warning” and that he would kill her and abduct her child if she did not stop her reporting, ANEM said.

“We are appalled by this brutal attack on Vesna Bojicis and call on authorities in Kosovo to aggressively investigate the incident, swiftly apprehend her assailant, and punish him to the full extent of the law,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “We also urge authorities to ensure Bojicis’s safety and her ability to report from Kosovo at this politically important time.”

Bojicis has worked as a VOA reporter for seven years. In a telephone interview with VOA, she said she would continue doing her job. “I have been doing my job professionally; in my reports there has never been any bias in favor of or against any side,” Bojicis told VOA. “I will report on events in Kosovo until the last day, regardless of what Serbs or Albanians think. I’ll do my job.”

ANEM said Bojicis has been attacked previously. Her house was set on fire during ethnic unrest between the Albanian majority and Serbian minority in March 2004. Bojicis had received recent threats, which have intensified as Kosovo’s proposed declaration of unilateral independence approaches in late November.

The predominantly ethnic Albanian province of Kosovo is currently part of Serbia but has been run by a temporary U.N. administration since June 1999. U.N.-backed talks for a final resolution of Kosovo’s status started in early 2006, but Belgrade and Pristina have so far been unable to reach an agreement, keeping ethnic tensions high. The majority of Kosovo’s population wants independence from Serbia, and local leaders have said the province should declare unilateral independence on November 28, Albanian Independence Day, according to international pres reports.